Building Sandcastles in the Temple

The other day, I told you about two of the more traditional ways of celebrating Songkran. This involved going to the temple early in the morning to give food to the monks. People also bathed Buddha images and poured scented water over the hands of monks. Today I am going to tell you about two more traditional events that happen during Songkran.

There is more to Songkran than the waterfights. In the olden days, most people would spend a lot of their time at their local temple. These days, only the elderly and young families go to the temple. One reason they go during Songkran is to take part in competitions to build sand pagodas. Most temples will organize these events. They even supply the sand these days though in the past people were expected to bring their own! The pagodas come in all shapes and sizes. Once finished they are decorated with flags.

Another reson people come to temples during Songkran is for a religious service called Bangsakun. This is a special ceremony in memory of dead ancestors. In Thailand, people are usually cremated. Their ashes are either kept at the temple or in the home. At the temple they are sometimes placed in an alcove in a wall or, if the family is rich, they will buy a pagoda to intern the ashes. This is what you can see in the picture below.

I told you last week that Nattawud was going to become a monk soon. What I didn’t realize at the time was how soon it was going to be. The ceremony has been moved forward so that he can become a monk during the summer holidays. This is partly because of me. Nattawud’s main job is running the online book store. As I am on holiday from school at the moment it is easier for me to take over his job while he is away. Hopefully he will be back at work before school opens on May 16th. The problem is, I cannot actually ask him to disrobe once he has become a monk. He has to make that decision himself.

Tomorrow I will be sharing pictures with you of the ceremony for cutting his hair and making merit for dead ancestors. Then the following day is the actual ordination ceremony. If you are interested in Buddhism, be sure to come back over the next few days. There is bound to be a lot to share with you.

BTW, you might be wondering why I am calling Panrit by his former name again. This is because a decision was made by his parents for him to ordain as Nattawud. Then, a few weeks later, a man called Panrit will disrobe. What will come of Nattawud? He will eventually die and rot as a monk. So, my annoucement the other week of the death of Nattawud was a bit premature! He is not dead yet.

]]>