Must See Lunar Festival at Laos Landmark
Every year during the full moon in November, people come to Vientiane from all over Laos to join in the country’s most important Buddhist celebration, the That Luang Festival. Lasting from three to seven days, this lively lunar festival draws thousands of monks, pilgrims and tourists to enjoy the many activities and celebratory ceremonies at the sacred golden monument, That Luang Stupa (Pha That Luang).
Pha That Luang, originally a Hindu temple, is thought to date back to the 3rd century. When the Lane Xang emperor, King Setthathirat, moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in the middle of the 16th century, That Luang became the nation’s most important monument, and is the national symbol of Laos to this day. While traveling in Laos, your travelers will come across the iconic image of this grand stupa nearly every day as its image is printed on Lao currency notes called kip.
The stupa structure, about 45 meters tall and radiantly adorned in gold leaf, is the center of the hustle and bustle of the That Luang Festival. The festivities begin with processions with the phasat pheung, large candle figurines that are crafted from banana trunks and decorated with flowers made of wax. The candle “castles” are carried around the grand stupa three times before being offered to the shrine in order to worship the gods. Various additional activities such as the tee khee, a traditional hockey game (like polo without the horses) between government officials and local villagers, are held during the festival.
At an early hour, the last day of the festival begins with the tak baat, offering alms to the monks. People crowd inside and all around the outside of the stupa to follow the monk’s prayers. Following this offering ceremony, family members gather together at the local food stalls to eat khao poun, the national rice noodle soup and tom kai, chicken soup. In the evening the festival ends under the full moon, when Buddhist pilgrims and visitors gather around Pha That Luang for one last candlelight procession.
Next year in November 2016 will mark the 450th anniversary of the That Luang Festival! This will be a “must see event” in Laos and motivate many travelers to visit Vientiane to witness this significant milestone event. For more information about what to do in Laos and for bookings to this colorful religious event or other tour opportunities in Laos, please contact to [email protected]