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Today is Asanha Bucha Day (Wednesday is also a public holiday)

Tanutam Thawan

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Asanha Bucha Day is a special Buddhist holiday in Thailand marking the day when the Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon at Benares in India over 2,500 years ago. The exact date of the holiday is determined by the waxing moon and the lunar months, but is usually held in July or August each year. In 2021 it falls on July 26. Today is also the start of the period of Buddhist Lent.

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

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

Because this years’ Asanha Bucha Day falls on a weekend day, Monday, July 26 has been named as a public holiday across Thailand.

The Buddha preached his first sermon at a deer park and from this sermon the Dharma (doctrine) of the Buddha was symbolised 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 across Thailand. Similarly, pictures or models of deer can often be seen at temples or in depictions of the Buddha.

Like many other Buddhist festivals and holidays, Asahna Bucha (also written as Asalha Puja and other English equivalents) is a day when Thai Buddhists will make merit and visit the local wat. Traditionally, candles are amongst the items donated to the wat for Asahna Bucha and processions featuring candles are held at various towns in Thailand.

The tradition dates back to the times before electricity where extra light was needed at the temple during the darker days of the rainy season. Local people will also ‘wian tian’ which involves walking around the wat with a lit candle, lotus flowers and incense. The day after Asahna Bucha is another significant day with Wan Khao Phansa marking the start of the three-month ‘Phansa’ period which is sometimes referred to as ‘Buddhist Lent’.

To mark the day, ceremonies will be held in temples across Thailand. Many Thai people return to their ancestral homes to donate 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 evening they will often perform a ceremony called ‘wian tian’, where they walk clockwise around the main shrine of the temple carrying a candle, incense sticks and lotus flowers. During the day, monks chant mantras and preach the first sermon of the Buddha.

 

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