Morning of the living dead
NAKHON RATCHASIMA: Anyone calling in to Wat Pa Satharuam on August 22 could be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled upon the aftermath of a natural disaster, seeing row after row of coffins lined up on the the temple grounds.
Anyone waiting a little longer, however, would get even more of a shock when, after watching the death rites, the occupants of the 59 coffins began to rise up as if returning from the dead.
The scene was not some voodoo ritual, but a ceremony to rid the faithful of curses and bad karma from previous existences.
From 8 am to 1 pm, participants took turns climbing into the coffins with a bunch of flowers, incense and a candle. They lay down facing west, and monks covered them with shrouds.
Four monks then paraded around the coffins, murmuring incantations and sprinkling holy water from 108 famous temples on the bodies.
Finally, the coffins’ occupants faced east, thus completing their rebirth. The whole process took about five minutes.
Chamlong Kanchanawatana of the organizing committee said, “The ceremony of cleansing bad luck by lying in coffins is an ancient belief. If someone has misfortune, bad karma, obstacles or problems in their lives, then [the ceremony] will bring them good fortune, driving problems and danger out of their lives. It is like death and rebirth, except that all the bad things die along with the old person.”
Wichai Nanthathanathawon, Chairman of the Bangkok-Nakhon Rachasima Friendship Group, which organized the ceremony, said this was the ninth year the ceremony had been held. It was the biggest yet and the largest of its type in the world.
This year it would be particularly auspicious for women born in the year of the goat, dog, ox and snake. Men born in the year of the horse, rabbit, rat and cock would also benefit as, according to astrologers, the Chinese New Year that began on February 8 is not a good time for them, Mr Wichai explained.
The Friendship Group also donated more than 2,500 coffins “to the needy”, he added.
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