HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Buddhist Lent begins next week

Fancy Masquerade Night

TAT hosts “From the Gulf of Thailand to Lanna” road show

Beautiful Asia, a Lanna embrace

Fon Phi dancing, Lanna ceremony

Buddhist Lent begins next week

July 21 & 22

This year, the Buddhist holy days of Asarnha Bucha and Khao Pansaa fall on July 21 and 22. Both are recognized public holidays, and therefore banks and most businesses will be closed. It is also against the rules to sell alcoholic beverages during the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Many activities are planned throughout the city, especially at our temples, and everyone is invited to take part.

Asarnha Bucha Day (July 21)

The Buddhist Holy Day of Asarnha Bucha falls on the 15th night (15 kham) of the full moon during the eighth month of the Buddhist Lunar calendar, this year equating to Thursday, July 21. "Asarnha Bucha " means paying homage and worshiping on the day identified according to the Lunar calendar during the eighth month, Ahsala being the name of the eighth month in the Pali language.

The highlight of this year’s Asarnha Bucha and Buddhist Lent commemoration will be a special candle parade.

Asarnha Bucha Day is worshipped because of three important events occurring on the day. Called the "Triple Gem" (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), these commemorate the first sermon given by the Buddha, called the "Dharmachakapavattama Sutta" concerning the "Four Noble Truths" presented to the Buddha’s first five disciples. The sermon set in motion the "Wheel of Dharma", which is the meaning of "Dharmachaka".

The sermon concluded that: 1. All things are a source of suffering from the constant cycle of birth, disease, old age and death. 2. Desire or the inability to obtain what one desires is the cause of suffering resulting from cause and effect. 3. Freedom from suffering can be obtained after the complete cessation of desire. 4. The last of the Four Noble Truths is the "Middle Way", or the path between extremes of asceticism and indulgence leading to the eliminating of desire. The Eight-Fold Path consists of possessing the correct: Views, Resolve, Speech, Conduct, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Meditation (or Concentration).

Secondly, the day is considered to be the birth of Buddhism, as the Buddha departed the location where he obtained his enlightenment two months earlier and then, coming to a forest area in the city of Pharansi, he showed favour to five ascetics who became his followers.

The third of the Triple Gems is the Sangha. On this same day, the first person listened to the Buddha’s sermon, realising the truths contained therein and becoming the first Buddhist monk. This created the Buddhist order "Sangha" and the day is known as "Sangha Day" as well as Ahsala Bucha Day.

The Thai government established the observance of Asarnha Bucha Day in 1958. Buddhist temples throughout the Kingdom arrange ceremonies venerating the important historic events in the past. Devout Buddhists participate in the ceremonies by presenting offerings to monks, listening to sermons and performing ritual prayers.

The entire day is revered and certain precepts are adhered to by the more devout Buddhist, and by those who have the inclination and opportunity to do so. The Wientian ritual ceremony is performed in the evening as many go to nearby temples bringing candles, flowers and joss sticks, completing three trips walking around the temple area sacred grounds.

"Khao Pansaa"
(July 22)

The day following the start of Buddhist Lent (Asarnha Bucha Day) another important Buddhist Holy day begins in Thailand with the custom called Khao Pansaa. This day falls on the first full moon (1 kham) of the Buddhist Lunar calendar during the eighth month of every year, which this year equates to July 22, and ends on the 15th full moon (15 kham) of the 11th month of the Buddhist calendar, usually in mid-October. During a leap ear it is identified during the second eighth month.

The term "Khao Pansaa" can also translate to entering the months of the rainy season when monks return to the temple for the duration of the rains, usually to the temple where they were ordained. They stay there for approximately three months. The monks are not supposed to depart the temple, or stay overnight at any other location during the months of rain. Although the rainy season is considered to be longer than three months, lasting up to four or even more, monks are only required to remain at the temples for three of the four months. During the last period of the rainy season they can then go elsewhere when the "Katin" ceremony is performed presenting robes to the temples.

Initially, monks were discouraged from travelling during the rainy season because of the idea that it was inappropriate to walk about during the rainy season when many small living creatures were about, which could be accidentally stepped on. This included the rice crops. Inclement weather also made it difficult to get out and about. Therefore, it was established long ago that the monks would remain in temples during the rains for three months, discussing and studying Buddhist scriptures, following Buddhist disciplines, meditating and performing ritual ceremonies.

The custom of Khao Pansaa has continued on to this day with three classes of ceremonies, a Royal ceremony conducted by the King of Thailand, ritual ceremonies for devout followers of Buddhism throughout the Kingdom and ceremonies performed by monks in the temples.

The Royal ceremony is similar to the ceremony performed by the general public, but more elaborate. The King and members of the Royal Family perform ritual ceremonies to pay homage to Buddhism, and present Khao Pansaa candles and traditional garments to Buddhist monks. The Royal Family also donates many other items used in these ceremonies.

Other followers of Buddhism all over Thailand will attend temples in the morning, bringing food, necessity items, money, the traditional candles, garments and ceremonial items for the monks, with flowers and candles in hand.

For those people having devout faith they may refrain from the recognised eight offences for the duration of the three month rainy season just as monks do, while others may give up a single vice, with yet others recognising the 5-8 offences for the day.

The ceremonies performed by monks in temples revolve around rituals accepting new monks, who take vows for periods up to the three months, with some staying even longer. Senior monks at each monastery perform other ceremonies leading followers in worship and prayer.

The two main items presented to monks during Khao Pansaa are the candles and garments worn by monks, specifically the bathing robe. The candles were essential in former times and needed for ceremonies, studying scriptures and performing various other functions. The candle offering has developed into a custom still followed.

The presentation of garments worn by monks is said to have originated from methods of bathing in former times, commonly done in community areas using streams, rivers, ponds and other sources of water, with monks requiring a bathing robe. The garments worn by monks continued to develop until the custom included presenting the entire arrangement worn by monks.

Many people take time away from their work on Khao Pansaa to recognise the importance of the Buddhist Holy Day. Everyone is invited to participate in the temple ceremonies and to refrain from offensive behaviour for the day, and to make the same effort thereafter.

Fancy Masquerade Night

Local fashion designer celebrates birthday with fancy party

Chiangmai Mail reporters

Amari Rincome was the venue for local fashion designer Tananan Willson’s birthday last Saturday. The colorful evening started with a reception at the Lanna Restaurant, where all of the invited guests admired each other’s fancy costumes. And what must be included when a fashion designer and artist stages a birthday party is a fashion show to display Tananan’s latest creations.

MC of the evening, Ongkarn ‘JoJo’ Chaiongkarn from Indeed Creation in the front while Tananan Willson and David Wilson receive a colorful birthday gift.

The guests were later asked to step onto the catwalk to show off their costume concepts. With so many fancy costumes, the night called for a competition and after hard searching, the overall winner was announced as being Decha from Heritage.

The evening progressed with a cheerful karaoke session allowing everyone to showcase their talents (or lack thereof). Amongst friends everything is allowed.

Just some of the brilliant costumes showing off the artistic skills of the guests.

TAT hosts “From the Gulf of Thailand to Lanna” road show

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Chiang Mai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Samui Island Tourism Coordination Office took 32 tourism-based business operators to the Rydges Amora Tapae Hotel in Chiang Mai for a road show called "From the Gulf of Thailand to Lanna" to highlight and promote inter-regional tourism.

Tourism operators show interest in the information on Samui and Pha-ngan.

Attending the road show on July 5 were hotel owners, spa operators and tour operators from Samui, Pha-ngan and Surat Thani.

Ruangnam Jaikwang, president of the Samui Tourism Promotion Association said, "Prior to coming to here, Chiang Mai went on a public relations trip to Samui and Bangkok Airways opened the Chiang Mai - Samui route flying three flights per week to promote tourism. This trip is intended to promote Samui and Pha-ngan. This is the first time that we have promoted tourism in Chiang Mai. Tourists looking for the cultural aspect would naturally come to Chiang Mai first and then continue the holiday in Samui, connecting Lanna to the Gulf of Thailand. Samui is a nature lover’s dream with all the facilities including hotels, resorts and spas. Special promotions and packages will be arranged for the low season."

Angkana Pumpaka, assistant director of the Northern Tourism Authority, District 1 said, "The Tourism Authority aims to promote inter-regional tourism. In the past we have arranged similar events with Rayong, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and the latest Samui and Pha-ngan event is to promote tourism there."

Beautiful Asia, a Lanna embrace

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Traditional Lanna dance performance - the future of Chiang Mai’s spa industry?

A music therapy display entitled "Beautiful Asia, a Lanna Embrace" was recently staged at the Sheraton Hotel, Chiang Mai.

Kwanchai Wongnitikorn, Chiang Mai’s deputy governor, said at the opening ceremony the activity was to enhance the local spa industry with local wisdom, and to promote SME spa goods.

Normally, spas provide slow background music to help customers feel relaxed, but the SMEs have modified local Lanna music into music therapy. This will also help promote local and traditional musical instruments.

Northern SMEs have provided music therapy knowledge since June 30. It could be a part of a spa ambience or could develop into a kind of therapy in itself. There were three music therapy, mind movement, trance of Lanna and power of life performances.

Fon Phi dancing, Lanna ceremony

Preeyanoot Jittawong

At Baan Samlang, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort, an ancient ceremony took place on July 8, called "Fon Phi Mod (phi mod dancing)".

The angels changing into Mon costumes.

Withi Panichpan, former lecturer of Chiang Mai University, said that Fon Phi was a ceremony involved with Lanna people’s souls and was thought to be part of Lanna tradition even before Buddhism came to Thailand. It is held to demonstrate to new generations the admiration of, and thankfulness to, angels. Many centuries have passed but the tradition remains alive.

This dancing combines Fon Phi Jaonai, Fon Phi Mod and Fon Phi Meng and after angels became the servants of the spirits they change from wearing ordinary clothes into ancient Mon costumes. All dances and ceremonies are about Lanna lifestyle such as rice harvesting and capturing elephants.

The Fon Phi Mod dance.