September 24, 2014
October is Thailand’s Festive Month
The eleventh Lunar month is possibly Thailand’s most celebrated time and the Kingdom is awash with colourful fun filled celebrations and Festivals, I will add details on a number of these events covering the whole of October (2014) and right across the country, on future posts, but first I would like to give an explanation as to the importance of this month to the vast majority of Thai people.
The end of the Buddhist Lent
8Th October 2014 is the Thai Buddhist festival of Ok Phansa – Which marks the end of the Buddhist ‘Lent’ (Khao Phansa – see below) and falls on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month (October). The day is a joyful celebration and merit-making. For many families, it is also the day they welcome a son back into the home and for them to celebrate his successful completion of a term in the temple.
Khao Phansa – falls on the first day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July) and marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist ‘Lent’ period. At this time, all monks and novices must remain in their temples. They should not venture out or spend the night in any other place except in cases of extreme emergency and, even then, their time away must not exceed seven consecutive nights. This is a time for serious contemplation and meditation for both monks and laymen alike. Traditionally, it is also important for laymen to ordain their sons (those over the age of 20) into the monkhood on this day to get maximum benefit from the Buddhist teachings.
The Buddhist ‘Lent’ period can be traced back to the beginning of the Buddhist era. It is believed at that time, the Lord Buddha saw monks wandering outside the temple compound and he believed that in doing so they might damage growing crops or accidentally kill insects, so he proclaimed that it would be better for the monks to observe the teachings and practice meditation inside the monasteries instead. It is also the belief that the Buddha ascended to Heaven during Phansa to preach to his mother.
The sequence of events for the above religious day goes something on the lines as this:
Early in the morning, people (the young the old and both male and female) begin to arrive at the temple wearing their best clothes. They carry food pre-prepared at home, usually in highly decorative gold or silver bowls, which they offer to the monks. After this breakfast, the people are blessed by the monks at which time many return to their homes. The more devoted may choose to remain at the temple and, later in the morning, take a vow with the monks to keep either five or eight precepts throughout the entire day. After taking this vow, they split their time between praying, listening to the monks preaching’s and conducting their own meditation. In the evening, the monks lead a candle lit procession, making three complete circuits of the main temple building. This event signifies the end of the temple celebrations but not the festivals that are celebrated through-out the Kingdom over this same period.
As I have already stated the eleventh Lunar month is possibly Thailand’s most festive of time and through-out the Kingdom it is a time of celebration, joy and for giving thanks. This in the main due to the Buddhist Lent, but it is also it is the end of the rainy season and normally the month where farmers reap their biggest food harvests. In my future posts I will try to provide details of some of these festivals from across the country.