|Tahsang Villager Places Sticky Rice Offering Into Monk's Bowl|
Other women, such as my wife, chose to get up early on Sunday morning to prepare food for the Monks. Duang woke up at 3:45 A.M. to prepare fresh food for our scheduled 6:00 A. M. departure for Tahsang Village.
We stopped at Duang's house in the village to pick up our Grandson, Peelawat, and my mother-in-law to drive out to the Wat. Our truck was enlisted to transport many of the money trees, banana stalks, and decorations from the civic pavilion.
|Villager's Offerings For the Monks|
The religious celebration commenced as a typical merit making ritual where people make offerings to the Monks. A Shaman leads the people in a ritual which offers the food to the Monks. The ritual involves lighting of small candles, chanting, and presenting a small dish with the lit candles and some leaves to the Abbott of the Wat. The Monks then perform their portion of the ritual by chanting. One part of this ritual involves the lay people pouring water from a bottle or special metal container into a bowl as they and the Monks chant. The water in the bowls is then carefully taken outside of the Wat and poured at the base of various plants or trees in another private ritual.
After that portion of the ritual was completed, the Monks ate while the lay people watched and prepared to eat after the Monks. The Monks only take what they can eat, After they have eaten, the remaining food is consumed by the lay people. There is always a surplus of food. On special days such as Sunday, there is a great deal of surplus of food as well as variety of food. The eating of the surplus food sustains the very poor of the community. My wife and her children were nourished by this arrangement many years ago. The eating of the surplus of food also serves as an opportunity for the community to socialize. Each morning and especially on festival days, there is a sort of pot-luck meal for the people.
|Nong, Peelawat, and Tey Playing in the Dirt|
|Nong of Tahsang Village On Ok Phansa Day - 30 Oct|
|Villagers Assembling For A Procession Around the Wat|
As is the case in other religious processions, the people walked three times around the remnants of the Wat. They walked and danced to ethnic Lao music as the circumambulated the old chedi. Everyone was smiling and very happy.
As the villagers were finishing up their third circuit of the chedi ruins, I broke off followed by 8 of the children. I could not help but think of the story of the Pied Piper. Anyhow, I removed my shoes and climbed the stairs to the area where the Buddha used to be kept, as I started up the stairs I looked back and motioned for the children to remove their shoes and sit down.
|The Wrong Place At the Wrong Time|
|Monks Commence Ritual to Accept Robes (Kaithin)|
After the Monks had accepted the robes, the people took their money trees apart. The process was done very deliberately and carefully - the bills all had to be facing in the same direction. The stack of bills were folded in half and secured with an elastic band. The wad of cash was then placed into a plastic envelope and brought up to offer to the Monks. The Monks gave special religious pennants to each family that donated. The pennants are to bring good luck. After all the offerings had been made to the Monks, the Monks passed out cardboard boxes that contained a religious statue for the people's home.
The offerings were counted and announced to the people - 109,127 Baht ($3,637 USD) which will be spent to finish the new Bot.
Once again I had the privilege to participate and document a unique event in the Lao Loum culture here in Isaan. Be it a religious celebration, a funeral, a wedding, or the ordination of a Monk, the community bonds in Isaan are strong. These bonds start developing at a very early age with babies and toddlers participating in all the rituals. Some people would say that these are poor people but don't tell them that. They think that it is all about being happy rather than what you have. Personally I call the people very fortunate.