Thailand has a number of national holidays and religious festivals that are the most joyous occasions. If you are thinking about visiting Thailand you must plan your visit during a Buddhist festival. The purpose of many of these festivals is to celebrate the different events occurred in the Buddha’s life. So, they are perfect events for those who want to learn more about Buddha and Buddhism.
Makha Bucha is one of the three most important Buddhist festivals others being Visakha Bucha and Asahna Bucha. It was first celebrated in Thailand during the reign of the Thai King Rama IV, but only in the Grand Palace. After that, it became a national festival and is celebrated every year in Thailand.
When Makha Bucha is celebrated?
Makha is the third lunar month of the Thai traditional calendar whereas Bucha means to honor. So, Makha Bucha day is the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month which either falls in February or March. This year it was celebrated on the 19th of February. The purpose of the festival is to commemorate the events that occurred after 9 months of Buddha’s enlightenment.
Fourfold Assembly Day
Makha Bucha is also called as the Fourfold Assembly Day due to the four special events that happened on this day:
- It was a full moon day
- 1250 Buddhist Sangha came to Veluvana temple to see Buddha without being invited.
- All those monks were enlightened disciples
- All those monks were ordained by Buddha himself.
Buddha delivered his core teachings on this day called as Ovada Patimokkha which is basically a summary of Buddhism. In this sermon Buddha taught three basic principles:
- To refrain from doing evil
- Not to harm anyone
- To purify the mind
How Makha Bucha is celebrated in Thailand?
Makha Bucha day is a national holiday in Thailand but it doesn’t mean that the Buddhists stay at home. It is celebrated to its full by the Thai people and the whole day they take part in different activities. Buddhist devotees visit the temples and take part in different religious activities. One of the most important activities that Buddhists take part in this day is making merit. They make merits by giving food to the monks and giving money to the poor. They also make merit by listening to sermons about Buddha’s life and his teachings. Other merit-making activities include freeing birds and fish.
Another key feature of this day includes observing the five Buddhist precepts for the whole day. These include not telling lies and avoiding alcohol consumption.
In the evening people also take part in the special candle ceremony. They walk in the clockwise direction around the Ubosoft carrying candles, flowers, and incense sticks. They walk for the three times and each walk represents three jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma.
On this sacred day, selling of alcohol is prohibited by the government of Thailand. Alcohol consumption on this day is not only against the religious teachings but is also considered a civil offense. Bars, supermarkets, restaurants and, departmental stores are banned from selling alcohol to the customers for the 24 hours. Violating this ban may result in 6-month imprisonment and a fine.
How visitors can celebrate this day?
If you are visiting Thailand you can be part of this joyous occasion by becoming a part of the rituals that take place at all temples around the country. Some activities including prayers and meditations begin at midnight or even before but you may only be allowed to be a part of the meditation if you are a Buddhist, but still, you can be a part of the candle processions.
If you are in Bangkok the best site to experience Makha Bucha is the Golden Mountain at Wat Saket. You will have to pay an entrance fee which is 50 baht, though Thailand’s citizens don’t have to pay this fee. You can buy flowers, candles, and incense sticks from outside the temple to be part of the candle ceremony.
You can also go to other temples like Wat Phra Dhammakaya located in the province of Pathum Thani and Wat Lat Phrao located in the Lat Phrao. Both these temple host two of the biggest ceremonies of this festival.
Things to keep in mind
Visitors need to be careful with their code of conduct and must maintain the sanctity of this day throughout the visit. When you go to a temple you need to follow some rules, you must keep your voice down and take permission before taking pictures. You will also have to follow a dress code especially if you are visiting the Grand Palace. Even though it’s a national holiday commercial centers and bank remain open. You will not be able to purchase alcohol from bars and stores other than hotel bars.