Shaving Hair Ceremony

It has now come to the time for Nattawud to ordain as a monk. Most Thai men do this once they become of age. Nattawud isn’t actually 20 yet. However, they are, apparently, allowed to count the time spent in their mother’s womb! Thai men are not considered to be mature adults until they have become monks for a period of time. Thai people call those people “unripe”. Once they have become a monk and left the monkhood, they are then called “thit”. Thai men in government jobs are legally allowed to take three months leave of absence to become a monk. Most do this during Buddhist lent which starts in July. During lent no-one is allowed to leave the monkhood. As Nattawud’s birthday is in July his family decided to bring the ceremony forward to this month.

The first part of the ordination that I will talk about today is the hair shaving. Preceding this, Nattawud paid respect to his dead ancestors and then bathed the feet of his elders. In the photo on the right are his grandparents (on his father’s side), his grandmother (the one he calls mother) and his parents. Once he had finished, he prostrated himself at their feet.

Then his elders and other relations all took turns in cutting a piece of his hair. At the same time they gave him a blessing for a prosperous future. Notice the lotus leaf in the left hand picture. None of the hair is allowed to drop to the ground. This is exactly what happened to Nattawud during his fire-hair shaving ceremony when he was a baby 20 years ago. In the next photo the monk has taken over to cut off the remainder of his hair.

Cutting of the hair is symbolic. In the old days, long hair was a sign of royalty. Siddharta, before he became enlightened and therefore the Buddha, cut off his hair as a renouncement of all his worldly goods. Apparently, cutting the eyebrows is more of a Thai tradition and monks in other countries do not follow this practice. Next, everyone took turns in pouring water over his head and body, again giving him a blessing. Finally, some herbs, which are yellow when mixed with water, are rubbed all over his head. I am not sure if there is any significance of using this plant but it apparently helps your hair grow again later. Looks like he will have a hairy chest later!

After he took a shower, he then changed into his white clothes. The outer garment is a bit like net curtains with a gold trimming! Very dandy. At least he didn’t have to wear makeup like they do in northern ordinations. At this point he is now known as “naak” or “naga” in English. This is a mythical serpent from Indian legends. The story goes that one day the serpent disguised himself as a human in order to be ordained as a monk. When the Buddha found out, he told the naga that only humans can become monks. The naga agreed to leave the monkhood but asked the Buddha for one favour. He asked that in future, all young men who were about to be ordained be called “naga”. The Buddha consented.

After the hair shaving ceremony was over, Nattawud got into the back of a pickup truck to parade around the local area. The idea was to show the spirits that he was about to become a monk. Along the way he stopped at two shrines. As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with Buddhism. This is quite typical in Thai ceremonies which mix together both Buddhism and Brahmin. Once the spirits had been informed of the upcoming ordination, Nattawud returned to the temple for some chanting and a sermon. I will write about that tomorrow.

Related Links:

Photo Album for Shaving Hair Ceremony – a selection of 74 photos of this ceremony
I Was A Novice Monk – Nattawud’s story about being a novice when his grandfather died
Fire Hair Shaving – Nattawud has his hair cut off by a monk when he was a baby
Grace’s Fire Hair Shaving – Nattawud’s daughter has her first hair cut

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