Rab Bua: The Lotus Throwing Festival
Nestled along the canals of Samut Prakan, the Rab Bua or Lotus Throwing Festival, is a cherished tradition that unites local communities in a heartwarming display of faith and culture. Each year, on the full moon of the 11th Thai lunar month, devotees come together to pay their respects to the revered Luang Pho To image, with lotus flowers in hand.
In this photo essay, we delve into the heart of Rab Bua, offering a visual journey that captures the festival’s essence, where tradition and spirituality merge in a vibrant celebration of devotion.
During the sacred week of Awk Pansa, marking the conclusion of Buddhist Lent, thousands of devotees embarked on a pilgrimage to Khlong Samrong to participate in a time-honored tradition. Their purpose was to gather at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai to rub gold leaves upon a revered figure: the iconic bodhisattva image of Luang Pho To.
The act of adorning a statue with glistening gold leaf holds deep religious significance, as it is a tangible manifestation of honoring the Buddha’s teachings. Within Buddhist practice, this act is considered an embodiment of loving kindness and a means to accrue good merit.
During the evenings of Rab Bua, Wat Bang Phi Yai Nai took on a lively new role as it transformed into a bustling night market. The temple grounds, typically a serene place of reflection, became a hub of activity with numerous stalls offering an array of mouth-watering dishes.
Visitors and pilgrims savored the flavors of Thailand, including gai yang (grilled chicken), roasted chestnuts, néua wua satay (beef skewers), and even stir-fried silk worms.
The commencement of Rab Bua’s lotus throwing ceremony occurred on the morning of Awk Pansa. The fervor and anticipation of the event was palpable, with devout pilgrims gathering along the banks of Khlong Samrong in the wee hours of the morning, some as early as 3 or 4 a.m.
Upon our arrival at 6 a.m., finding a vantage point amidst the throngs of people was no easy feat, as everyone jostled for the best position to witness the procession. As we waited for the Luang Poh To image to disembark, we couldn’t help but notice the lively spectacle that surrounded us.
The Khlong Samrong was teeming with crafts of all sizes, many of them longtail boats. These vessels resembled Formula 1 race cars on water, as they navigated the canal at reckless speeds.
As the clock approached 7 a.m., the image of Luang Pho To began its journey aboard a vibrantly decorated boat, setting sail from the grounds of Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai. The atmosphere was nothing short of electric, with thousands of people gathered along the canal, joining in the jubilant celebration by throwing a cascade of lotus flowers onto the boat.
The boat embarked on a journey down the canal, slowly making its way towards the heart of Bang Phli town. Upon its return to the temple, the Luang Pho To image and the monks aboard, found themselves submerged in a sea of lotus blossoms.
The best place to stay in Samut Prakan for Rab Bua (Lotus Throwing Festival) would be in areas like Samrong or Bearing near Sukhumvit. Staying in these areas and opting for a taxi ride to get to Wat Bang Phi Yai Nai for the festival is a practical choice. It allows you to enjoy the festival during the day while ensuring a more peaceful and restful night’s sleep without the noise of longtail boats racing along the canal.
Yes, Rab Bua (aka the Lotus Throwing Festival) is certainly worth visiting if you are interested in experiencing the rich cultural and spiritual traditions of Thailand. This unique and vibrant festival offers a fascinating insight into local Thai customs and the importance of Buddhism in the region. The sight of thousands of lotus flowers being thrown to honor Luang Pho To and the atmosphere of collective devotion are both impressive and heartwarming.
Lotus flowers hold great significance in Buddhism and are often used as a symbol in Buddhist art and teachings. They are a powerful representation of various spiritual qualities:
Purity: The lotus grows in muddy waters but emerges from the depths clean and unstained. This purity symbolizes the purification of the body, speech, and mind, as practitioners strive to overcome the defilements of attachment, desire, and ignorance.
Enlightenment: The lotus is often associated with the attainment of enlightenment and the journey from ignorance to wisdom. Just as the lotus rises above the muddy water to bloom, so too does the enlightened mind transcend the mundane world to reach a state of spiritual awakening.
Resilience: Lotus flowers are known for their ability to flourish and thrive in adverse conditions. This resilience serves as a reminder to Buddhist practitioners to remain steadfast in their spiritual path, even in the face of challenges and difficulties.
Compassion: The unfolding petals of the lotus symbolize the gradual unfolding of compassion and loving-kindness within the heart. Buddhists aim to develop these qualities as they progress on their spiritual journey.
Non-attachment: The lotus’s ability to remain unstained by the muddy water it grows in represents the ideal of non-attachment. Buddhists strive to cultivate a sense of detachment from the transient and impermanent aspects of the world.