Most Thai people are ardent Buddhists, who celebrate the frequent Buddhist holidays with fervor. According to Buddhist belief, the most important days of the year are Makhabuja Day, Visakhabuja Day and Asarnhabuja Day. These major Buddhist holy days are also national holidays. Makhabuja Day falls on the full moon of the third lunar month. It is to commemorate the day when 1,250 disciples, all ordained by the Lord Buddha himself, gathered together to hear the Buddha preach, all without prior arrangement. Visakhabuja Day falls on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. It is to commemorate the day when the Lord Buddha was born, reached enlightenment, and entered nirvana. All happened on the same day of the year. Visakhabuja Day is considered the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar. Asarnhabuja Day falls on the eighth lunar month. It commemorates the day when the Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon to the first five disciples.
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
(May – Phya Thaen Park in the Northeastern province of Yasothon)
The rocket festival, known in Thai as ‘Bun Bang Fai,’ is an ancient local festival. The month of May is the beginning of the rainy season and farmers are ready to begin planting their rice fields. The festival is associated with traditional beliefs in the supernatural powers, which help promote the production of rice crops for the coming planting season. Legend has it that once there was a rain god named Vassakan, who loved to be worshipped with fire. The townspeople created a rocket or ‘Bang Fai’ to send to heaven, where the god resided. They believed that the god would hear their prayers and bless them with plentiful rain for rice cultivation. Like many Thai festivals, Buddhist monks are in attendance for the ceremony. The rockets, launch platforms and other decorations for this event are prepared for several weeks in advance. An average rocket is some nine metres in length and carries 20-25 kilograms of gunpowder
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
(Ninth Chinese lunar month – Phuket town)
Phuket is recognized worldwide for its spectacular beaches and islands. But, during September to October, is one of the most unusual and bizarre festivals in Thailand, i.e. Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
This celebration lasts for nine days from the first to the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. During this time, devout Buddhist Chinese descendants undertake a strict vegetarian diet, wear white clothes and observe ten rules in order to purify their minds and bodies. To prepare themselves for the event, devotees must fast for several days beforehand. They must abstain from sexual intercourse, killing, quarrelling, telling lies and residing in hotels during the previous three weeks. The event also attracts Chinese Buddhists from different parts of Thailand and from nearby countries. The most impressive part of this event is the ritual procession of devotees performing acts of asceticism along the route. The devotees, called ‘the soldiers of the god,’ perform unbelievable and often quite gruesome feats. Events include walking barefoot across hot coals, climbing ladders with rungs made of knives, a ritual of bridge-crossing and a street procession in which the mediums, in a state of trance, have their cheeks pierced and bodies spiked with hooks, skewers and various other sharp objects. The processions are accompanied by the long parade of the lion dance while on-lookers throw fire-crackers, making the entire atmosphere one of religious frenzy. During the celebrations, the townspeople can find food at various shrines. Besides, various rituals based on mythical beliefs are performed at Chinese temples.