International and local travelers are invited to join the Thai Buddhist community nationwide in celebrating the start of Buddhist Lent 2014.
Referred to as Khao Phansa in Thai, Buddhist Lent, or Buddhist Rains Retreat, lasts three months, and it begins from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month.
The first day of Buddhist Lent this year falls on July 12th. During the three-month period, Buddhist monks and novices stay in the temple to study and practice Dhamma. The custom for monks to spend the rainy season in a fixed place has been observed since the time of the Buddha.
Legend has it that when the Lord Buddha was travelling and spreading his teachings, it was traditional for ascetics to retire to retreats during the rainy season. This period was aimed at preventing crop damage, as unnecessary travel by them during this period could damage young rice seedlings planted by villagers.
To mark the start of this auspicious period, Buddhist Thais nationwide organize special celebrations that also reflect local traditions and beliefs. This gives tourists a chance to really connect with Thailand’s unique candle festival.
The festival is held in several provinces in observance of the Buddhist Lent. For instance, the International Wax Candle Festival and Wax Candle Procession, is scheduled for 11-14 July at Thung Si Mueang Park in Ubon Ratchathani Province. It acts as a showcase for some of the world’s best examples of candle carving with masterpieces crafted by artists from Bulgaria, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, Ukraine, the United States of America, and Thailand. The celebration of the candle festival in Ubon Ratchathani has continued for several generations. It is meant to pay tribute to the Triple Gem in Buddhism, which includes the Buddha, his teachings, or Dhamma, and his disciples, or the Sangha.
The Korat Candle Festival will be held on 11-13 July at the Thao Suranaree Monument, Nakhon Ratchasima Province. It is a display of exquisitely carved candles that depict the story of the Buddha, royally initiated projects, and historical attractions in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The Candle Procession and merit making on elephant backs will be held on 10 and 11 July at the Monument of Phraya Surin Phakdi in Surin Province. It features a procession of nearly 100 elaborately-decorated elephants carrying some of the province’s most highly-revered monks around town in a unique and memorable merit-making ceremony.
The Pattaya Candle Festival is scheduled for 9-10 July at Pattaya Beach Road in Pattaya City, Chonburi Province. It highlights candle processions, from Central Beach Road to the Walking Street, as well as candle carving and candle floating competitions.
The Suphan Buri Candle Festival will take place at Wat Pa Lelai from 11 to 13 July. It presents a spectacular procession of candles around the province’s main town and also includes folk performances, and candle procession and candle floating decoration competitions.