The Kathina Festival

The Kathina Festival is a major observance of Theravada Buddhism. It is the time for people to offer flowers and new robes for monks as well as pray for good weather and happiness. This year, the festival held at the Khmer Pagoda at the Culture-Tourism Village of Vietnamese ethnic groups in Dong Mo, Hanoi attracted a large number of Buddhist followers nationwide.

According to the Khmer culture, each pagoda will organise the largest alms-giving ceremony of the Buddhist year during four weeks at the end of the Vassa, or monsoon, period, in October and November. During the Vassa period, Buddhist monks will have remained in one place for three months, and the Kathina celebration marks the time for them to move on. The festival also celebrates the offerings of cloth that are given to the monks.

This year, the festival attracted the attendance of not only Khmer Buddhist followers in the South but also Buddhist followers from the northern provinces of Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Nam Dinh.

The exact procedure varies a bit, but usually on the designated day people begin to take their donations to the temple early in the morning. In mid-morning there is a large community meal, with monks eating first, then laypeople. After this meal, Buddhist followers parade three times around with a procession of cloth and other offerings such as flowers and medicine before the main rite is held in the chamber. During the rite, a monk will talk about the significance and meaning of the festival and wish every family happiness. Traditionally, monks with unusually shabby robes are given priority, and after that the robes are designated according to seniority.

Once the cloth is accepted, the monks begin cutting and sewing at once. Sewing of the robes should be completed that day. When the robes are sewn, usually in the evening, the new robes are ceremonially given to the monks designated to receive them.

The Kathina Festival is held at the Culture-Tourism Village of Vietnamese ethnic groups in Dong Mo, Hanoi.
It is an important festival of Theravada Buddhism.
Buddhist followers in their most beautiful costumes gather at the pagoda
to congratulate monks who spent three months in the pagoda during the Vassa.

Buddhist followers congratulate monks who completed the Vassa period.

During the festival, Buddhist followers offer monks cloth and other gifts.

The rite of offering cloth is held at a pagoda.

Offerings are blessed at the pagoda, not given directly to monks.

A tray of vegetarian food is offered to the pagoda during the festival.

Buddhist followers bring offerings and cloth to the pagoda.

In the belief of Theravada Buddhism followers, the rite will give them luck and happiness.

The cloth-offering rite is held at the pagoda’s chamber.

Buddhist followers gather in the pagoda’s chamber with their offerings.

The Kathina Festival provides a chance for Buddhist followers to show their gratitude to monks.

The most beautiful flowers are offered to the Buddha during the festival.

Monks bless for Buddhist followers.

After the main rite, monks will move on to ask for food as is the tradition.

For the Khmer people, the Kathina Festival is a great community event.

The cloth-ceremony is expected to give luck and happiness to Theravada Buddhism followers.

Sharing the meaning of the Buddhist monks’ robe, Most Venerable Thich Gia Quang, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha Executive Council said, “The Kathina Festival of Theravada Buddhism presents fully the significance of the Buddhist rite. The Buddhist followers offer robes to monks which means they will receive a lot of luck.

Participating in the festival, Buddhist followers from the North learnt more about Theravada Buddhismin the South. The festival not only helped preserve fine traditions and values of Buddhism but also helped make Buddhist followers in Vietnam become more close and friendly.

Story: Thuc Hien – Photos: Viet Cuong