September 24, 2016
An annual Mon event that has been taking place in the Kingdom for centuries
When: 23rd October 2016 (Usually falls on the first Sunday after the Awk Pansa day or Wan Ok Phansa Day)
Where: On the Lamplatiew Canal in front of Wat Sutthaphot. Thap Yao Sub-District, Lat Krabang District Bangkok
The temple of Wat Sutthaphot (วัดสุทธาโภชน์), situated on the Lamplatiew Canal in eastern Bangkok, again plays host to this year’s Tuk-baat Phra Roi River Festival, the event is an adaptation by the local Mon People, 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 Kathin Ritual and the end of Buddhist Lent
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 (16th October 2016). This 30-day period of merit-making is a special opportunity for prayers to Buddha and for the presentation of alms 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.
The Kathin Ritual (The Thord Gathin Festival) is also celebrated in the neighbouring countries, of Lao and Cambodia, it is a time for temple grounds to be transformed into venues for traditional dancers, music and food stalls. It also allows 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. The offering of new, saffron robes to the monks is particularly meritorious and important). Other alms will also be donated to the monk’s, and these include goods for their every day needs such as, toiletries, writing materials, candles and food. This is also a time when Money Trees are presented to the temples, for the donated money to be used for the upkeep of the Wat.
Tuk-baat Phra Roi River Festival
The festival starts early in the morning at around 06.30, when a 100 or so monks from all the surrounding temples, will board small craft and paddle down the canal to receive alms from the waiting lay people, who in turn will have massed along both sides of the Khlong earlier in the morning. The throng of people makes this short canal trip into a spiritual feast of noise, colour and quiet reflection.
Once the monks have finished (the nearly one kilometer boat trip can take several hours to complete) and returned to their respective temples the mood of the day changes, as the same water ways and the canal banks become sporting grounds for boat races and numerous other activities, which continue in a riotous amount of colour, noise and smells from the mass of waiting vendors until around 3:30 p.m. when the festivities come to a close.
A word of warning if you are going to the festival parking spaces are limited and are nonexistent from 5:30 am so get there early or better still take a taxi, plus the banks of the Khlong are also filled to the gunnels by 06:00
Other Festivals at the Wat
Wat Sutthaphot always hosts a large and elaborate annual Songkran festival (April) featuring a Hae Hong Thong Thakaab procession and the Hae-nok Hae-pla procession – Hong is Thai for a swan, Thong means a flag, Thakaab a centipede, and Hae means a parade or procession. Nok is Thai for a bird and Pla means fish.
The Songkran Mon tradition consists of the ritual bathing of the Buddha statue, a traditional game called Saba Toy (like Boule), a pitch-and-toss game played with beans and a superstitious game called Phee E-ju, involving a fake ghost that haunts people.
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.
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. While the people of Mukdahan, Northeast Thailand they have their own Chula Kathin Festival, which while it again is a simple festival it takes 6 months of hard work and dedication to make happen.
The Mon Lotus Throwing Festival of Central Thailand
The Mon people also have a unique festival that marks the end of Buddhist Lent and Wan Ok Phansa, that of the three day long Lotus Flower Festival. This colourful and spiritual event, has a long tradition believed to have dated from as early as 1498.
The event involves a water borne parade along the Samrong Canal that runs in front of Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai (The home of the ‘Luang Pho Toh’ Buddha, recognized as one of the most revered Buddha images in Thailand). It is here that the people from the banks of the canal, throw Bua or lotus flowers onto the craft containing a replica of the famous Buddha, creating a deep carpet of flowers on both the boat and the surrounding water..
The custom is to hold lotuses up to ones forehead while making a wish or prayer. It’s believed that if your lotus lands on Luang Phor Toh’s lap, your wish will come true. Any direct hit means good luck will find you. Those revelers wanting to ensure their their own good fortune will fill up their own boats with thousands of lotuses and chase Luang Phor Toh down the canal, flinging as they go.
For more of our posts on the Mon
Directions Tuk-baat Phra Roi River Festival
Location: Wat Sutthaphot, Soi Wat Sutthaphot, Thap Yao Sub-District, Lat Krabang District 10520
By Public van: Take Victory Monument-Lat Krabang-Motorway Line.
By Airport Express train: Get off at the Lat Krabang station then continue with taxi or motorcycle taxi. GPS coordinates are 13.740532 – 100.795185.
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