During March 2012, there will be a series of six alms giving ceremonies around Bangkok involving an estimated total of 100,000 monks. The purpose is to celebrate the 2,600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. The first event took place early this morning, 10th March 2012 along Phahonyothin road near Ying Charoen Market. It was difficult to estimate the number of monks present today, but I reckon that there were at least 8,000.
Monks traditionally go on alms round near their temple. Usually they leave the temple in the early hours of dawn while it is still dark. The Buddhist faithful are waiting for them in front of their houses. On Wan Phra days, which is the Buddhist sabbath, the monks stay in the temple and the lay people go there to make merit. However, these days it is not always easy for people to make merit in this way as they need to get up early to go to work.
There are two other kinds of alms giving that I have witnessed. One is often held on special occasions such as New Year’s Day or the King’s Birthday. The lay people line the side of the road in groups and as hundreds of monks pass, they offer the food. With the mass alms giving that I attended this morning, that method isn’t practical. After chanting and a short sermon, the monks walked down the rows in front of the seated lay people until everyone was in position. Then, after a signal, everyone offered alms at the same time.
As a foreign tourist you are welcome to watch this event. You can even join in if you like. Set up along the road there are many tables where vendors are selling bags of food for offering to the monks. As there are thousands of people, you need to arrive early to get a good spot. The ceremony starts at 6:30 a.m. and so it’s best to arrive before 6 a.m. if you can. The roads will be closed so its best to go by public transport or by taxi. If you are taking part you need to wear white clothing.
The following are the locations for the alms giving events in Bangkok this month:
Sunday March 11th, 2012 – Kaset Junction – Ratchayothin Crossroad
Saturday March 17th, 2012 – Ladprao 5-Junction – Saphan Khwai
Sunday March 18th, 2012 – CentralWorld Department Store, Ratchaprasong Road
Saturday March 24th, 2012 – Yaowarat Road – Charoenkrung Road
Sunday March 25th, 2012 – Ladya Road – Wongwian Yai
I have prepared a google map of these locations