VISAKABUCHA CELEBRATIONS IN BAN NGAO
May 13th was Visaka Bucha Day here in Thailand. The date changes according to
the lunar cycle and is figured as the full moon day of the 6th lunar month - usually
falling in May. The celebration is one of the most important in the annual Buddhist
calendar as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, events
which are believed to have occurred on the same day of the same month.
Visaka celebrations began in Thailand about 700 years ago during a period
of active exchanges of monks from Sri Lanka and Thailand.
This years celebration was centered on a That or Chedi located on a hill only a few
hundred meters from Lanna Thai Villa. Nineteen villages or muban were invited.
Preparations began several days in advance with groups of workers clearing the
grounds, painting buildings and placing ceremonial flags or tung and placing them
along the approaches to the That. In addition villagers prepared donations and
constructed "money trees" to carry the offerings to be presented at the ceremony.
Some villages formed dance groups to provide traditional entertainment. Given
that the event would draw hundreds of participants who would need to be fed many
people cooked food to donate for free distribution as a way of making merit. The
event began with participants parading to theThat with offerings and tung.
Offerings included flowers, joss sticks and candles all symbolic of lifes
impermanence as flowers will wilt and candles and joss sticks will burn out.
There were several aspects to the days events. One, a saloong nam that or the
washing of the That with scented water (nam san poy). A large container was set up
and a pump and hose system would transport water placed into the container to the
top of the That where it would drain down over the structure. This activity was symbolic
of cleansing bad Karma. Prior to the ceremony day a string had been placed from
the principal Buddha image in the prayer hall down and around the entire village
with offshoots going to each home which in turn may have been surrounded with
the string or perhaps only an offshoot would go into the home's Buddha image. In
the prayer hall an overhead lattice of strings was placed prior to the ceremony.
The lattice was also connected to the principal Buddha image. Hanging down
from the lattice were strings which could either be draped on the participants
shoulders or wrapped around their head. In this way both the village and the
individual participant could directly receive the blessings from the monks chanting
which were to invoke peace and happiness for all concerned. Further merit was
gained via the cash and food donations. Prior to the chanting villagers presented
traditional Lanna style dances. Circulating in the crowds during the day were lottery
ticket sellers hoping to make sales from some o0f the many attendees.The day
ended with lam vong dancing.
|THAT NEAR THE RICE FIELD|
|NAGA ON STAIRWAY TO THAT|
|MAKING TUNG OR CEREMONIAL FLAGS|
|PUTTING ON THE FINISHING TOUCHES|
|PARADE OF WORSHIPERS|
|BRINGING SPECIAL ITEMS|
|JOY OF THE OCCASION IS ON THE FACES|
|CIRCLING THE THAT WITH A GOLDEN CLOTH|
|WORSHIPERS CIRCLE THE THAT THREE TIMES|
|DONATING SCENTED WATER|
|TAKING A MOMENT FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION|
|STRING COMING FROM THE PRINCIPAL BUDDHA IMAGE|
|STRING GOING AROUND LANNA THAI VILLA|
|STRINGS IN MEETING HALL|
|YOUNG DANCERS PERFORMING|
|END OF THE DANCE|
|DANCERS FROM A DIFFERENT VILLAGE|
|WORSHIPERS WAITING FOR CHANTING TO BEGIN|
|LIGHTING CANDLES AND INCENSE PRIOR TO CHANTING|
|MONKS PREPARING TO CHANT|
|DONATED FOOD FOR DISTRIBUTION|
|EVER PRESENT LOTTERY VENDORS|