As the seasonal monsoon rains descend over the kingdom, it marks the beginning of the Buddhist “rain retreat” and the Buddhist Lent, or “Phansa”, during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. This is also an auspicious time for Buddhist ordinations as it marks a period of spiritual renewal.
Known as “Khao Phansa”, the Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to study and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (in July) to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month (in October). In former times, this is done to prevent monks from trampling upon rice paddies when they venture out to receive offerings from the villagers.
Buddhism, Buddhist traditions and beliefs are central forces that shape the local way of life and give rise to various festivals of religious origin which have been observed for generations. For example, the majority of the Buddhist ordinations take place during the Buddhist Lent when young novices enter the monkhood. Villagers also actively engage in merit-making during this period. Offerings consisting of an assortment of savoury dishes and sweets as well as items for daily use are offered to monks. Items that provide light such as candles, lanterns and lamp oil are deemed to be particularly important offerings as it is believed that they provide monks with illumination physically and spiritually.
Many of these traditions have evolved into full-scale festivals featured in the Buddhist calendar and the kingdom’s official calendar of festivals and events such as “The Candle Festival” of Ubon Ratchathani province, which features a procession of ornately-carved beeswax candles of various shapes and sizes, and the “Tak Bat Dok Mai” floral offering merit-making ritual that is unique to Saraburi province.
Information from: Tourist Authority of Thailand.