Makha Bucha Day

Thailand
16 February 2022

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Makha Bucha Day

Makha Bucha Day (also, Magha Puja) is a religious celebration marking Lord Buddha’s teachings to his disciples. The term makha refers to the third lunar month, when the holiday is observed, while bucha can be translated as “to honor,” both of which are derived from the Pali language used in Buddhist scripture.

As with most Thai religious holidays, Makha Bucha is celebrated according to the traditional lunar calendar, on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month. Though specific dates may vary, the event usually takes place in late February or early March. This year, it falls on February 16th.

The Fourfold Assembly

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According to Buddhist lore, the event that Makha Bucha commemorates occurred at the Veluwan temple, India. Lord Buddha delivered his fundamental teachings or Ovada Patimokkha to his disciples. As the story goes, this meeting consist of four phenomena:

  • The event occurred on the day of a full moon during the third lunar month.
  • A total of 1,250 disciples gathered spontaneously, without prior appointment.
  • All of the disciples were Arahants, or enlightened disciples.
  • All have been ordained by Buddha, making them his direct spiritual descendants.

Due to this chain of events, the meeting is referred to as the Chaturangasannibat or the Fourfold Assembly and is considered a religious miracle in Buddhist lore.

Historical celebrations

Historical celebrations of Makha Bucha are relatively obscure, but modern iterations can be traced back to the reign of King Rama IV, who formally decreed the tradition in 1851. Initially, the event was held in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where only those residing in the palace were allowed to enter. 

This practice was then expanded under King Rama V, who believed that the celebration could be used to promote the faith in Thailand. The event itself was then established as an official public holiday in 1913, and has since been widely celebrated across the Kingdom.

Makha Bucha in Thailand

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Although not as prominent as in the past, the event nowadays is celebrated by Buddhists far and wide, including in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

In Thailand, temples often organize wian thian or a candlelight procession around the ordination hall on the evening of Makha Bucha. Other traditions include giving alms, meditation, listening to Buddhist sermons, as well as abstaining from alcohol.

COVID-19 Disclaimer: The activities described here may be suspended due to movement and gathering restrictions as prescribed by COVID-19 health precautions.

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