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Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand

 
 

Thailand is one of the most populous majority Buddhist countries in the world. Makha Bucha is a widely observed event, celebrated by over 30,000 wats (temples) nationwide. Falling on the day of the full moon on the third lunar month of each year Makha Bucha (also known as Magha Puja) is the second most important Buddhist holiday, emphasizing the virtues of not committing sins. Celebrations are characterized by a candlelit procession, where attendees walk around a temple’s ordination hall three times at sunset.

The megalopolis of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital and largest city, is home to many of the nation’s most important Buddhist temples, which drew millions of devotees on March 1 this year for the holiday.

Lat Phrao, a district in Bangkok’s northeast, is home to Wat Lat Phrao, a temple off the beaten track. Nestled next to the Lat Phrao canal, the temple’s unique design, with elevated pavilions and numerous standing Buddha statues, sets it apart from other temples in Bangkok.

Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount and located next to Bangkok’s historic Phra Nakhon district, is also a heavily visited temple on all Buddhist holidays. It requires a short but arduous climb to reach the chedi or stupa at the top of the artificial hill it sits upon. The hill is believed to contain relics of the body of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama.

Perhaps the most unique and visually stunning Buddhist temple in the world, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, sits 50 kilometers north of Bangkok in the province of Pathum Thani. The centerpiece of the massive religious complex is the Wat Phra Dhammakaya cetiya dome stupa and surrounding assembly area, designed in a futuristic style unlike any other Buddhist temple.

Adryel Talamantes (instagram: adryel_talamantes) is a photojournalist and writer originally from the United States, now based in Bangkok, Thailand.  His work has been published by the Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The Diplomat, The Nikkei Asian Review, The Global Post/PRI, War Is Boring, and elsewhere.

Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Monks walk to take their places on the terrace surrounding Wat Phra Dhammakaya’s cetiya dome before sunset.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Devotees sit and offer supplication as monks depart from Wat Phra Dhammakaya’s 1 million square meter assembly area.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Followers of Wat Phra Dhammakaya arrive to take part in meditation exercises and the candlelit ceremony.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Monks take their places on the terrace surrounding Wat Phra Dhammakaya’s cetiya dome before sunset.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
The full moon slowly sets in the sky over the illuminated cetiya dome, which is covered with hundred of thousands of metallic Buddha statues.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Devotees stand while taking part in a candlelight procession in which they walk around the cetiya three times.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Worshippers pray and give offerings at an altar in Wat Lat Phrao.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A woman offers a donation of robes to monks to make merit at Wat Lat Phrao.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A woman helps a young girl put gold leaf onto a Buddha statue.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Vendors sell food and offerings on the grounds of Wat Lat Phrao.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A sign announcing Makha Bucha day festivities greets people as they arrive at Wat Lat Phrao.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A woman prays while holding burning incense and a lotus.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A man bows while praying at Wat Saket’s golden chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Worshipers carry bundles of robes to offer to monks while reciting prayers as they make three revolutions around Wat Saket’s chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
A woman places a cash donation onto ribbons of Thai bank notes strung along the outside of Wat Saket’s chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Prayers, names, and messages wishing good fortune written by worshippers are seen on a red cloth wrapped around Wat Sake'ts golden chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Golden metal leaves with messages written by worshippers hang from a tree at the base of Wat Saket’s gold chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
Makha Bucha: Making Merit in Thailand
Worshippers kneel and pray on carpets at the foot of Wat Saket’s gold chedi.
Image Credit: Adryel Talamantes
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