This weekend is an important one for Buddhists in Thailand. Asarnha Bucha Day falls on Saturday and is followed by the start of the equivalent of the Christian Lent on Sunday. Most Chiang Mai temples tend to mark Asarnha Bucha with opportunities for people to donate flowers and monks giving sermons. At some temples, Buddhists bring large candles.
Asarnha Bucha marks the historic day more than 2,500 years ago when the newly enlightened Lord Buddha gave his first sermon in Benares Deer Park in what is today India. Buddha’s five disciples listened as he laid out the basic precepts of today’s Buddhist religion. The sermon outlined the Four Noble Truths and the road to Nirvana.
Although this year’s Asarnha Bucha is celebrated on Saturday the 8 July, it is not on the same day every year. According to the old Thai lunar calendar, Asarnha Bucha is held on the day before the full moon night of the eighth month. Full moons and Buddhism are inextricably linked as Buddha was also born when the moon was full.
Due to the fact both Saturday and Sunday are religious holidays, the sale of alcohol is banned and just about every bar in Chiang Mai will be shuttered up for the two days. Asarnha Bucha is also an official public holiday. As it falls on Saturday, the substitute holiday is marked on Monday and government offices and most banks will be closed for the day.
Read more about the Buddhism in Chiang Mai.