Traditionally, in Thailand, when a Buddhist dies, their body is cremated and then the bones and ashes are collected and are either kept at the temple or at home or sometimes both. However, there is a third option which is seemingly becoming more popular these days. It is called “loi angkarn” which means the floating or scattering of ashes over the water.
It is not really a Buddhist tradition as it has been adapted from Hinduism where they often scatter ashes in the Ganges River. Some Thai people believe that floating the ashes of their loved ones in a river or in the open sea will help wash away their sins but also help them go more smoothly up to heaven. It doesn’t matter where you do this, but if you are in the Bangkok and Samut Prakan area then an auspicious place is the mouth of the Chao Phraya River at Paknam where I live. There are at least half a dozen boats here that people can charter to take them from the city out into the Gulf of Thailand. It costs about 1,200 baht and for that you get the services of a captain and layman who will lead the ceremony. Some people also bring along a couple of monks.
There are a set number of rituals that have to be done in the correct order before the main ceremony. This includes paying respect to the guardian spirit of the boat and then later the god of the ocean and the goddess of water. The bones and ashes that were collected from the crematorium the day before were wrapped in a white cloth. Rose and flower petals were placed on top and also a jasmine garland. In this picture they are sprinkling scented water onto the ashes.
Next comes the prayers where the mourners request the spirits and gods to look after the deceased person. It is then time for the white cloth containing the ashes to be carefully dropped over the side. They don’t actually scatter the ashes, they just let the cloth float away and then sink. As they watch it go, they say their final farewells while at the same time scattering flower petals on the water.
If you are interested in Buddhism in Thailand, then you might like to visit our website at www.thaibuddhist.com.