Chiang Mai annual Buddhist Lent parade
By Saksit Meesubkwang

The Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) organized the annual Buddhist Lent parade that made its way through the streets of the city on July 23rd.

The procession started at the Chiang Mai Railway station and made its way along Charoen Muang, Tha Pae, Kotchasarn, Moolmuang and Ratchadamnoen road, to end at Wat Phrasingha. Ten thousands of onlookers lined the streets to get a glimpse of this yearly colorful parade.

The parade included a marching band, klong jum drummers and over 100 dancers. Participants also carried the Buddhist Lent robes which are used for the traditional bathing customs.

Some 400 students in local dress also participated as well as sword dancers, sa budchai drummers and the busabok carriage which transported the 1,800 candles Lent candles.

At the Wat Phrasingha Temple, Mr. Thawatwong na Chiang Mai, President of the Chiang Mai PAO, presided over the ceremony where he presented the Buddhist Lent candles and robes to the monks.

This year, the Buddhist holy days of Asarnha Bucha and Khao Pansaa fell on July 29 and 30. Both are recognized public holidays, and therefore banks and most businesses were closed. Many activities took place throughout the city, especially at our temples.

Asarnha Bucha Day is worshipped because of three important events occurring on the day. Called the “Triple Gem” (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), these commemorate the first sermon given by the Buddha, called the “Dharmachakapavattama Sutta” concerning the “Four Noble Truths” presented to the Buddha’s first five disciples. The sermon set in motion the “Wheel of Dharma”, which is the meaning of “Dharmachaka”.

Secondly, the day is considered to be the birth of Buddhism, as the Buddha departed the location where he obtained his enlightenment two months earlier and then, coming to a forest area in the city of Pharansi, he showed favor to five ascetics who became his followers.

The third of the Triple Gems is the Sangha. On this same day, the first person listened to the Buddha’s sermon, realizing the truths contained therein and becoming the first Buddhist monk. This created the Buddhist order “Sangha” and the day is known as “Sangha Day” as well as Ahsala Bucha Day.

The Thai government established the observance of Asarnha Bucha Day in 1958. Buddhist temples throughout the Kingdom arrange ceremonies venerating the important historic events in the past. Devout Buddhists participate in the ceremonies by presenting offerings to monks, listening to sermons and performing ritual prayers.

The entire day is revered and certain precepts are adhered to by the more devout Buddhist, and by those who have the inclination and opportunity to do so. The Wientian ritual ceremony is performed in the evening as many go to nearby temples bringing candles, flowers and joss sticks, completing three trips walking around the temple area sacred grounds.

The day following the start of Buddhist Lent (Asarnha Bucha Day) another important Buddhist Holy day begins in Thailand with the custom called Khao Pansaa.

The term “Khao Pansaa” can also translate to entering the months of the rainy season when monks return to the temple for the duration of the rains, usually to the temple where they were ordained. They stay there for approximately three months.

The custom of Khao Pansaa has continued on to this day with three classes of ceremonies, a Royal ceremony conducted by HM the King, ritual ceremonies for devout followers of Buddhism throughout the Kingdom and ceremonies performed by monks in the temples.

Chiang Mai Mail