February 15, 2017
This two day event tells the story of Buddha’s last rebirth in sermons, glorious colour, noise and food
When: 3-5th March 2017
Where: Bueng Phalan Chai Roi Et Northeast Thailand
“Boon Phawade Fair” or merit making of the 4th lunar month, (also known as Bun Pha Wet Fair), is one of the oldest fairs in this region of Thailand, in reality while it is purely Buddhist event, it is still full of colour and merit making. The name “Phawade” is the corrupted pronunciation of “Phra Wes” (Phra Wessandon), the name of the last reincarnation of the Lord Buddha before his birth as Prince Siddhartha.
The festival incorporates the sermon of Phra Wessandon regarding Thet Maha Chat (The Great Birth) and consists of 13 episodes that are to be completed within one day, with each episode accompanied by a separate procession.
There is also the ceremony inviting both, Uppakhut Maha Thera, (a once famous monk and the patron of the Phawade ceremony), to help safeguard the ceremony and the procession, plus an invite to the spirits of Phra Wessandon and his wife – Lady Matsi, so they may enjoy listening to the sermon on Phra Malai Muen Phra Malai Saen.
The venue is expected to be decorated with 1,000’s of flowers, candle and joss sticks to resemble mythological forest of Himmapan. (See our post Tree Fairies of Himmapan). Added to the 13 individual processions that go onto early evening, the event also has its own special cuisine; Khanom Jin, (Thai vermicelli or khao poon) and steamed sticky rice (khao tom mut), both of which are freely offered to both visitors and monks.
If you are lucky you can also take part in the Pha Laeng Party (Isaan Gala Dinner), come the passing of the day everyone is invited to join in with the evening’s wonderful light and sound presentation.
The festivities are part of Vessantara Jataka which is celebrated in temples during a Buddhist festival known as Thet Mahachat (เทศน์มหาชาติ), from Maha Jati or “Great Birth”, in Central Thailand, also known as Boun Pha Vet in Laos and as Bun Phawet (Bun Phra Wes), Bun Duan Sii (Merit-making of the fourth month) or Thet Phawet in Isan.
Scenes of the Vessantara Jataka are found engraved on the walls of Buddhist temples across Southeast Asia including in Cambodia, where they can be found engraved on Angkor Wat murals, plus the same scenes are widely found in the silk cloth woven in and around Northeast Thailand.
Beautifully Painted Linen Scolls
Once common and hung outside temples throughout Isan, were beautiful 120 long hand painted scrolls, depicting the various chapters of the Vessantara Jataka, due to the Thai climate and the out-door life imposed on these very long scrolls they are becoming quite rare, with only 8 known to exist outside of the Kingdom, while in Thailand, there is one scroll in the Ubon Ratchathani Museum, and one in the Anthropology Museum of the Suranaree University of Technology. See more
Thet Maha Chat (The Great Birth)
The story of the Great Birth has become one again very popular both in rural and urban communities throughout Isan, with numerous smaller events happening across the region. Most will be accompanied by dance and cultural performances, as well as festive parades and processions. Each event will include Buddhist monks who will give a sermon of all chapters of the Vessantara Jataka.
Because of its central role in the Thet Maha Chat or Boun Pha Vet celebrations, the Vessantara Jataka is an important part of the traditional folklore in many areas of the Southeast Asian region. Some of the scenes, especially the mismatched couple formed by Jujaka, the old Brahmin, and his nagging young wife Amittada, are avidly followed by the majority of the rural people, possibly because it still in part reflects village life today.
While this time of year has lost its traditional importance in reminding the people of the sacred scripts and tales of earliest days of Buddhism, in its present colourful guise, the event has gained in popularity, but is still a time for the faithful to show of respect and homage to Buddha and his teachings.
For more information, contact:
Tourism Authority of Thailand Khon Kaen Office
Tel: +66 (0) 4322 7714 -5
See more on Vessantara Jataka at BuddhaImages.com
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