Monday, November 02, 2009

That Luang Holiday

Being based on the lunar calendar, the main Buddhist holidays occur on the days of the full moon. Many Lao names also revolve around the moon. My own name, Chanpheng, means "full moon". The person who gave me the name said that 'The full moon is beautiful and likes to have fun.' It also has Buddhist meaning, because of the main religious days being on the full moon.

That Luang itself is a gold colored monument (also called a stupa because it often contains relics, particularly those of the Buddha). Many believe was that missionaries sent by the Emperor Asoka in India, brought a Buddha relic which was built into the stupa in the 3rd century. The temple was rebuilt as a Khmer temple in the 14th century. In 1560, King Setthathirat moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and rebuilt That Luang, which was again destroyed in 1828, when the Thai raided Vientiane. The French using old plans, rebuilt the stupa in 1900 but it was finally rebuilt in 1930 and people say that the shape is more elegant and pleasing to the eye.

Boun That Luang is the holiday falling on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month. Yesterday, people making merit at the Sri Meuang Temple brought their wax flower offerings on a parade from Sri Meuang to That Luang. Today, thousands of people offered food to the monks, who came in from all over Vientiane and the provinces. Tonight, while the Thai celebrate Loy Krathong, there is the Vong Vieng, where people light candles and circle the stupa three times.

Well, this year I'm up in Xieng Khouang and didn't wake up early enough to offer food to the monks. I'll also miss out on the ceremonies at That Luang. On the other hand, it's been a quiet and creative day. The sky has been overcast and strong gusts of wind hit the house. I can feel the temperature dropping. Earlier I noticed that the flowers on the peach and plum trees are starting to bud. Cold season is coming.


spacedlaw said...

Flowers on the plum and peach trees? Now, that is exotic at this time of the year.

chanpheng said...

The plum trees are at the height of their color in December and the peach trees around January. People cut branches from these flowering trees to display in their homes for the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) holiday.