Phansa (Candle Festival)
Venue: nationwide (with special highlights at Tung
Si Muang, Ubon Ratchathani and Phra Phutthabat shrine, Saraburi)
With the arrival of the eighth lunar month in July, Thai Buddhists
all over the kingdom celebrate Khao Phansa, one of the most
important events in the religious calendar. Celebrations are
held in Buddhist temples all over Thailand, but the most colorful
can be found in Saraburi and Ubon Ratchathani.
Phansa', in Thai, refers to the beginning of the Buddhist
Lent. During this time, Buddhist monks are restricted to their
temples for a period of three months. Young men over 20 years,
who have not yet ordained as monks, may take this opportunity
to enter the monkhood to observe Buddhist teachings.
Stories of the Buddhist Rains Retreat can be traced back to
the beginning of the Buddhist era. At that time, the Lord
Buddha saw that monks wandering outside the temple compound
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 at the monasteries instead.
Celebrations for the start of the Buddhist Lent take place
all over Thailand but the most elaborate ceremonies are held
in Saraburi where there is 'Tak Bat Dok Mai' (offerings of
flowers to monks) and in Ubon Ratchathani, where the Candle
Festival is held.
Ubon Ratchathani, 629 km northeast of Bangkok, the Candle
Festival is the province's most popular annual event. On the
days before the event, the local authorities will be busy
preparing the venue at Thung Si Muang, a public field, similar
to Bangkok's Sanam Luang. At the same time, local artisans
make ornately carved beeswax candles of various sizes and
shapes. On the day of the festival, the fabulous candles are
paraded around the town on colorful floats, accompanied by
displays of religious devotion. After the procession, they
are presented to local temples.
Saraburi, just 108 km from Bangkok, holds the 'Tak Bat Dok
Mai' festival to mark the beginning of the Buddhist Lent.
The event takes place at the shrine of the Buddha's Footprint
(Phra Phuttabaht shrine). The event draws devout Buddhists
from all parts of Thailand.
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