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พรรษา or "PHANSA" is the Buddhist rainy season.
The rain retreat or Buddhist Lent is marked by two major religious events:
one for entering the rainy season called "WAN KHAO PHANSA"
and for exiting the rainy season called "WAN OK PHANSA"
During the rainy season, lasting three months approximately
from July to September (depending on lunar months),
monks aren't allowed to sleep outside their Buddhist temple and cannot defrock.
This tradition is coming from old times when Buddha stayed in temples
during rainy season to avoid killing insects or growing seeds.
It is a period for study, meditation and
to teach new monks. They are allowed to go out during the day but they
must sleep in the same temple every night during three months.
Still many Thai men become monks before
the rain retreat as it offers a three months time to study the
Dharma (ธรรม - Buddha teachings).
A few days before "WAN KHAO PHANSA" event,
Thai people buy big candles. These candles should by pair. One for the
buyer and one to get a mate for next life. When buying the wax candles,
the candle is decorated with dragon, flowers and so on...
One day before
the beginning of the Buddhist lent, there is Asalabucha day
This day commemorates the first sermon of Buddha
to his five first disciples. One of them asked for being a monk. So
this day is sacred because it deals with Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Thai people gather in the temple in order to listen to
the Dharma. Temples are really crowded for "WAN KHAO PHANSA".
During the Buddhist sermon, some laymen and laywomen prepare the trays
dedicated to the monks.
When the Buddhist sermon is finished, Thai people are queuing
to fill monks bowl with food.
Thai people are queuing in order to give their donations to the abbot.
They offer wax candles but also monk robe, food, lotus flowers, buckets
full of useful goods and so on... A Thai greeting towards the monk
( "WAI" - ไหว้ ) shall be
done before and after the donation.
The Candle Wax procession
("PHITI HAE PRASAT PEUNG" -
in Ubon Ratchatani is the most famous Candle Wax procession in Thailand.
There is a night and day parad of huge wax candles.
Those wax candles are big enough to last three months during a rain retreat season.
Soon, the abbot is submerged with donations. As usual, some
laymen gather the donations in order that new donators can offer
their wax candle.
After receiving the donations, the abbot blesses the crowd by sprinkling
lustral water (NAM MON - น้ำมนต์)
on people. Lustral water is water that has been infused with magical
powers or has received a blessing from monks. Thais believe that those who drink
lustral water or have it sprinkled on their head, the most sacred part of the body,
will be blessed.
A thin bamboo stripes (ตอก)
is used in Buddhist temples when abbots dip a bunch of it in holy water and sprinkle it
on the faithful congregation. it carry the holy water well so giving the blessing of the
dharma far and wide.
or "VIEN TIEN" happens in the evening.
During this ceremony, people turn around the Buddhist
temple three times with a candle in the hand.