As a Buddhist country, Thailand has several occasions in commemorate the life of the Lord Buddha such as Makhapuja Day, Visakhapuja Day and Asalhapuja. These days are also national holidays when Thai Buddhists attend religious ceremonies at the temples.

Additionally, there are other Buddhist traditions associated with these Buddhist days. Kathin festival is one of the common Buddhist traditions in Thailand. It always takes place within a month after the end of Buddhist Lent (normally around October and November).

The robe and the money trees fund raising

The robe and the money trees fund raising

The end of Buddhist Lent marks as a transition of the rainy season to the cool season.  Furthermore, it is the time when monks can change their robes, too. “Kathin” is a name of embroidery frame used for making robes in the past. According to the Buddhist discipline, a monk is allowed to have only one set of robes for covering the body.

The Kathin festival or the robe offering ceremony originated during the Buddha’s time when a group of monks came to visit the Lord Buddha at the end of Buddhist Lent. The rain and the long journey made their robes wet and dirty. Therefore, the Buddha allowed the monks to get the new robes after the Buddhist Lent and to receive the new robes offered by the laymen. Thus, this practice had become a Buddhist tradition .

Nowadays, the Kathin ceremony in Thailand is distorted and becomes something like a fund raising activity for the monastery even though the robe offering is still practised. It is now common to see the ‘money tree’ presented to the monks alongside the robe.

Little pieces of cloths are dyed for robe making Photo by: Wittawat Lertcharoenamnuay

Little pieces of cloths are dyed for robe making
Photo by: Wittawat Lertcharoenamnuay

It should be noted that, during the Buddha’s time, the monks should collect the discarded pieces of cloths left in the forest or the cemetery. They would, then, clean, cut, sew and dye them to make the robes. Some monasteries try to stick to the old practice with little modification as possible. In stead of searching for unused pieces of cloths in the forests or the cemeteriessome monasteries prepare the pieces of cloths for the laymen to offer to the monks. The monks will then get together to sew these little pieces of cloths into a monk’s robe. Then, they will be dyed several times until getting the desired colour. The whole ceremony has to be done within a day. This process needs a great team effort.

Kratin - robe offering now like grand celebration for the community

Kratin ceremony is more like a big celebration for the community.

Kathin ceremony has turned into a celebratory event of the community with fund raising activities for the monastery, rather than the merit making. Looking at the practice of many Buddhists nowadays, the ceremony has certainly changed a lot since the Buddha’s time.