WATCH: Giant Wax Candles, Grasshopper Eating and Buddhism: Thailand’s Khao Phansa Festival

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Reporter: Manisa PhongPhort for Borderless News Online

Candles make up an important part of merit making in Thai Buddhism, and are included in many Buddhist celebrations here. The most famous candle festival is here in the city of Ubon Ratchatani, in the Issan region, which is Thailand’s heart land.

Here you can see the Parade of Giant wax candles, which signify the Buddhist festival that kicks off the rainy season, which we call “Khao Phansa”. This also marks the start of a three month period, when monks retreat to their temples, to study and meditate.

Since ancient times, the Buddha has told monks not to go out and ask for food donations during the rainy season, because monks would walk on the rice fields and destroy them. So for these three months, monks are confined to their temple grounds and dedicate their time to study, meditation, and prayer.

Originally, a bundle of small candles was presented to the monks to use during this period. Over time, people started to carve the candles into beautiful shapes. Eventually, the candle festival was born — the wax sculpture competition where artists from all over the village display their works and find the most beautiful candle.

The candle competition features two categories, which are based on the type of decoration — beeswax candles carved on the surface, and candles with molded beeswax attached.

You can see that the festival also includes a light and sound presentation, cultural shows, and displays of local isan handcrafts and sculptures.

One positive thing about this festival is people use these three months to improve themselves, such as avoiding bad things like lying. Some people decide to give up drinking, so they can be more sober-minded and peaceful.

Being peaceful is at the heart of being a Buddhist.

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