Makha Bucha (also known as Magha Puja) or Makha Bucha day is the second most important festival celebrated in Thailand. This festival marks a special date in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated in the third lunar month, on a full moon day in countries such as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. On this auspicious day, Buddhists visit temples and take part in merit-making activities with the spiritual aim of purifying one's mind and not to commit any sins.
What is Makha Bucha Day?
The Makha Bucha was an event occurring in Rajgir in north India, previously known as Rajagaha. A meeting on the full-moon day of the third lunar month was held, ten months after the enlightenment of the Buddha. 1250 disciples joined in the meeting who were the Buddha's direct spiritual descendants. During the meeting, the disciples were taught a summary of Buddhism which generally deals with principles such as "purification of mind" and "doing good."
Buddha continued to enlighten people with this summary for more than 20 years. In addition to the religious meaning, Makha Bucha also means the agricultural year of Southeast Asia, due to its celebration after the harvest period. Interestingly, it was on Makha Bucha day that Buddha announced his death would come after three months.
The festival first originated in Thailand, and then the practice was adopted by its neighboring countries.
When is Makha Bucha Day Celebrated?
Makha translates to the third month in Pali. As the festival is based on the Lunar calendar, the date varies every year. This year the festival is estimated to be celebrated on 19 February 2019.
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How is Makha Bucha Day Celebrated?
On the evening of Makha Bucha, 'wian thian', a candlelight procession is held in the Buddhist temples in Thailand. The monks with flowers, candle, and incense in their hands walk all the way around the temple three times. This is followed by the people who make merit by joining in with the activities. For some days, people stay in the temples and are seen wearing white robes and meditating.
Best Places to Experience Makha Bucha Day
Thailand's capital and largest city, Bangkok is home to many of the world's significant Buddhist temples and draw millions of devotees during the celebration of Makha Pucha every year.
1. Wat Lat Phrao, a hidden gem in the hustling-bustling city of Bangkok celebrates Makha Bucha day with much enthusiasm. In its large complex, you will see across several standing Buddha statues which sets it apart from other Buddhist temples in the city. Located near Lat Phrao 42, the temple is a treat for the sore eyes. The main shrine has red and golden pillars, and a floor made up of pure marble. With fewer crowds seen, the temple is worth visiting for its calm and tranquillity on other days and celebrations on the day of Makha Bucha.
2. Popularly known as the Golden Mount, the Wat Saket temple is another temple where Makha Bucha celebrations take place every year. Built on an artificial hill near Lan Luang Road, the temple is an architectural beauty and receives millions of devotees on holidays. Reaching to the top of the temple requires a 300 step climb, which is worth it considering the architectural beauty that awaits you. In addition to the Makha Bucha, the temple also hosts a fair in November, which is visited by tourists for its decorations, games, and activities.
3. Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the world's largest temple is also a place to be during the Makha Bucha celebrations. It is so close to the Bangkok airport that you can sight it every time your plane takes off or lands. This visually stunning temple is built on an 800 acres plot, has 150 buildings in the vicinity and over 300,000 Buddha pictures. The temple has also been in a part of a controversy. People and critiques feel that the temple is a cult which is commercializing Buddhism.
Tips and Tricks for Makha Bucha Day -
Public offices like banks and other commercial centres are open on Makha Bucha day although it is a national holiday.
Do not go out looking for alcohol as the sale is stopped for the day at local outlets and at pubs and bars.
While visiting temples and religious ceremonies, it is advisable to maintain the decorum of the place and to keep your voices low.