Thailand’s Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival: a religious and cultural immersion
This summer, Thailand’s will be the perfect way for travelers to immerse themselves in Thai culture and the Buddhist religion. Around July 14 and 16, residents of the Saraburi province, which is located in central Thailand, perform a religious ritual involving the offering of flowers. While the area is perhaps best known for its gorgeous fields of yellow sunflowers, Dok Khao Phansa flowers are equally as important in the region and play an enormous role in this annual festival.
Dok Khao Phansa flowers only bloom once per year - during the Buddhist Lent, or Khao Phansa. This time of meditation and study typically falls between July and October, which means that the flowers begin to bloom during the Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival. For this reason, they have become a key element to the celebration. The religious event begins with a trip to the Wat Phra Buddhabat Woramahaviharn, or the Shrine of the Holy Footprint, where guests give offerings, such as cooked rice and incense, to the monks who live in the temple. Then, later in the morning, young locals flock to the hilly area of the Phra Buddhabat district in search of the yellow flowers. These Dok Khao Phansa flowers are given to the monks later in the day. At this time, locals form a line and present the sacred plants to the monks as they walk by. The monks then walk up the many stairs to the Shrine of the Holy Footprint, where they give the offerings they have received to Buddha. Next, as the last part of the ceremony, visitors pour water on the monks’ feet as they approach, which signifies that their sins have been washed away.
Aside from this heavy religious element, the Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival is also a time for family gatherings and fun. Before the flower ritual, for example, thousands of Thai natives meet to play traditional games and watch culturally rich performances. Normally, the event is also filled with contests for long-drum dances and Thai costumes.
Travelers who visit this festival are advised to bring a camera, as the colorful costumes and beautiful flowers are sure to create priceless pictures. While this event is very sacred and important to the history of the region, most guests agree that as long as visitors remain respectful, taking once-in-a-lifetime photographs of the celebration is acceptable and recommended.