The festival of Pha That Luang is the most famous cultural event on the annual calendar in Laos. It is sometimes referred to as “Bun That Luang” or the “Wax Castle Parade.”
This major Buddhist holiday draws devotees from all over the region, including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, among others to the sacred That Luang Stupa in Vientiane, Laos. Starting early in the morning, countless individuals participate in a ceremonial offering and group prayer, followed by a procession. The festival lasts for days, and includes a carnival fair where vendors sell handicrafts, flowers, and other trinkets. There are also many entertainment venues with games, concerts, and dance shows.
The festival is held on Full moon in early November or late October. In 2012, the dates are set for November 10. In 2013, the full moon will fall on Sunday, November 17.
About Vientiane, Laos
Situated in a meander of the shimmering Mekong River on the border of Thailand, the charming city of Vientiane, with its picturesque streets and colonial-era architecture is very different from many of the other capitals in the area. The town’s has a rich heritage, extending back to the French colonial era. The evidence of this legacy is everywhere: the architecture, the food, and even the attitudes. There are few places on earth where you can taste indigenous delights mixed with baguettes, black coffee and Bordeaux wines.
Vientiane is quiet and peaceful. One of the best places in the world to rest and relax for a few days.
That Luang festival
Vientiane’s biggest festival involves a massive temporary market, live music, dancing, games and drinking. Offerings are made by the monks at this temple’s famous stupa and fireworks mark the end of the event. The festival is held during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month.
It’s really a tremendous gathering as hundreds of Buddhists monks assemble to receive offerings early in the morning on the first day of the festival. It is a sacred festival, and the Lao people make offerings to the Monks as a token of obedience, and with the hope getting their prayers heard for a better opportunity in the next life. The offerings include candles, lanterns presented in honor of Buddha, flower votives, among other things.
Following the giving of gifts, there is a colourful procession. This procession is called “phasat,” and groups gather and walk three times around the main hall of worship in honor of the Vientiane city pillar, which is located at this marvelous temple.
The procession marches from Pha That Luang to Wat Si Muang, another big temple of Vientiane, carrying garlands of flowers and offerings of food from one temple to another. According to tradition, the last ones to arrive are considered to be the most destitute.The event is ethereal, and everyone participates actively and dresses in traditional costume.
As the event has gained popularity in recent years, the festival has taken more of a secular turn. Nowadays, outside of the temple grounds you will find attractions, games, and street music amidst a sprawling international fair. However, this does not detract from the entire event. On the contrary, it makes it more lively and complete.
Pha That Luang Stupa
Pha That Luang, the most revered stupa of Laos is an enduring national symbol. The name That Luang means translates to mean “Great Stupa”. Religion is immensely significant to the people of Laos, and thus the stupa is undoubtedly the most important monument in the country. It is also a representation of the sovereignty of Laos, a depiction of the nation’s splendor and divine favor.
The temple was constructed by King Setthathirat in the latter part of the 16th century. Its official name is “Pha Jedi Lokajulamani”, which means “Precious Stupa of the World”, reflecting the importance of the structure. That Luang is a multi-tier stupa,and each level represents a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment. The lowest one represents the material world; the second level represents the world of appearance; the highest one represents the world of nothingness. On all sides you can find a high-walled cloister with tiny windows, which were added by King Anouvong in the early 19th century as a defence against invaders.