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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Waters Refreshed, Wishes Released: Retreating Rain As Laos Lights Up

This Week

Rain has made way for blue skies as annual festivities and devotions inside and outside the nation’s temples and on water for the finale of the annual Vassa (Buddhist Lent) brought the light and colour to both day & night in Laos again this week.

Ancient, atmospheric Luang Prabang saw its colourful annual procession captured by professional photographers and keen amateurs snappers alike.

In Vientiane, the focal point for the night was downtown temple Vat Ong Tue. Focus quickly moved to the annual boat racing festivities that provide a crescendo to the nation’s annual wet season.

Imperfectly analogous to Lent in the Christian faith (which it predates by at least half a millennia), Vassa is a three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada Buddhist practitioners who form a majority in Laos and many more beyond.

Taking place during the wet season, Vassa lasts for three lunar months.

For the duration of Vassa, monastics remain in one place, typically a monastery or temple grounds.

In some monasteries, monks dedicate their Vassa to intensive meditation while many but far from all Buddhist lay people choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking.

Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting the number of vassas (or rains) since ordination.

Celebrations in Vassa in Laos included lighted sculptures and traditional boat races with 55+ member and 22 member crews in the capital.

Victorious in the men’s traditional boat race in the capital was the Nam Khan Resort crew, leaving the aspirations of the Noy-Itthilit crew, sponsored by the Joint Development Bank, in their wake and denying a third successive victory.

The modified boat race category for smaller crews was won by the Xangphet Company (Elephant Diamond) boat crew from Luang Prabang.


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