One of the most important events in the Thai Buddhist calendar is Makha Bucha Day (sometimes spelled Magha Puja). It takes place on the full moon day of the third lunar month which is usually late February or early March. This year it was today, 28th February 2010. Like many Thai people, I was up early this morning before the sun rose to go and visit my local temple. I took my first picture at Wat Klang in Paknam shortly before 7 a.m. There was already hundreds of local people there making merit.
There were many food stalls outside the temple selling various food such as curries and Thai desserts. However, these weren’t for the lay people to buy to take home and eat. These were pre-cooked food to give to the monks in order to make merit. Strictly speaking, to make the most merit you need to prepare the food yourself, but who has time for that these days? After choosing the food that they wanted to offer, the vendor then worked out the cost.
Once they had bought a tray load of food, they then usually squatted down, held the tray up to the level of their forehead and then said a small prayer. There was also a small Buddha shrine there which people paid respect to. Next they then added the rice and bags of curries to a long line of alms bowls. The monks weren’t actually sitting there which always seems a bit strange to me. But, I guess the Thai people felt they were still making the merit.
I have been to a number of different temples on days like this one and it is quite often the same set-up. There is often a line of beggars or local poor people who are hoping that the Buddhists will also want to make merit by giving some spare change to them. Not everyone did this but considering there were hundreds of people at this one temple, they should have made some decent money. In addition, many temples often hand out excess food to poor people on days like this when they are overwhelmed.
Once the people had made merit they made their way to an open area in front of a long narrow platform. This is where the monks from the temple were sitting waiting to start the chanting. It was a good turnout this morning. Very impressive. The chanting went on for about an hour. There was also a sermon from the abbot. People also had an opportunity to make a personal offering of essential items or food to their favourite monk. Most people would then go home though others might stay the whole day and practice meditation.
In the late afternoon or evening, people headed back to their local temples for “wien tien” which is a kind of candlelight procession around the ordination hall or chedi. I decided to go to Wat Asokaram in Samut Prakan which is a very famous meditation temple in Thailand. Many people had been staying here over the long weekend. They wore white clothes and practised meditation. The real “wien tien” is with candles in the evening after the chanting which usually starts at about 7.30 p.m. But many people went earlier to walk around the temple three times in a clockwise direction.
I have posted many more pictures over at www.paknamphotos.com. I also posted live pictures today on my twitter account @RichardBarrow from each location.