Taking place around May each year, Visakha Bucha Day, also known as Vesak, it is a celebration of the three most important events in the Buddha’s life: his birth, reaching enlightenment and finally his passing, all of which occurred on the full moon of the 6th lunar month.
There is a real buzz in the air as people set about spending their day celebrating this important holiday. However, it is a religious celebration that should be respected. Not only is it a public holiday but there are also other courtesies that should be recognised:
- The sale of alcohol is prohibited
- Many bars and restaurants will be closed
- Many Buddhists will visit one of the many temples around the area to ‘make merit’ by offering food to monks and novices in the morning, setting birds or fish free to release bad karma, and listening to sermons
- This is a day to focus on meditation and observing the 8 precepts
- After sunset, candle-lit processions take place at major temples throughout the country; devout Buddhists, holding candles, incense sticks and lotus buds, walk three times around the principal chapel in a clockwise direction.
For anyone that’s new to the country, or new to celebrating Visakha Bucha, this is an amazing chance to encourage your family to experience this important part of Thai Buddhist tradition.
We all know how hot it is at the moment but if you can stand the heat and smoke from incense, a trip to one of the many temples is a must. Observers are welcome in temples and this occasion is suitable for older children (not advisable for toddlers and babies). You will see, hands on, just what it means to be Buddhist. Some popular (but very crowded) temples to visit on Visakha Bucha Day in Bangkok include:
- Wat Pho: The Reclining Buddha statue represents Buddha entering Nirvana, or enlightenment at his death
- Wat Saket/Golden Mountain: A large pilgrimage and procession, led by candlelight, takes place each year. Everyone climbs up and walks clockwise around the elevated stupa.
- Phutthamonthon: A huge procession takes place around a 15.87-metre tall Buddha statue in this vast Buddhist Park west of Bangkok.
This is an amazing time to experience Thai religion and culture, and to share time and happiness with Thai friends and family through processions, making merit and meditation.