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Magha Puja or Makha Bucha, Buddhist Festival, Thailand - Thailand Makha Bucha Holiday
Thailands Holiday - Makha Bucha Day or Magha Puja day
The Magha Puja or Makha Bucha is an important Buddhist religious festival celebrated by Thai Buddhists during the full moon day at the beginning of the third lunar month which usually falls in the calendar month of February each year.
Besides the many Buddhist temple ceremonies, there are temporary shrines set up to allow the busy working classes to make merit as they go about their daily life.
We witnessed the Magha Puja or Makha Bucha in Bangkok at the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit, on the 21st February 2008. When we saw thousands of Buddhists including monks, nuns, soldiers, men, women and children of all ages 'making merit'. We were captivated by the throng that made their wishes and made their offerings at the temple walls.
The air became heavy with the smell of incense as the evening drew on. People were encouraged by vendors to purchase fish to be released into the temple khlong and lakes - for good luck or even buy 'lucky' lottery tickets. Many went into the temple building to pray toward the Buddha image inside the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit Viharn and we saw some visitors rubbing gold leaf on to the courtyard floor and Buddha images and statues, others placed money sticks in urns as offerings.
Magha Puja day is a public holiday in Thailand and is one of the main occasions when Thai Buddhists to go to the temple to perform merit-making activities. In the evening, each temple in Thailand holds a candle procession whereby the monks and congregation members circumambulate the main chapel or pagoda in the temple in homage to the Lord Buddha.
The Makha Bucha 'merit making' involves parading clockwise around the outside of the main temple building(s) three times, carrying three burning incense sticks, a lit candle and a flower or flowers, this usually means the sacred lotus flower bud. Some of the more devout quietly chant prayers with the monks. This merit making is an essential part of progress in life and the after life and brings good luck with anything from finding a faithful husband to passing college exams or just having continued good health.
What is Magha Puja? The origins of Magha Puja Day lie in the passing of four simultaneous auspicious occasions, which are documented to have happened nine months after the Enlightenment of the Lord Buddha during his time in northern India at the Veluvana Bamboo Grove Monastery, near the town of Rajagaha. On that day four miraculous events coincided: Firstly, 1,250 disciples of the Lord Buddha spontaneously gathered at the grove. Secondly, every single one of those disciples were enlightened Arahats. Thirdly, those disciples knew to meet together without any previous appointment and fourthly, it was the day of the full-moon.
The Lord Buddha gave an important teaching to the assembled monks on that day 2,500 years ago called the 'Ovadapatimokkha' which laid down the principles by which the monks should spread the Buddhist teachings. In Thailand, this teaching has been dubbed the 'Heart of Buddhism'. On this day he also predicted the date of his death, at the same time, making this a really auspicious day for Buddhists and Buddhism in Thailand.
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