Monks are a common sight around Thailand; however a collection of over 10,000 monks is something to behold.
The celebration happens annually so that the monks can graciously accept gifts of alms from people. Buddhists have practiced the act of giving alms for thousands of years, and they can include money or goods, with food being a common sight. Giving alms is an act of charity with the belief that you will receive peace and happiness in return.
We weren’t aware that the celebration of 10,000 monks was coming up (we didn’t know it was even something that took place). I just happened to spot a link on Facebook by chance the day before the event.
On December 29, 2014, over 10,000 monks from over four countries gathered for the international alms giving ceremony. Monks and their novices came from all over Thailand as well as the surrounding countries of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia and even from as far away as Sri Lanka.
This time around the event took place on Charoen Muang Road (main road by the train station), which was covered with a sea of orange, plenty of Buddhist faithful wearing traditional white as well as the odd tourist.
The celebration happens in the early morning. We arrived just after 6 am, and there were already thousands of monks (probably well over the 10,000 figure). Thousands of Buddhist faithful had also arrived early to be able to present their alms.
The Celebration begins with Prayers, Chants and Meditation
After arriving just after 6 am and taking a few photos, we pretty much just had to hang out for a while until the celebrations began. It isn’t necessary to arrive so early; however, it is a unique sight to see over 10,000 monks sitting on a Chiang Mai road as the sun slowly rises.
The prayers, chanting, meditation and the rest of the ceremony started at about 7 am, and went until after eight.
Note: this is not an event geared towards tourists, so any talking is in Thai. There were very few tourists at the celebration.
The crowd sits in two double rows that extended down a fair portion of Charoen Muang Road, which was quite a distance. People also line the streets so that they can move into position once the person in front of them has presented their alms.
Once the chants and prayers were completed, the monks started to make their way down Charoen Muang Road. Once they got to the end, they came back to the start so that there were four long lines of monks.
When they gave the signal, people started placing their alms into the monk’s golden, shiny bowls. The monks then started walking and kept it up in a loop along the whole street.
The overwhelming amount of food is astounding, everything from noodle pots, milk and tinned goods. A monk’s bowl is small so it quickly fills up; however, there were young servicemen who would quickly empty the bowl into a white plastic bag, and the monk would keep moving. By the time we left, there were hundreds of over-filled bags containing all the alms. People also give money, but these were mostly presented on one of the ‘money trees’ shown in the photo below.
A portion of the alms collected is used to help 323 monks serving in the four southern border provinces.
Have you experienced the 10,000 monks celebration? Share your comments with us below.