Rayong Buddhists host vegetarian festival for goddess’ birthday


Eastern Buddhists marked the birthday of the goddess of compassion with a vegetarian festival in Rayong.

Celebrated this year on March 31, the birthday of Guanyin, a bodhisattva devoted to carrying the dead on a lotus leaf to the “land of bliss,” is a special holiday for East Asian Buddhists, particularly Thais of Chinese heritage.

In Rayong’s Klaeng District, the Jao Pho Toh Kong Temple hosted its annual vegetarian festival and lion parade. Noppakhun Saengpongpittaya, manager of the small seaside temple, said the event is unique on the Eastern Seaboard and has brought prosperity to a Chinese shrine that had fallen into disrepair.

Folks in Rayong celebrate “Kuam Im’s” birthday.Folks in Rayong celebrate “Kuam Im’s” birthday.

From March 27 to April 2, followers of “Kuam Im,” as the goddess is known in Thai, give up meat and set tables outside their homes filled with incense, meat and sweets. Residents of Klaeng and Bolphae districts come to the temple to participate in the vegetarian festival.

On March 31, a lion-dance troupe from Nakhon Sawan danced for festival guests to celebrate the goddess’ birthday and welcome her annual reappearance to bless her followers and ward away disease and bad luck.

One of the most popular bodhisattva in China, Guanyin is said to rescue all beings by hearing their voices of suffering and cries for help. As one of the four great bodhisattva, Guanyin – originally depicted as male and now most commonly shown as female – is also one of the triad of Amitabha Buddha, represented on her left, and being the future Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss after Amitabha Buddha. Guanyin can transform into many different forms in order to cross over to the beings.

Noppakhun said the festival has led to a rebirth for the goddess’ temple. Local businesspeople had tried to buy the land, but failed and the temple had fallen into disrepair.

But legend has it that a Chonburi businessman’s Mercedes-Benz stalled outside the temple for no apparent reason. Superstitious, he saw it as a sign and walked down to the temple’s dilapidated pavilion on the shore and prayed to the resident god to start his car. When it restarted, he pledged to rebuild and support the temple.