Early on Sunday morning, thousands of lay people from Bangkok and the surrounding provinces, came together to give alms to an estimated 12,600 monks. The event took place along Ratchadamri Road in front of Central World. About 800 meters of the road from Ratchaprasong Intersection and towards Pratunam was closed to traffic.
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The Most Venerable Phra Phromamatee, member of the Sangha Council, was the master of ceremony and the presiding monk. Mom Ratchawong Sukhumphan Boriphat, Governor of Bangkok, and Mr. Virun Techaphaibul were the Chairmen for the event.
For Buddhist people, this year is very important as it is the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s Enlightenment. This is now the second mass alms giving that I have attended this year. The other took place back in April in Samut Prakan Province. Today’s event was in commemoration of Visakha Bucha Day which takes place on 17th May this year.
Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar. It takes place every year on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. Three important events happened on this day. These were the birth, enlightenment and the death of the Lord Buddha. Buddhists make merit on this day by going to the temple to offer food to monks and to listen to sermons.
The road in front of Central World was completely covered in white sheets. In addition, there were ten red lanes which marked the path to be taken by the 12,600 monks. Many of the lay people came early in the morning, even before the sun came up, in order to get a good spot. I was there at 5:30 a.m. and there was already hundreds of people there.
After chanting and a sermon, the monks then started to file down the paths between an estimated crowd of 100,000 lay people. In normal alms giving events that I have attended, the monks would start accepting alms straight away. However, as there were 12,600 here it wasn’t possible. So, they all filed down to the end first. Once all of the monks were on the red carpet, the lay people then started offering food to the monks at the same time.
The majority of alms offered were dried food as well as personal necessities such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Like the mass alms giving in Samut Prakan, most of the donated food will be sent to 286 temples in the deep south of Thailand. Proceeds will also be used to sponsor the Robe Offering Ceremony for the entire year.
Due to the on-going troubles in the four southernmost provinces in Thailand, it is not easy for the monks living there to go out on their daily alms rounds. In fact, monks have been targeted and shot dead in the past. The event today was organized to give them both moral support as well as dried food.
There will be another mass alms giving event later this year. Like this one, I will announce news of this on my Twitter account @RichardBarrow as well as on my Facebook page. Feel free to add me as a friend. We also have a new website for Thai Travel News where we will post more details as and when we receive it.