Marching feet, blaring trumpets, colorful dancers, a waxen saint – and in the temple, the golden Buddha smiles…
Chiang Mai, Thailand
It is the ending of Buddhist Lent, also known as the “Rains Residence Retreat” that dates back to the time of The Buddha when monks commonly traveled much of the year to spread The Buddha’s teaching.
Their wanderings, difficult enough without the rains, took them through fields of newly planted rice. It didn’t take long for seedlings to succumb to their body-weight and for farmers to feel the loss of their crops. What to do? The farmers appealed to The Buddha who declared a new rule for his monks – during the rainy season, the monks were to stay put (preferably in a monastery) – problem solved.
To this day, monks in Buddhist monasteries stay in once place during the monsoon. The end of this three-month period is celebrated in Thai temples – often with much fanfare.
On November 4, a large procession led by a marching band, followed by dancers, women carrying temple offerings and the escorted life-like image of a revered Lanna saint, paraded down Ratchadamanoen Road in Chaing Mai then veered right into a temple compound.
There the festivities broke out into a colorful melee of music, dancing, mime, prayer offerings and free-food for all. Inside the temple shrine hall, devotees sat in silence with their offerings (money and practical items), before The Buddha deities.
It was a joyful occasion, marked by smiling faces, generosity and devotion – the gentle, humble, hallmark of Thai Buddhist culture.