Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Tawd Gathin

Gaining merit through the offering of gifts to monks is an ancient Buddhist tradition that can be witnessed in the centre of bustling cities and in the dusty streets of rural villages on a daily basis. There is a special significance, however, in the thirty-day merit-making period that follows Awk Pansa, and known as Tawd Gathin - or "the laying down of robes."
Among the many gifts offered to the country's monks during this period, the most significant are new robes. Again, this is based on ancient Buddhist teachings, as the gift of new saffron robes dates back to the time of Lord Buddha.

It is written that some thirty or so holy monks set out on a journey from Patha to Savatthi in India at the end of the wet season to visit the Buddha. Travelling along wet and muddy roads, the good brothers presented themselves before Buddha in a most bedraggled and forlorn state. When the Buddha saw his followers in their soiled robes, he decreed that they should be given fresh robes annually at the end of each rainy season. Gathin ceremonies traditionally favour water processions to temples for the presentation of new robes, although this can also be done by land if necessary. Being the sole sponsor of a Gathin ceremony can be very expensive, and many Thai people today participate in a Gathin Samakkee, or United Gathin. Prayers will be held in a temple on the eve of the festival. Early the following morning, the Gathin procession, led by musicians, heads to a selected temple. Upon arrival at the temple, the new robes are carried round the main sanctuary three times before being presented, along with food, toiletries and simple utensils to the monks, following their midday meal. Money is also offered towards the upkeep of the temple; the notes being arranged as leaves on the branches of silver and gold coloured money trees. On completion of a Gathin ceremony, two crocodile flags are placed at the temple's entrance to show that it has received the annual Gathin donations, and that worshippers should find another temple from which to gain their seasonal merit.

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