Candles light way in Pattaya on long Buddhist holiday

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Devout Buddhists present alms at Wat Boonsamphan.
Devout Buddhists present alms at Wat Boonsamphan.

Pattaya-area Buddhists spent two days making merit, giving alms, studying Dharma and doing good deeds on the most solemn holiday weekend of the year.

July 27 and July 28 marked not only Asalaha Bucha Day and Khao Phansa, the start of Buddhist Lent, but the 66th birthday of HM the King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Temples buzzed while Walking Street went silent on normally packed Friday and Saturday nights, as alcohol was outlawed for both days.

From early morning, believers dressed in white made merit by going to temples for special ceremonies, offering dried food and rice to monks and novices, listening to Dharma sermons and doing good deeds.

The commemorations began early, with Banglamung District Chief Naris Niramaiwong and Nongprue Mayor Anak Pattanangam kicking off four separate Lent candle parades July 26.

Civil servants, students and members of the Nongprue Women’s Development and Rumdul clubs took part, ending with religious ceremonies at Sutthawat Temple. The assembly donated candles that subsequently were given to Sutthawat, Khao Saothong, Nongprue, Kho Photong, Samakeepracharam and Boonsamphan temples.

20 organizations took part in the Sattahip candle parade from Sattahip Temple to Sattahip Market.
20 organizations took part in the Sattahip candle parade from Sattahip Temple to Sattahip Market.

The Diana Group also donated large candles to temples in the Pattaya area and donated 1,184 kilograms of rice to the Ban Khru Ja Foundation to make merit. Managing Director Sopin Thappajug and friends donated candles to Nongprue, Suttawas and Khao Photong temples. The group also hosted a meal and donated goods to Director Palisorn Noja for the less-fortunate children at the foundation’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Abuse Center.

In Chonburi, Gov. Pakara­thorn Thienchai kicked off the 62nd-annual procession from the provincial hall in cooperation with the Yuvaput-Chonburi Association under the Patronage of the Supreme Patriarch.

Talented people in Sattahip create decorative Lent candles for their parade.
Talented people in Sattahip create decorative Lent candles for their parade.

Fourteen government agencies, schools and private organizations took part in the parade with seven groups awarded prizes. Prapatsornwittaya took first place and 6,000 baht while Chonrachamrung won 4,000 baht for second place.

In addition, the governor handed out 150 scholarships and 400 large candles to temples in all 11 districts.

Sopin Thappajug, MD of Diana Group, donated large candles to 3 temples in the Nongprue area.
Sopin Thappajug, MD of Diana Group, donated large candles to 3 temples in the Nongprue area.

In Sattahip, Government workers, sailors, community leaders and students took turns creating decorative Lent candles. The parade, participated in by 20 organizations, moved from Sattahip Temple to Sattahip Market, complete with tom-tom drums and dancers. Lertpanya School won the top prize in the candle festival contest, taking 10,000 baht.

Asalaha Bucha falls on the 15th night of the full moon during the eighth month of the Buddhist lunar calendar, this year on July 27. Three important events occurred on the day in history: the first sermon given by the Buddha, called the “Dharmachakapavattama Sutta” concerning the “Four Noble Truths” presented to the Buddha’s first five disciples; the birth of Buddhism; and the Sangha, or the ordination of the first Buddhist monk.

Believers perform a Tak Bat ceremony at Wat Suttawas on Asalaha Bucha Day.
Believers perform a Tak Bat ceremony at Wat Suttawas on Asalaha Bucha Day.

At Chaimongkol Temple, Abbot and Chonburi Ecclesiastical Vice Gov. Panyarattanaphon presided over the ceremony with lay leader Surat Mekavarakul.

Believers brought food and deserts, rainments, large candles, light bulbs and other alms. Moreover, they listened to Dharma lectures by Jongsak Jaruwanno, deputy abbot, regarding the history of Buddhist Lent and the tradition of giving rain cloths to monks. Rain cloths are used by monks when showering and are one of the three garments of a Buddhist monk.

In the evening, temples arranged candlelight “wien tien” around sermon halls, large Buddha images or temple grounds.

Young students proudly march in the Chonburi parade.
Young students proudly march in the Chonburi parade.

The double holiday continued Saturday with Khao Phansa, marking the formal start of the traditional rainy season where monks are confined to temple grounds to avoid stepping on new rice crops as they go out to seek alms.

It’s also a period in which Buddhist followers make merit by presenting gifts – traditionally lanterns and candles and, these days, light bulbs – to monks to help with their enlightenment. During this time believers give up one or more vices for the summer.

People take part in the living funeral shroud chant ceremony according to the belief they could be reborn.
People take part in the living funeral shroud chant ceremony according to the belief they could be reborn.

Banglamung Chief Naris again got things started July 28 with civil servants, local Red Cross volunteers, business owners and the public taking part in a mass alms-giving event.

This year was dedicated to HM King Maha Vajira­longkorn Bodindradebaya­varangkun as Khao Phansa also fell on his birthday.

With bars closed and hedonism on hold for the holy weekend, many people instead spent their time doing good deeds, dedicating their efforts to HM the King for his birthday.

The Public Health Department in cooperation with the Chonburi Blood Center hosted a July 24 blood drive in honor of the King. At Mabprachan Reservoir, the Chonburi Fisheries Department and Sub-district invited the public to mark the King’s birthday with the release of fish and marine animals.

Nongprue Mayor Mai Chaiyanit led sub-district residents in planting trees at Chalermprakiat King Bhumibol Public Park for the King’s birthday.

Phra Khru Pisanjariyakorn Lekathammo, Abbot of Wat Thamsamakee in South Pattaya, leads the candlelight wien tien ceremony.
Phra Khru Pisanjariyakorn Lekathammo, Abbot of Wat Thamsamakee in South Pattaya, leads the candlelight wien tien ceremony.

At Ban Tungkomtanman School, Naris awarded scholarships, gave household goods and food to the families of five chronically ill residents, and planted trees at the Glory Hut Foundation.

Of course, a four-day holiday made Pattaya a huge draw for Bangkokians and Thais from nearby provinces not just for merit or religion, but also for lounging on the beach and indulging in seafood.

Both Thais and foreigners packed Jomtien Beach and beach vendors were reporting roaring trade.