Visakha Bucha is one of the most important Buddhist festivals observed in Thailand on the full moon day of the Indian sixth lunar month called ‘Visakha’.
The literal meaning of the term ‘Bucha’ is to pay homage and this day is also called the ‘Vesak’ full moon day. This is a national holiday involving most of the government offices and business organizations staying closed.
No alcohol is served on this day in respect of Buddha. On this day, Buddhists all over Thailand commemorate the three crucial incidents that took place in the life of Lord Buddha i.e. his birth, enlightenment and death.
Miraculously, the Visakha full moon day marks the day Lord Buddha was born, the day he attained enlightenment 35 years later and the day he died and reached Nirvana 45 years more ahead. The date of this festival is not fixed as it’s according to the Lunar Calendar but it generally falls in the month May or June.
On this day, Buddha’s followers remember and celebrate their teacher’s kindness and compassion to the world. On this special occasion, the Thai Buddhists show their great regard for the “Triple Gems of Buddhist Philosophy”.
These are Lord Buddha (the teacher), The Dhamma (the teachings) and The Sang ha (the brotherhood of Buddhist monks). Visakha Bucha day was recognized as “World Heritage Day” by the UNESCO on 13th of December, 1999. This day is observed every year and during this time, Buddhists and even non-Buddhists flock to Thailand to take part in the various ceremonies and processions. The date for Visakha Bucha in the year 2017 is 10th of May, 2017.
Ceremonies And Traditions
On this day, people make merit by attending temples and listening to Dhamma preaching and joining in other Buddhist activities. This way of merit making is known as ‘Tam Boon’. They strictly adhere to the five percepts including abstinence from alcoholic beverages and all sorts of immoral acts.
This custom is known as ‘Rub Sil’. Offering food to the monks and beggars are also prevalent on this day known as ‘Tak Bard’. Renunciation is also practiced which involves meditation and discipline, staying in the temple premises, wearing white robes and following the eight percepts. Another ritual is the ‘Vien Tien’ which is actually the custom of a candle procession around the temple’s Uposatha Hall on the evening of the Vesal full moon day.
In Chiangmai, many faithful followers of Lord Buddha participate in a procession that goes to Wat Phrathart Doi Suthep which is a renowned monastery on a mountain overlooking the city. The procession starts at sunset and goes through the forest for nine kilometers uphill under the bright moonlit sky. The participants arrive at the monastery at around 3 am where they wait till sunrise to pay respect to the statue of Buddha and his relics housed there to earn merit.
Just at daybreak, the devoted followers offer food to the monks and worship the ancient sanctified relics of Lord Buddha. These relics were received by King Gue Na of Chiangmai around 400 years ago from the monarch of Chiang Saen.
The relics are housed in the ancient sanctuaries of the monastery. The final elements of the pilgrimage involve a day of sermons. Following that is a candle holding procession around the main chapel of the temple. The participants circle the chapel and walk clockwise thrice holding three incense sticks, lotus buds and a lighted candle. This is the most sacred of the Buddhist celebrations.