// Part 4 of 8 //
It is the most important Buddhist celebration in Laos. It’s held in That Luang temple during the full moon of the twelfth month of the Buddhist calendar and gathers thousands of people from all the provinces.
The pilgrims assemble at dawn as early as 5:00 AM- to distribute alms to the hundreds of monks who converge from around the country.
Long before reaching the temple, we had an idea of the situation inside…the crowd had taken over the street leading to the stupa and we could distinguish :
⁃ the devotees seated on plastic mats, entire families, old and young in their best attires, their offerings proudly in front of them.
⁃ the monks standing pragmatically behind the tables “entrusted “ with their offering bowls which would soon be replenished thanks to the passersby’s generosity. Some of them contained paper money, a symbol of prosperity.
⁃ the offering stands where one has the choice to buy flowers (mostly orange), food (rice, dried fish, water bottles) and even birds which will certainly rejoice at being set free.
With a central structure’s height of 45m, That Luang is the biggest and most famous stupa in Laos. Considered a national symbol, it was built in 1566 by the king Setthathirah and has relics of the Buddha. We got in through one of the 4 cardinal doors and tried to find a way between the faithful seated on the floor. We might’ve been the only tourists, however our presence didn’t affect the religious fervor of the moment. The seated crowd was oblivious to our presence and intent on listening to the sermon and ignoring our intrusion.
After the speech, the monks took their places in a stationary row while the faithful started a parallel moving queue.
And this is how the offerings bought outside were moved from one row to the other one.
Following this finale, we moved outside the temple, our senses satiated by the kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and smells and eager to start the visit of the capital.