Asanha Puja or Asarnha Bucha (Day before the Buddhist Lent)

The sermon in the Deer Park as depicted at Wat Chedi Liem

Asalha Puja (known as Asanha Puja or Asarnha Bucha in Thailand, is a Theravada Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the eighth lunar month. It commemorates the Buddhas first sermon in the Deer Park in Benares and the founding of the Buddhist sangha. In Thailand, Asalha Puja is a government holiday.

The day is observed by donating offerings to temples and listening to sermons. The following day is known in Thailand as Wan Kao Pansa; it is the first day of vassa, the Theravada rains retreat.

Celebrated in Thailand on the first full moon of the eighth lunar month, Asanha Bucha Day marks the first public sermon given by Buddha, which took place at Deer Park in Benares, India. In this initial sermon, Buddha presented the Four Noble Truths to five ascetics. While the ascetics believed in self-mortification, he taught that the cessation of desire was the key to enlightenment. Upon hearing this message, the five men reached enlightenment and became the first Buddhist priests or Sangha. The day also marks the beginning of Vassa, the Buddhist lent period also known as the Rains Retreat.

Ceremonies are held in Buddhist temples throughout the country. Elaborate wax candles are lit and kept burning throughout lent. In the city of Ubon, a Candle Festival is held in which a parade of candles is followed by a contest for best candle design and a beauty contest. In Saraburi, monks from the local temple will walk through the town with their alms bowls. On this day, townspeople will put flowers into their bowls instead of food, and the monks offer these flowers at the temple in honor of the Buddha. Asanha Bucha Day has become a popular day for young Thai men to enter the monkhood.
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