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Wisakha Busha

1. Visakha Bucha Day

Visakha Bucha, or Vesak (Vaisakha), is an important day observed by Buddhists to commemorate the events most significant to the religion: the birth, the enlightenment and the attainment of nirvana of Lord Buddha. In Thailand, Visakha Bucha is celebrated on a full moon day in the sixth month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in May or June. However, the day could be in April in some countries due to the difference in local lunar observance. On Vaisakha, devout Buddhists engage in various forms of merit-making and commemorating activities like listening to the teachings of Lord Buddha, pouring water over a small statue of Buddha as a symbolic act of the cleansing of bad karma, and bringing happiness to the less fortunate.

Besides being public holidays in many countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, the Day of Vesak, as per the UNGA Resolution 54/115, has been internationally recognised, and granted formal annual commemoration by the United Nations as an acknowledgement of the importance of Buddhism and the contributions of Lord Buddha to the world.

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2. Buddhist Circumambulation Procession

The circumambulation procession, or Wian Tian in Thai and Parikrama in Sanskrit, is a Buddhist ceremony in which Buddhist congregation walk around a temple’s ordination hall in a clockwise manner three times with lighted candles, incense and flowers in their clasped hands to symbolise the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (Monks).

During the procession, it is common for Buddhist followers and monks alike to participate in mass prayer. The procession is an essential part of many Buddhist occasions such as the Day of Vesak, Magha Puja and Asalha Puja, each commemorating significant events concerning the Three Jewels of Buddhism. Parikrama has been practised since the nascent days of Buddhism as there are numerous records describing the procession, and ancient temples are found to have circumambulatory paths around the main shrines signifying the existence of the ritual since early times.

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Phra Buddhajinaraj
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Procession

3. Thai Temple

Buddhist temples in Thailand, known as Wat in Thai, have undergone numerous periods of changes and adaptations. However, all the variations in layout and style adhere to the same architectural principles. The temple comprises two main areas, one is the area dedicated to the Buddha while the other is the living quarters for the resident monks. One notable exception to this principle is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where there are no residing monks as it is located within the palace wall, out of reach of commoners.

The Buddha area of the temple usually contains several prominent buildings, including Chedi (stupa) or Prang (Khmer-style temple tower), the ordination hall (Ubosot), and the main shrine (Wihan) housing the principal Buddha statue. Furthermore, it is very common for Thai temples to feature additional buildings such as a crematorium and a school, as the temple is essentially the centre of Thai society, a place of rituals, and traditionally a place of learning. Despite similarities in characteristics and functions, temples in Thailand vary from place to place in terms of decorations and architectural sophistication owing to their royal status, popularity and different architectural eras.

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Thai Temple 1
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Temple Emerald Buddha
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Wat Po stupa 2
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Wat Benjamabopit

 

4. The Golden Buddha

Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, or more popularly known as the Golden Buddha, is a statue of Lord Buddha made of solid gold weighing more than 5 tonnes, with a very interesting history. While the exact origins of the statue remain unclear, the fact that it is constructed in the Sukhothai style indicates that it is made no earlier than 13th-14th century. Many also believe that the statue is mentioned in the Sukhothai-era Ram Khamhaeng inscription, which describes the presence of a golden statue situated in the middle of Sukhothai city.

During the Ayutthaya period, the Buddha statue was, at some point, deliberately plastered with a thick layer of stucco to prevent it from being stolen amidst the destruction and sacking of the Ayutthaya Kingdom by the invading Burmese forces. After the establishment of the Rattanakosin Kingdom by King Rama I, the King commissioned the construction of several temples in Bangkok, and had many old Buddha statues, including this one, moved from ruined temples around the country to the new capital. The statue, still covered in stucco, found its way to its present location near Chinatown, Wat Traimit in 1935.

It was not until 1955 that during its relocation to the new main shrine, an attempt to lift the statue went wrong, damaging the stucco layer and revealing the statue’s true characteristics. After all the plaster was removed, the Golden Buddha was then renamed and given its iconic status, that had subsequently led to its popularity as a famous tourist attraction as well as a symbol of the Thais’ devotion to Buddhism.

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Wat Traimit 1
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