With the end of the three-month Rains Retreat (about July to September), monks throughout the country are free to move from place to place and are eligible to receive new robes in an annual presentation ceremony called "Thot Kathin". Besides new robes, Buddhist literature, kitchen equipment, financial contributions and building materials e.g. nails, hand-saws and hammers etc. are also presented to monks on this occasion.
In fact, the word "Thot" means "making an offering to the monk" and the word "Kathin" literary means the "embroidery frame" used in sewing the yellow robes which, in those days, were collected from rags on dead bodies in the jungle since clothes were not available in plenty as nowadays. Buddhist people regard the "Thot Kathin" ceremony as the most significant form of merit-making next to the ordination of their close kin. Thus, once in their lifetime everybody is looking forward to having an opportunity to be the sponsor of a Kathin ceremony as it involves a lot of time, manpower and expense. Above all, an advance booking must be made with the temple, otherwise, the chance to be a sole sponsor of the Kathin may not be possible especially with the reputable temples. Nontheless, those who fail to be the sole sponsor of Kathin can also take part in the ceremony which, in this type, is known as "Kathin Samakki" or the "United Kathin".
Sometimes a Kathin group will travel for several hundred kilometers by bus, train, boat or even by plane to present the Kathin robes and other necessities to monks in remote temples or in other countries where Buddhist temples are established. People thus hold this merit-making festival not only for earning merit for themselves but also for enjoying a fun-filled holiday free from the daily hectic life full of stress and strain in the city. During the Thot Kathin period, it is very common to see Kathin processions traveling to and fro throughout the country. In fact, anybody can take part in the event through the simple method of enclosing a small amount of money in the white envelope given by friends or relatives.
story comes from "Essays on Thailand" by Thanapol
Chadchaidee. It is used here with his permission. The book contains
60 essays about Thailand written in Thai and English.