Saturday, July 12, 2014

Flowers for the Buddha

People place "Dancing Lady Ginger" flowers onto a float at a parade for Khao Phansa (the start of the rains retreat) at Wat Phra Phutthabat in Saraburi

This weekend is the start of the Buddhist Rains Retreat, one of the most important Buddhist holidays in Southeast Asia. Temples throughout Thailand were crowded with people making merit and offering prayers. 

The holiday marks the time, more than a millennia ago, that Buddhist holy men, who then traveled from village to village, stopped traveling and stayed in a community for the rainy season. These communities evolved into the first Buddhist monasteries.  
People wait at the side of a road in the district for the procession of monks to pass them
Monks line up before the procession.

The holiday is celebrated in different ways in different parts of Thailand. 

At Wat Phra Phutthabat, in Saraburi province, a couple of hours north of Bangkok, people gather by the thousands to present monks with "Dok Khao Pansa" (also known as "Dancing Lady Ginger") flowers which are only grown in Saraburi and bloom only around the time of the Rains Retreat. 
A procession of monks walks through the crowd, people line up and present them with flowers and wash the monks' feet as they pass

Wat Phra Phutthabat is one of the most important temples in Thailand. The left footprint of the Buddha is housed in a small chapel at the top of the temple. Buddhists from around the world come to the temple to pray in the chapel and to get their "teab" (a sort of Buddhist spiritual passport) stamped. 
A man releases caged birds as an act of compassion to make merit during the Tak Bat Dok Mai

The Tak Bat Dok Mai is just far enough from Bangkok that it's off the tourist path. Tens of thousands of Thais come though to make merit and enjoy the day. 

There are more photos from the Tak Bat Dok Mai in my archive or available from ZUMA Press
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