Visakha Bucha Day - Witness Thailand's Festival Of Lights!

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important religious festivals celebrated across Thailand. It is a public holiday and falls on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, thus usually taking place in May-June. Visakha Bucha Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha. The country is swept in a peaceful wave of religious fervour with local temples conducting various rituals and sermons. Tourists are also allowed to visit some of the temples to soak in the spiritual aura of the monks and locals.

When Is It? - Dates of the Festival

The Visakha Bucha Day will be celebrated on the 7th of May, 2020.

Festivities and the Manifestation of This Special Occasion

The celebrations start almost a week in advance when the Buddhists put yellow flags outside their homes. The Visakha Bucha day begins with devotees visiting their local temples to ‘make merit’ where they perform various rituals and donate to the welfare of their temples. As the day progresses, devotees attend sermons where they learn about the life and teaching of Buddha. These religious lectures on the day of Visakha Bucha, revolve around the three jewels of Buddhism; Buddha, Dharma (the truth) and Sangha (the community). They also offer prayers through meditation.

Some of the prayers are offered by serving food to the temple workers. Sometimes, birds and fishes are set free as part of religious tradition, to get rid of the ‘negative karma’. All these prayers are firmly rooted in committing to a life based on the tenets advocated by Buddha.
After sunset candle-lit processions take place at most temples throughout Thailand, where devotees and monks walk thrice around the main chapel in a clockwise direction, while holding three incense sticks, a lit candle and a lotus bud. Wiangtian or the candle procession is a mesmerising moment with the air full of the smell of incense, and the spiritual intensity is highest.

The Visakha Bucha Day
Mud Statues paying respect with bowls of light

Thai Celebrations of Visakha Bucha

The Visakha Bucha Day is a significant religious event in Thailand and hence is marked as a public holiday. All shops, restaurants and bars are not allowed to sell alcohol on this day as a mark of respect. Most government offices and banks also remain closed on this day. However, public transport function as usual. The year 2019, had the 18th of May celebrated as Visakha Bucha Day.
In 1999 the United Nations uplifted the Visakha Bucha Day to an international pedestal, thus recognising it as a global festivity. 

Temples Celebrating the Festival

Though all temples; big or small commemorate the celebration, some of them stand out in terms of the scale and grandiosity. For tourists, this is the best occasion to catch a glimpse of the Thai culture when it comes to the Visakha Bucha Day.
  • Phutta Monthon: Located in the Nakhon Province, the Phutta Monthon temple houses a massive statue of Buddha. As the royal family of Thailand holds the candle procession, this temple conducts some of the most memorable celebrations.
  • Wat Phra Kaew Temple: The Sanam Luang situated in front of the temple hosts many events, including mass alms distribution and offerings. Established in Bangkok, The Wat Phra Kaew Temple is one of the most divine temples of Thailand. It houses the famous two-feet tall emerald statue of Buddha in his meditative position, an iconic symbol of the country.
  • The Wat Pho TempleThis 7th-century temple in Bangkok holds the reclining Buddha statue, a resemblance of his death through Nirvana. The Wat Pho temple carries out The Visakha Bucha Day with much pomp and zest.
  • The Wat Phrathart Doi Suthep Temple: The most prominent of all temples, The Wat Phrathart Doi Suthep temple attracts large pilgrims on the Visakha Bucha Day each year. The temple also carries out significant processions to mark the day. Devotees circle the ‘Bhote’ chapel which consists of Buddha relics that are at least four centuries old.
  • Doi Suthep Temple: Located in Chiang Mai, the Doi Suthep is a leading temple in the Visakha Bucha Day celebrations. A pilgrim-walk up the temple is held on the eve of the festival as well as on the day of Visakha Bucha. This three-hour walk stretching over nine km is supported with food and beverages for visitors and tourists as well.
  • The Wat Pan Tao: Situated in the city of Chiang Mia, the Wat Pan Tao is another excellent place to discover the traditions and rituals of the day.
The Visakha Bucha Day, Thailand
Devotees dedicating rituals at Wat Chedi Luang

History and Significance of the Festival

Buddha is said to have walked the earth over 2500 years ago in today's Nepal. He stepped into enlightenment or ‘Nirvana’ under the Bodhi Tree 35 years later and died at the age of 80 in India. These three events of life, wisdom and death of Gautama Buddha took place on the same day, and that day is celebrated as the Visakha Bucha day today.

Tips for Tourists

These are the top three tips to bear in mind if you are a tourist or visiting the Visakha Bucha festival for the first time. Be advised that there would be no government or official offices functioning on the day of Visakha Bucha, as the festival is recognised as a public holiday.
  • There would be no sale nor consumption of alcohol.
  • Tourists are to be dressed in white clothes as a mark of respect as they offer prayers and rituals on the Visakha Bucha Day. 
  • It is advisable to plan your festive day at the temple. Prayers and offerings are usually held early in the morning. Ensure to check temple timings to view the evening processions. 
The Visakha Bucha Day, Thailand
The candlelit procession

The Visakha Bucha Day is undoubtedly Thailand’s most revered festival. Although the festivities of the Visakha Bucha Day may not seem like the conventional ways of celebration, it bears incredibly satisfying and soul-calming outcomes.

Visakha Bucha Day is an excellent time to plan your trip to know more about Thai culture, their act of giving and the holy union with divinity and spiritual bearings.

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