PHICHIT, July 22 – Thai Buddhists nationwide are making merit and performing other religious practices on Asalha Puja Day, which falls on today, the full moon of the eighth lunar month, before the Buddhist Lent.
Asalha Puja or Asanha Bucha Day celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon in which he set out to his five former associates the doctrine that had come to him following his enlightenment.
In the northern province of Phichit, Governor Jakkarin Plienwong led over 5,000 local residents and civil servants to make merit and offer 86 large candles to celebrate today and Buddhist Lent tomorrow at Wat Tha Luang in the provincial seat. The candles are for monks in less privileged temples to use during Buddhist Lent, the three-month annual retreat where monks remain inside their monasteries and on the temple grounds.
In Chiang Mai, throngs gathered at different temples, giving alms to monks along with other necessary items. The local ‘Lanna’ ceremony of making merit was performed there. In Lamphun province, apart from giving alms, local residents and foreign visitors alike paid respect to the 1,300-year-old famous Buddha’s relics at Wat Phra That Haripunchai for their good fortune.
The northeastern provinces of Nakhon Phanom and Maha Sarakham also saw crowds gathering at local temples to perform Buddhist religious practices. Lao residents joined the ceremony in Nakhon Phanom’s provincial seat, while the public in Maha Sarakham gave alms with grilled sticky rice in bamboo tube, a local ritual performed in the northeastern region.
Meanwhile, in the South of Thailand, civil servants and locals alike made merits at Narathiwat province’s district offices amid tight security provided by authorities. In Nakhon Si Thammarat, apart from usual ceremonies, an activity of planting over 2,500 trees was held to support the province’s Wat Phra Mahathat to be listed as one of the world’s heritage sites.
Other southern provinces seeing large numbers of worshippers gathering for religious practices on Asalha Puja Day included Songkhla, Satun, Pattani, and Trang, where over 1,000 Thais and foreigners paid respect to a local sacred relic, as well as Ranong, where apart from Thais, Myanmar people from Kawthaung were seen crossing the border to give alms to monks.
On Asalha Puja Day, a candlelight waving rite in the evening is performed at temples throughout the country, apart from Wat Pichai Songkram in the central province of Ayutthaya where the ceremony this year was also held in the morning.