The Khao Phansa Festival or also known as Buddhist Lent is a time period of three months by Buddhists where they avoid things like meat, alcohol, and tobacco. The monks are forbidden to stay in their temples and are not allowed wonder around outside. It encourages them to follow the five major Buddhist precepts: don’t kill animals; don’t steal or engage in corrupt acts; don’t commit adultery; don’t lie; and avoid drinking alcohol. This is a high spiritual time and monks stay behind in their temples praying and meditating or even fast for most part, however, it is not obligatory to fast mostly Theravada Buddhists observe Khao Phansa, and even many of them choose not to fast.
The khao Phansa is also known as rain retreat for monastics as it marks the rainy days in Thailand which normally begins at the full moon of the eighth month annually and falls in July and ends in the month of October for the most years. This year Khao Phansa will be celebrated at 28th of July. The dates may vary according to the full moon in the eighth month.
The number of the days of rainy season spent meditating and praying inside the temples is called “Vassas” and marks the years that a Thai Buddhist monk has been a monk.
Other people celebrate this day offering their respect to the monk by making various offering to monks i.e. food, flowers, incense, candles and other items necessary for every use for the monks. Other than that, some people also offer robes to the monks.
This tradition follows a legend from Buddha’s times when his followers kept wandering in the fields during rainy season and people complained that they are violating the fields and damaging the seeds and perhaps other little creatures too. on hearing these worries by the people buddha then ordered his followers to stay inside the temples during rainy seasons.
The rituals are not for just monks other Thai people also refrain from drinking alcohol during this season. They pray for their guidance and happiness to fill their lives.
The festivities start from preparing food for the monks early in the morning. The items in the list vary according to people’s liking and preferences. You can also see some worshipers washing the feet of the monks to atone for their sins. Monks are also offered candles which they use during their time in temple. After the offerings have been made the monks then recite buddha’s teachings and state the history of Buddhist Lent to the people that go to the festival, in the evening the monks along with other people bring flowers and candle and walk around the central temple three times.
These are the most spiritual time for Thai people when their men practice monkhood for a short period of time along with many other ceremonies. In most Thai traditions lay people don’t get married in these three months of Khao Phansa or Buddhist Lent.