Khao Phansa Festival 2020
Posted by Peter C on July 18th 2019 in Thai Festivals
Khao Phansa is one of the most celebrated Buddhist festivals in Thailand. It falls on the day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month. It is the start of Buddhist Lent which marks the official start of the rainy season. Buddhist Lent is also known as Vassa and runs for three lunar months from July to October. During this time, it was traditional for monks to stay within their temples for study and adhere strictly to the teachings of the Lord Buddha.
*The Khao Phansa Festival 2020 parade & merit-making events have been canceled due to COVID19*
The temple will be open with social distancing & the mandatory wearing of face masks
The day before Khao Phansa is Asanha Bucha which commemorates the Buddha’s first teaching. It falls on the day of the full moon of the eighth lunar month (the day before Khao Phansa). There is a two-day national holiday & celebrations are held all around Thailand. Thai people like to make merit during this period and flock to temples. It is also a popular time for boys & men to be ordained as monks, thus achieving merit for themselves and their families. No alcohol is sold or consumed on either day & bars and entertainment places are closed.
Khao Phansa Festival 2020 at Phra Phutthabat
Phra Phutthabat is in Saraburi Province, about two hours north of Bangkok. During Khao Phansa people visit Wat Phra Phutthabat, the shrine of the Buddha’s Footprint. The celebration here is unique as it features a Tak Bat Dok Mai (floral merit-making) ceremony, the only one in Thailand. This has become a popular event with thousands of people lining the streets to give alms to monks before they climb the stairs to the shrine. This is where we went to celebrate the Khao Phansa festival in 2019.
The Khao Phansa festival 2019 in Phra Phutthabat lasted for three days, starting on the day before Asanha Bucha. The highlight of the first day is the annual parade to the temple featuring local people in Lopburi era costumes, pink elephants, horses & beautifully decorated floats. The parade only happens on the first day. After the parade over 100 monks walk to the temple collecting alms of flowers. This is repeated in the morning & afternoon of Asanha Bucha & Khao Phansa days. At the moment it is not known if the Khao Phansa Festival 2020 will go ahead due to COVID 19.
The Dok Khao Phansa
On arriving we passed through the distinctive twin white arches that act as the gateway to Phra Phutthabat. The approach to Wat Phra Phutthabat is a majestic wide tree-lined boulevard that leads to the temple gates. During Khao Phansa it was filled with vendors selling Dok Khao Phansa flowers, known locally as Dok Yung Thong (golden peacock) & Dok Hong Thong (golden swan). These flowers are traditionally yellow, white, or pink. They are only grown in the local area and only bloom at the time of year that Khao Phansa falls. These flowers are offered to monks by local people as a way of making merit. This offering is called Tak Bat Dok Mai.
Khao Phansa Festival 2019 Parade
The Khao Phansa festival 2019 parade started at about 3 pm. Leading the parade were baton twirling cheerleaders followed by a marching band. The parade continued in a historical theme featuring a Lopburi era army with marching soldiers, and cavalry on horseback, all in period costume. Next up were the eye-catching royal pink elephants carrying Kings & Queens on their backs, flanked by more soldiers. The military theme was followed by groups wearing traditional Thai dress representing local communities, schools & government groups. In all, it took just over one hour for the full parade to pass.
Khao Phansa Festival 2019 The Parade Floats
One of the traditions of Khao Phansa is the elaborately decorated parade floats that are mounted on a vehicle. The floats at Phra Phutthabat followed a floral theme and were beautifully decorated with Buddha images, pink elephants, flower displays, Nagas, Miniature Phra Phutthabat Mondops, monks, and deers. The significance of deer relates to the Buddha?s first sermon which was held in a deer park. The anniversary of that sermon is now celebrated on Asanha Bucha day, the day before Khao Phansa.
A Thai festival wouldn?t be complete without some traditional music & dance. A group of traditional dancers was part of the parade performing to accompanying music. The dance style was Fawn Thai, a localized folk dance. The dancers were immaculately made up, their hair decorated with yellow flowers. The costumes were white and yellow to match the colors of the local dok mai flowers. The movement was graceful and elegant with fingers twisted to back up to the wrist. To top it all their faces generously displaying the famous Thai smile.
The Pink Elephants
A highlight of the parade for many is the famous royal pink elephants, also known as white elephants. The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand & features on the heart position of the national football team jerseys. The pink or white elephant is also a symbol of royalty & all are deemed to be the property of the King. Pink elephants are very rare and are only used in royal or important Buddhist ceremonies. Thai law prohibits pink elephants from being exploited or put to work commercially. The elephants at Khao Phansa carried Kings & Queens during the parade. After the parade, the elephants greeted people outside the temple accepting alms in the form of banknotes. The elephants took the money in their trunks before passing it up to their mahout. For Thai people, this is a way of making merit.
Tak Bat Dok Mai
Tak Bat Dok Mai is the offering of flowers to monks as a way of paying respect & making merit. This only happens once a year at Khao Phansa at Phra Phutthabat. About a hundred monks take part. This traditional event took place five times in all over the three days of the festival. The first one took place after the parade on the first day. On the days of Asanha Bucha & Khao Phansa, this takes place twice at 09.30 in the morning and at 15.30 in the afternoon.
A long line of monks approaches the temple gates on both sides of the street walking on a green carpet. People wait to present them with the yellow and white Khao Phansa flowers. Some also wash the feet of the monks with water as they believe it is an act of cleansing of their mind and soul. The monks then climb the Naga staircase to the golden mondop at the top of the hill. There, they pay respects to the Buddha?s footprint, before descending on the other side where more followers are waiting.
Khao Phansa isn?t one of the most well known Thai festivals but for us it was highly enjoyable and I recommend it if you appreciate and want to learn more about the unique cultural traditions of Thailand. It is a great opportunity to learn about & closely witness Buddhist religion. Foreign tourists were thin on the ground but dont let that put you off. Make it a date for next year!
Phra Phutthabat is famous in Thailand for its beautiful temple, Wat Phra Phutthabat. It is one of Thailands most sacred temples and one of only six royal first class temples in the kingdom. It is also one of Thailands hidden gems. Its beautiful mondop is similar to the one at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. Within the complex, there are hundreds of Buddha images, an original Buddhas footprint, the Buddhas shadow, a cave shrine, and a path to the top of the cliff for great views of the surrounding countryside.
Where is it?
Phra Phutthabat is 133KM from Bangkok. It is in Saraburi province on the road between Saraburi City & Lopburi.
Address: Sai Khu Road, Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, Thailand.
Opening Hours: 08.30-17.00 daily.
Getting There: Ignore direction websites that are giving incorrect information. The only direct way is by Minivan from Morchit 2 Minivan station. Go to building B and look for route 12 to Lopburi. This van stops at Phra Phutthabat. The fare is 100 baht. Vans leave all day between 05.00-20.00. There is no train to Phra Phutthabat.
Khao Phansa Festival 2020 in Thailand
Khao Phansa is celebrated all around Thailand. There are many unique events. Here are some of the most interesting places to enjoy the festival. At the moment it is not known if the Khao Phansa Festival 2020 will go ahead due to COVID 19
Ubon has a candle festival You will see candles exquisitely carved out of beeswax in every imaginable shape and size. The candles are put upon floats and carried about town and eventually deposited in local temples.
In Surin, there is also a candle festival, but besides that, there is a merit-making ceremony done on elephant back. This takes place at a local Buddhist monument called Phaya Surin, where about 100 elephants are ridden by the monks of the highest stature in the community.
In Ayutthaya there is the Aquatic Phansa Festival where the locals carry candles by boat to the local temple, to be used by monks during their three-month period of seclusion.
Want to see a Khao Phansa Festival next year? Here are the dates. 2020 6th ? 7th July, 2021 25th ? 26th July
Videos from Khao Phansa festival 2019 at Phra Phutthabat
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