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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Today is Asanha Bucha Day a special Buddhist holiday in Thailand

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Asanha Bucha Day is a special Buddhist holiday in Thailand that marks the day Buddha delivered his first sermon in Benares, India, more than 2,500 years ago. The exact date of the holiday is determined by the waxing moon and lunar months but is usually held in July or August each year.

In 2021 it will fall on July 26, so today begins the period of Buddhist Lent.

There were supposed to be 3 public holidays in a row – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (HM The King’s birthday) this year, but these were abandoned by the government last Tuesday as the Covid situation in the kingdom got worse.

Asahna Bucha is a national holiday in Thailand. It replaced Buddhist Lent as a public holiday in 2007. The date in the Western calendar depends on the lunar cycle. It is also known as Asalha Puja or Dhamma Day.

As Asanha Bucha Day falls on a weekend day this year, Monday, July 26, has been declared a public holiday across Thailand.

Buddha delivered his first sermon in a deer park and from this sermon, the Buddha’s Dharma (teachings) was symbolized as a wheel. The Dharmachakra is also known as the wheel of life, wheel of law or wheel of doctrine and can be seen on flags in temples and buildings all over Thailand. Likewise, images or models of deer can often be seen at temples or in images of the Buddha.

Like many other Buddhist festivals and holidays, Asahna Bucha (also written Asalha Puja and other English equivalents) is a day when Thai Buddhists will make merit and visit the local. Traditionally, candles are donated to the wat in front of Asahna Bucha and candle processions are held in several cities in Thailand.

The tradition dates back to the time before electricity, where extra light was needed in the temple during the dark days of the rainy season. Local people will also be ‘wian tian’, which means walking around the wat with a lighted candle, lotus flowers and incense. The day after Asahna Bucha is another important day with Wan Khao Phansa marking the beginning of the three-month “Phansa” period sometimes referred to as “Buddhist Lent.”

On the occasion of this special day, ceremonies are held in temples all over Thailand. Many Thai people return to their ancestral homes to make offerings to temples and listen to sermons, but this year the government has urged people to commemorate the day locally and be aware of all prevention measures.

In the evenings, they often perform a ceremony called ‘wian tian’ in which they walk clockwise around the main shrine of the temple with a candle, incense sticks and lotus flowers. During the day, monks chant mantras and preach the Buddha’s first sermon.

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