Any man can become a monk in Thailand. To become a monk, a man should be at least 20 years old, he must be able to read and write, and he must study and understand the precepts for being a monk. He is given an examination, and if he passes, he is given a certificate of entry to the monkhood by the district head in his province. On the day of ordination, his head and eyebrows are shaved, he is given a white robe, and this is celebrated at the temple with his family and friends. Any ordained monk may leave the order at any time he chooses simply by informing the abbot at his temple. A monk in Thailand is treated with great respect, and the institution itself is highly revered and sanctioned by the government. The government encourages businesses to give time off to their employees who may want to be a monk for a short time and provide pay leave, which is a tax deduction for the business. Others may make it a lifelong vocation.
I was invited to a Monk Ordination Ceremony by a good friend who was becoming a monk for 3 weeks. I was able to take both video and photos of the entire event which is in two main parts, the head shaving ceremony and the main ordination event.
The Shaving ceremony takes place the day prior to the ordination date and begins by family and friends each taking a piece of hair using special scissors. Then the monk leading the ceremony shaves the heads of the supplicants. When the heads are completely shaved (including their eyebrows) then an orange herb is applied the supplicants bodies.
The day of the ceremony begins with the supplicant dressing in an ornate robe and having a special breakfast with the closest of family members. Then the supplicants don white robes and walk three times around the temple, leading the ordination participants. Following the third time around the Temple the supplicant toss good luck coins the attendees. The ceremony begins with the supplicants in the white robes and mid way through the ceremony the robes are changed to the traditional orange robes of the Monk and they are given their alms bowls. The Alms Bowls are special for once the supplicant becomes a monk they will use the bowls every morning to gather gifts of food for the temple.
Last night was the Navarathiri Festival celebrated by Hindus in Bangkok and there was thousands of people. Bangkok shuts down a big part of Bangkok (see map below) for the festival and there are many things to see. The festival is a Hindu Ganesha procession with Hindu rites that precede the dramatic Uma procession, passing dozens of petal-carpeted shrines around Silom and Sathorn, with fevered rites, blessings, mediums and self-mortification.
The festival is an interesting event to experience and if you catch yourself in Bangkok in the fall time of the year I recommend you take a look in the area of the Indian Hindu Temple (Wat Khaek Silom) on Silom Road in the Heart of Bangkok. Quite an experience!
Gain a basic understanding of some of the historical culture leading to what is Thailand today. Click here to view a list of Articles about Thai Culture.
Bangkok's 9 Royal Temples
Bangkok Must Sees
Exploring Thailand's Nature
Islands of the Thai Gulf
Thailand's Royal Palaces
Thailand and World War 2
Explore Chiang Rai
Explore Chiang Mai