Category Archives: Alms Round

Sticky Rice Alms Round in Chiang Khan

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The small town of Chiang Khan sits alongside the Maekhong River in Loei Province. Many of the local people are descended from Lao people who migrated here from Luang Prabang. One of the traditions they brought with them was offering sticky rice to monks during their morning alms rounds.

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Alms Giving by Boat at a Floating Market in Bangkok

Over the years I have attended the morning alms round at least a dozen times in order to take pictures of the monks going out from their temple to collect food  from local people. One time I even acted as a “temple boy” and carried the monk’s bag. But, it is not often that I have witnessed monks doing their alms round by boat. Certainly not in Bangkok.

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Alms Giving Ceremony in Bangkok

During March 2012, there will be a series of six alms giving ceremonies around Bangkok involving an estimated total of 100,000 monks. The purpose is to celebrate the 2,600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. The first event took place early this morning, 10th March 2012 along Phahonyothin road near Ying Charoen Market. It was difficult to estimate the number of monks present today, but I reckon that there were at least 8,000.

Monks traditionally go on alms round near their temple. Usually they leave the temple in the early hours of dawn while it is still dark. The Buddhist faithful are waiting for them in front of their houses. On Wan Phra days, which is the Buddhist sabbath, the monks stay in the temple and the lay people go there to make merit. However, these days it is not always easy for people to make merit in this way as they need to get up early to go to work.

There are two other kinds of alms giving that I have witnessed. One is often held on special occasions such as New Year’s Day or the King’s Birthday. The lay people line the side of the road in groups and as hundreds of monks pass, they offer the food. With the mass alms giving that I attended this morning, that method isn’t practical. After chanting and a short sermon, the monks walked down the rows in front of the seated lay people until everyone was in position. Then, after a signal, everyone offered alms at the same time.

As a foreign tourist you are welcome to watch this event. You can even join in if you like. Set up along the road there are many tables where vendors are selling bags of food for offering to the monks. As there are thousands of people, you need to arrive early to get a good spot. The ceremony starts at 6:30 a.m. and so it’s best to arrive before 6 a.m. if you can. The roads will be closed so its best to go by public transport or by taxi. If you are taking part you need to wear white clothing.

The following are the locations for the alms giving events in Bangkok this month:

Sunday March 11th, 2012 – Kaset Junction – Ratchayothin Crossroad
Saturday March 17th, 2012 – Ladprao 5-Junction – Saphan Khwai
Sunday March 18th, 2012 – CentralWorld Department Store, Ratchaprasong Road
Saturday March 24th, 2012 – Yaowarat Road – Charoenkrung Road
Sunday March 25th, 2012 – Ladya Road – Wongwian Yai

I have prepared a google map of these locations

Alms Giving on New Year’s Day at Sanam Luang

Thai Buddhists like to start the new year by offering alms to monks. They believe that by making merit in this way that they have given themselves some good luck for the new year. The events were organized all around Thailand but these pictures were taken by the Bangkok Tourist Division at Sanam Luang.

People started arriving at Sanam Luang in Bangkok as early as 6 a.m. They stood behind tables  where they placed the food and essentials. The ceremony itself started when the Bangkok Governor arrived at 7 a.m. to light the candles and incense sticks. After a religious ceremony, 285 monks then went up and down tables accepting dried food and essentials from the people.

Source: Bangkok Tourism Division

Making Merit on the King’s Birthday

Today, people from all around the country are coming together to celebrate the 84th birthday of H.M. The King. Many of them are wearing pink which is an auspicious colour believed to help make the King better. The Thai monarch has been in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok for several years now. About 1,000 well-wishers gathered at the City Hall Plaza in Samut Prakan to give alms to 99 monks in honour of His Majesty.

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The ceremony was opened by Wanida Bunprakhong, the new Governor of Samut Prakan. She first paid homage to a Buddha image and then took part in chanting. Attending the event were many local government officials who all came together to pay homage to His Majesty. A similar event was being held at the same time all around Thailand. H.M. The King is regarded as a father to all Thai people as they love him so much. This day is also celebrated as National Father’s Day.

After the chanting had finished, the Governor led the local people in giving alms to several hundred monks. Tables had been set up around the parade ground and local people had gathered behind them since early morning. They did this to make merit on behalf of H.M. The King. To make the most merit, the food should have been prepared by themselves before they arrived and not bought at a food stall. Leftovers from the night before must never be given to monks.

The local people stood behind the tables as the monks slowly made their way down the row. People were giving fresh food as well as pre-prepared packages such as pot noodles that you can see in this picture. As some of these items were too big for the alms bowls, each of the monks were assisted by temple boys who carried big sacks. The monk then emptied their bowls into these sacks. By the end of the alms giving event, the pick-up trucks from the temples were full with sacks of food. Local people also gave the monks purple orchid flowers and also envelopes containing money.

After the alms giving had finished, Wanida Bunprakhong and local people made merit for H.M. The King by releasing 1,000,000 sea creatures into the Chao Phraya River. This is a common event done to make merit for birthdays. People usually release birds or fish. I thought that 1,000,000 was a staggering number to release in one go, but it turned out to be very small shrimps. These were in plastic bags which people emptied out into a large tub of water. From this there was a pipe which washed the shrimps out into the river below. This evening, Wanida Bunprakhong will lead the local people to light candles to wish the monarch a happy birthday.

Alms Giving to 12,600 Monks in Bangkok

Early on Sunday morning, thousands of lay people from Bangkok and the surrounding provinces, came together to give alms to an estimated 12,600 monks. The event took place along Ratchadamri Road in front of Central World. About 800 meters of the road from Ratchaprasong Intersection and towards Pratunam was closed to traffic.

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The Most Venerable Phra Phromamatee, member of the Sangha Council, was the master of ceremony and the presiding monk. Mom Ratchawong Sukhumphan Boriphat, Governor of Bangkok, and Mr. Virun Techaphaibul were the Chairmen for the event.

For Buddhist people, this year is very important as it is the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s Enlightenment. This is now the second mass alms giving that I have attended this year. The other took place back in April in Samut Prakan Province. Today’s event was in commemoration of Visakha Bucha Day which takes place on 17th May this year.

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar. It takes place every year on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. Three important events happened on this day. These were the birth, enlightenment and the death of the Lord Buddha. Buddhists make merit on this day by going to the temple to offer food to monks and to listen to sermons.

The road in front of Central World was completely covered in white sheets. In addition, there were ten red lanes which marked the path to be taken by the 12,600 monks. Many of the lay people came early in the morning, even before the sun came up, in order to get a good spot. I was there at 5:30 a.m. and there was already hundreds of people there.

After chanting and a sermon, the monks then started to file down the paths between an estimated crowd of 100,000 lay people. In normal alms giving events that I have attended, the monks would start accepting alms straight away. However, as there were 12,600 here it wasn’t possible. So, they all filed down to the end first. Once all of the monks were on the red carpet, the lay people then started offering food to the monks at the same time.

The majority of alms offered were dried food as well as personal necessities such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Like the mass alms giving in Samut Prakan, most of the donated food will be sent to 286 temples in the deep south of Thailand. Proceeds will also be used to sponsor the Robe Offering Ceremony for the entire year.

Due to the on-going troubles in the four southernmost provinces in Thailand, it is not easy for the monks living there to go out on their daily alms rounds. In fact, monks have been targeted and shot dead in the past. The event today was organized to give them both moral support as well as dried food.

There will be another mass alms giving event later this year. Like this one, I will announce news of this on my Twitter account @RichardBarrow as well as on my Facebook page. Feel free to add me as a friend. We also have a new website for Thai Travel News where we will post more details as and when we receive it.