Awk Phansa marks the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent period and the traditional end of the rainy season. The final day of the Buddhist Lent period falls on the full-moon day of the eleventh lunar moon and is known in most parts of Thailand as Awk Phansa, although there are some regional variations. According to Buddhist belief, the day commemorates when Buddha descended back to earth after spending three months in heaven where he had visited his mother. His return was greeted by his followers with gifts of food and today Thai Buddhists mark the event by visiting the wat and making merit. Different regions have their own way of marking the occasion, but it’s common at this time of year to see organised long-boat races.
Buddhist Lent is often referred to as the Rains Retreat and is the three month period during the rainy season where most Buddhist monks remain at a single monastery rather than travel around. The Rains Retreat begins on Khao Phansa Day (usually in July) and finishes 3 months later on Awk Phansa Day. The Rains Retreat is a popular time for young Thai men to be ordained as a Buddhist monk. Most Thai men will become a monk at some stage of their life, even if it’s just for a short period of a few weeks or a few months.
Robes Offering (Thod Kathin)
For a one-month period from the end of the Rains Retreat, new robes and offerings are made to the monkhood as part of a ceremony known as ‘thod kathin.’ Throughout Thailand various thod kathin events and festivities are arranged whilst in Bangkok there is a royal ceremony usually held at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).