Tak Bat Devo 2023

Tak Bat Devo, which marks Gautama Buddha’s descent from the celestial world, is an almsgiving tradition originating in central Thailand.
Thailand
29 October 2023

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Tak Bat Devo, is an almsgiving tradition originating in central Thailand. The term itself derived from the Pali term Devorohana, meaning Buddha’s descent from the celestial world. Depending on the province, this event will take place in late October, marking the end of the Vassa (also known as the Buddhist Rains Retreat or Buddhist Lent).

Buddhist lore

monks at the Tak Bat Festival in Khon Kaen Thailand
Source: Yotanan Chankheaw / Shutterstock.com

The event celebrates Gautama Buddha’s return from Trayastrimsa, one of the heavens in Buddhist cosmology. According to Buddhist lore, he wished to show his gratitude to Queen Mahamaya, his mother, after attaining enlightenment, though she had already passed away seven days after he was born.

Buddha ascended to Trayastrimsa, believing that only Abhidhamma, or profound truth, would suffice for the incomparable debt owed to his mother. His teachings over the next three months would comprise the canonical texts known as the Abhidhamma Pitaka, one of the three collections comprising the Tipitaka, or the Pali Canon.

On the last day, Buddha descended from Trayastrimsa heaven to the city of Sangkassa, where he was greeted by thousands of people who had prepared a banquet for him and his disciples. The banquet originated the tradition of Buddhist faithful offering food to Buddhist monks, in homage to Buddha’s return.

This event in Buddhist lore is celebrated by several Thai festivals, including the Chak Phra Festival, Illuminated Boat Procession, and Wax Castle Festival.

Traditional reenactment

Tak Bat Devo being held in one of the temples in Khon Kaen Thailand
Source: Yotanan Chankheaw / Shutterstock.com

At certain temples, the imitation of the actual event is taken further. Hills and other elevated places are used as the event’s starting point. Locals are required to sit or stand on either side of the walkway from the temple pavilion. Monks then walk along the path to receive alms, with a standing Buddha statue on a convoy leading the line. At the end of the offerings, the monks recite dharma, or Buddhist sermons, to purify the mind and pour water in dedication to relatives who have passed away.

The ceremony is held in many Buddhist temples around the country, but some of the notable temples are the following:

Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri is among the temples that reenact the legend. Regarded as the biggest Tak Bat Devo event, hundreds of monks descend the 449-step staircase from the stupa, creating a truly magnificent sight.

At the start of the event, girls donning traditional Thai dresses can be seen welcoming monks, playing the role of the angels that led Buddha back to Earth.

What to prepare for Tak Bat Devo

A traditional dessert called Khao Tom Luk Yon
Source: A.Khachachart / Shutterstock.com

During Tak Bat Devo, monks usually receive dry food, ready-to-eat meals, and beverages. However, one of the things that is unique to the festival is khao tom luk yon. Similar to khao tom mud, khao tom luk yon is made of sticky rice and coconut milk, mixed with sugar and salt. Sometimes, people add black beans or pork to enhance flavors and texture. 

The main difference between the two dishes is the way it’s wrapped. Khao tom luk yon is wrapped in pandan leaves or young coconut leaves with a bit of the leaves left to form a tail, while the leaves are wrapped entirely around khao tom mud. This leaf tail makes it convenient for the almsgiving tradition.