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Hae Phra Khuen That Festival – An ancient, colourful event that is been taking place in this holy place for over 800 years
When: 7-11 February
Where: Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan and Phra Borom That Chedi Nakhon Si Thammarat. Southern Thailand
This is undoubtedly one of the southern provinces largest annual Buddhist festivals, beginning on Maka Bucha Day (also known as Magha Puj or the Full Moon of Tabodwe); an annual Public Holiday in Thailand. The date is dependent on the Thai Lunar calendar and is celebrated across the Kingdom on the full moon of the third lunar month; 11th February 2017.
The Phra Borom That Chedi, (literally, the Great Noble Relics Stupa), is believed by Buddhists to be the representative of Lord Buddha, and also is home to a number of holy relics. The pagoda is therefore highly revered, by both local people and many others, both within the Kingdom and elsewhere in the Buddhist world.
Devotees from around the world
Every year Buddhist devotees, including monks from Sri Lanka, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan, will pay homage to this earth bound symbol of Lord Buddha, by organizing a number of activities spread over the 4 days.
These include; an exhibition at the temple museum on the history of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand. There are also a number of religious events and sermons, to celebrate Maka Bucha Day and Worshiping of the golden, Phra bot holy cloth. This very long golden coloured cloth is covered in script and images depicting, tales of the life of Lord Buddha, the event also includes demonstrations on how the cloth is painted.
What else to expect during the festivities
Added to the historical and religious importance of the festival will be a number of cultural performances depicting local folk law. Mingled in this mass of colour there are also cooking demonstrations including; the cooking ceremony of ‘Mathupayasyaku’ rice (porridge made of boiled rice, sugar and honey).
To elaborate the importance of the event there are also International performances from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan.
To top the event off, there is also a traditional Thai fair with many attractions and countless booths, selling a vast array of local produce and handy craft. The nights are accompanied by a vibrant light and sound show, plus a Launch of sky lanterns representing the twelve animal constellations.
The Phra bot Procession
The procession bearing the long gold coloured, Phra bot holy cloth, traditionally held on the last day, of the event, winds its way slowly around the temple grounds, carried by many willing hands. Later it will be wrapped around the pagoda, along with numerous smaller cloths, from many of those attending the event.
According to Buddhist belief, participation in communal merit-making, such as the wrapping of a Chedi, earns an individual more merit. Here in the Phra Mahathat Woramaha Wiharn temple, this same ritual has been diligently observed for over 800 years.
More on the Temple
Phra Mahathat Woramaha Wiharn temple with its huge chedi (pagoda), is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand, and one of the very oldest. The temple is built on a rectangular plan and enclosed by brick walls, with four gates, that afford access to the temple, the wat covers 5.14 hectares.
It is one of only six primary royal temples in the Kingdom, with the exact dates and order of construction clouded in history, although it is known that the Phra Borom That Chedi at the center of the temple pre-dates the rest of the buildings by as much a six hundred years.
It is believed to have been built by King Sri Dhammasokaraja in approximately the early 13th century CE. Between the principal stupa and the cloister, there are: 158 minor chedi housing, ashes and bones of past Buddhist devotees. The temple is also on the tentative List for consideration of UNESCO status.
If you want to know more about the importance of Buddhism, to the people of this wonderful Kingdom, then get yourself along to this colourful and joyful celebration, of the teachings of Lord Buddha and immerse yourself in what is one of the largest pilgrimages in the country.
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