During the recent school holiday, that marks the break between term 1 and 2, many students take the opportunity to ordain as novice monks. They usually only do this for a week or so. It is a bit like going on Sunday School Camp I guess in order to have religious training. I think it is good for them as it teaches morality and ethics but also self-discipline. However, it is a major event for them as you can see from these pictures of the hair-cutting ceremony. This first picture is a kind of “before shot”. Here the abbot of the temple is going down the line of 99 boys to cut a piece of hair as a symbolic gesture.
Then, other family members, starting with the grandparents, will then also take turns to cut a clump of hair and to give a blessing at the same time. I guess if you have a family member who is in training to be a haridresser, then they could have fun practicing their skills without worrying about any consequences. Once all of the family has taken their turn, then someone is nominated to cut the remaining hair off.
You can see in some of these pictures the boys holding a big lotus leaf. This again is symbolic. No hair is allowed to drop to the ground. Some people keep this hair while others will later float this little “krathong” of hair on the river. Not all of the boys had painless experiences. Some were crying from both the pain of razor cuts on their head and the soap running into their eyes. I guess the monks were the most skilled people there as they have to shave their hair every month before full moon.
This final picture shows you clearly how much of a commitment this is for the boys even though they may only ordain for a week or so. As you can see, once the hair has all been shaved off, they also then shave off the eyebrows! The transformation is remarkable as the boy is no longer recognizable. It is amazing how much the eyebrows are part of your character. I sometimes feel a bit sorry for my students who ordain for a few days during the funeral of a grandparent. They come back to school with no eyebrows. But, this is so much part of Thai culture that no-one ever raises an eyebrow at this. In Thailand, they are not called skin-heads. In fact, if you decide to shave off all your hair here. Most people will think that you have just disrobed.
You can read more information about Buddhism in Thailand at our www.ThaiBuddhist.com website. You can also post your questions in our Thai Buddhism Forums over at www.ThailandQA.com.