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Hor Khaosalark festival: preserving tradition with basket offerings

Yesterday morning, people nationwide enjoyed visiting their village temples to present bamboo baskets of offerings to monks and novices on the day of Boun Hor Khaosalark or Hor Khaosalark festival.

Baskets of offerings. --Photos Visith

But the turnout for the ancient tradition was down on last year's festival, falling this time around on a work day and with children going to school. Nevertheless, the celebration lost none of its significance.

A few days before the festival, devotees eagerly prepared their offerings, while others purchased items from vendors.

Families assembled the materials to make their food baskets and prepared other offerings to present to the monks and earn merit for their deceased relatives.

Their baskets contain many kinds of food but mainly consist of vegetables and cooking ingredients, such as salt, seasoning powder, fermented fish sauce, rice, dried or cooked meat and fish, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and other items.

They also include banknotes, fruit, sugarcane, milk, books, pens, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, candles, incense, flowers, and other basic needs.

While for most people bamboo is the traditional material, some chose to use plastic baskets out of convenience.

Boun means festival and Hor Khaosalark means baskets of food and offerings which monks have to share between each other via lucky draws.

People usually take bright basket offerings to temples for this festival because they want to dedicate them to their ancestors and it's a good way to gain more merit for themselves.

The number of baskets is not limited, purely depending on how many you want to offer.

Nowadays, they're easy to buy from vendors who put traditional and also modern items in the baskets with some made to order.

Before presenting the baskets to monks, devotees write their own names and those of the deceased people on paper and put it in each basket. Then monks will chant blessings while devotees pray to invite the departed to receive the offerings and dedicate merit to them.

Ms Many, a resident of Chanthabouly district, said she was very happy to present baskets to monks because she could gain merit and dedicate her offerings to the dead.

“Before giving alms, I presented many offerings to monks and my traditional baskets are made of bamboo,” she said.

“But today fewer people came to the temple than the last festival because it's on a weekday. If possible, people should try harder to take part in this festival in order to continue our fine traditions, or it should be recognised as a day off to allow more people to participate.”

Venerable Somsack Thoungthilath at the temple in Haisok village, Chanthabouly district, said Hor Khaosalark was a time when devotees presented baskets of offerings to monks to gain more merit and dedicate items to deceased people. It was also a time of lucky draws for monks and novices which reminds and teaches people about justice, he said.

“The lucky draws are believed to have started in Lord Buddha's lifetime when too many devotees wanted to give food baskets to him because he was their leader, but his followers got fewer baskets,” he explained.

“The Buddha found a way to share the baskets with his followers by drawing names in order to make it fair for all, and this fine tradition has been continued since that time.”

Hor Khaosalark is an important religious event being held about two weeks after Hor Khaopadapdin , (when people place packets of food and offerings on the ground to feed the deceased). Hor Khaosalark is held annually on the same day all over the country, on the 15th day of the full moon of the 10th month in the lunar calendar, usually falling in early to mid September. This year it fell on September 5.

It's also just one month before Boun Ok Phansa or the end of Buddhist Lent, which is followed by other events such as the boat racing festival the day after, so people eagerly count down to the end of Lent while awaiting the big celebrations.

As with other festivals, this day sees many engaged in religious activities, such as almsgiving in the morning, giving offerings during the day, and joining candlelit processions in the evening.




By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update September 6, 2017 )

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