Falls on the first day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July), Khao Phansa Day marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist Lent period. During this time, Buddhist monks are restricted to their temples for a period of three months. Young men over 20 years, who have not yet ordained as monks, may take this opportunity to enter the monkhood to observe Buddhist teachings.
Stories of the Buddhist Rains Retreat can be traced back to the beginning of the Buddhist era. At that time, the Lord Buddha saw that monks wandering outside the temple compound might damage growing crops or accidentally kill insects, so he proclaimed that it would be better for the monks to observe the teachings and practice meditation at the monasteries instead.
Celebrations for the start of the Buddhist Lent take place all over Thailand but the most elaborate ceremonies are held in Saraburi where there is ‘Tak Bat Dok Mai’ (offerings of flowers to monks) and in Ubon Ratchathani, where the Candle Festival is held.
In Ubon Ratchathani, 629 km northeast of Bangkok, the Candle Festival is the province’s most popular annual event. On the days before the event, the local authorities will be busy preparing the venue at Thung Si Muang, a public field, similar to Bangkok’s Sanam Luang. At the same time, local artisans make ornately carved beeswax candles of various sizes and shapes. On the day of the festival, the fabulous candles are paraded around the town on colorful floats, accompanied by displays of religious devotion. After the procession, they are presented to local temples.
Saraburi, just 108 km from Bangkok, holds the ‘Tak Bat Dok Mai’ festival to mark the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. The event takes place at the shrine of the Buddha’s Footprint (Phra Phuttabaht shrine). The event draws devout Buddhists from all parts of Thailand.