From the Blog

September 12, 2016

The Chula Kathin Festival

The Chula Kathin Festival 2017 A simple festival that takes 6 months of hard work and dedication 

Edited 29/08/2017

The Chula Kathin Festival

Picture by Dr. L S McIntosh


When: 6 October – 5 November 2017

Where: In many temples in Mukdahan Northeast Thailand


Chula kathin, is a unique Buddhist festival of Mukdahan Province, and is a local adaptation of what is also known through-out the Kingdom as The Thord Gathin Festival or Thod Kathin (Thai: ทอดกฐิน) or Kathin Laen or simply as the Kathin Ritual.

The national event is to celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent, (known as Wan Khao Phansa), and follows Wan Ok Phansa Day which falls on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month (5th October 2017).

This 30-day period of merit-making is a special opportunity for prayers to Buddha and for the presentation of gifts to the monks; it is this  30-day span of merit making and religious gift giving, that is referred to as Thord Pha Gathin.

 Wan Ok Phansa is the last day of Buddhist lent and is celebrated through-out Thailand, as possibly the most important annual religious event, the day is also known by a whole host of names; see more at the bottom of this post.


Pictures from Anusorn Sanaphanthu Flickr

Pictures from Anusorn Sanaphanthu Flickr


The Kathin Ritual is also celebrated in the neighbouring countries, of Lao, Cambodia and Burma where it is known as Kahtein. It is a time, for temple grounds to be transformed into venues for traditional dancers, music and food stalls.

It is also the time for those attending the Kathin Ritual, to earn merit through the offering of material for monk’s robes. Thord Gathin takes its name from the “laying down” of new robes to the monks, this offering of new, saffron robes is considered particularly meritorious and important.

Other alms will also be donated to the monk’s, and these includes goods for their every day needs such as, toiletries, writing materials, candles and food. Many of the events will also include Money Trees, which are presented to the temples, the donated money will be used for the upkeep of the Wat.


Chula Kathin Festival

In this Isaan event, Chula means “a little”, and reflects the Buddhist belief, that even small amounts of sharing and caring, are welcome and beneficial. It is symbolized in this festival with small pieces of newly made fabric that are cut and then sewn together to form a monk’s robes.

This ancient and important Isaan, religious tradition requires devout faith, not least due to the fact that the ceremony itself can take 24-hours to complete, while the preparations can take 6 months.

Beginning when hand-picked cotton seeds are planted, later the matured cotton bolls are picked, processed and eventually woven, into the material that will be offered during the festivities, (the actual cotton has to be picked, dyed and woven all within this 24 hour period).

At the end of the 24 hour period a procession is held called; Thaut Kathin (offer the items), the local people and guests in their finest traditional clothes parade through the village, accompanied by musicians.

Confetti and coins wrapped in silver foil, are thrown into the gathered crowds, the colourful parade finishes at the chosen temple and the alms are given over in a formal ritual. After which the monks lead the people in prayer and chanting. (Temples are chosen on a set of strict rules as are the monks who receive the robes).


A similar event is held across Burma known as the Tazaudgdine Festival. See our post on the Shan (The forgotten hill tribe), and their adaptation of this festival called the Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu Worshiping Ceremony.


Pic by Dr. LS McIntosh: Local People working to make robes

Pic by Dr. LS McIntosh: Local People working to make robes


Origins of the Chula Kathin Festival

The ritual is founded on the legend, that the Lord Buddha would attend temples, and noting that some of the monks did not have decent robes, he would enlist local people to help him produce the fabric ,which would be then given to the monk. It is believed this impromptu group effort was the start of the merit-making ceremony of Chula kathin.


Celebrations across Thailand for the end of Buddhist Lent

Celebrations at this time of the year are conducted through-out Thailand, with a vast array of different, vibrant festivals that sit hand in hand, with the religious rites, to mark the occasion of the end of the Buddhist Lent; each has its own uniqueness and is known by many names.

In Thailand’s south the people celebrate this most auspicious occasion with their very own festival of Chak Phra (Phum Pha Pa), while also in the south the people of Phatthalung Province, go mad with drums in the Phon Lak Phra Festival.


festivals celebrating Buddhist Lent The Chula Kathin Festival

Festivals celebrating Buddhist Lent


The north has its spiritual Tak Bat Devo Festival, featuring hundreds of Buddhist monks, there are another two festivals similar to this event; Lak Phra and Tak Bat Thewo which is actually two events spread over two days and held in Songkhla Province, Southern Thailand, plus the far smaller ‘Tak Bat Thewo Rohana Fair’ Wat Phutthawat in Kalasin Northeast Thailand.

The province of Sakon Nakhon features the amazing Wax Castle possession, while in the north east province of Nakhon Phanom you will find the dazzling Fire Boat Possession, the same region also has the beautiful Light Incense Festival.

Central Thailand offers you the chance to be part of the Lotus Flower Festival and in the Mae Hong Son Province, of North West Thailand you can be part of the uniquely Tai-Yai peoples event, that of the Chong Para Festival. Not forgetting throughout the Kingdom you can witness a whole host of Longboat races and Festivals


In Bangkok, there is the Royal Thod Kathin ceremony also known as Kathina Luang, which is attended by members of the Thai royal family. The Mon People in Bangkok also celebrate with their own colourful Tuk-baat Phra Roi River Festival



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