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Atthami Bucha Day in Thailand

A lesser-known Buddhist holiday in Thailand during the month of May is Atthami Bucha Day (วันอัฏฐมีบูชา), which occurs a week after the more celebrated Visakha Bucha Day.

The term “Atthami” means “eighth day of the lunar month” and “Bucha” means “to honor or pay homage.” The day falls on the eighth day of the waning moon in the sixth month of the Thai lunar calendar. This year (2024) Atthami Bucha Day falls on May 30th, Visakha Bucha Day having been celebrated on May 22nd.

Atthami Bucha Day in Thailand marks the occasion of the Buddha’s cremation. According to Buddhist history, after attaining Parinirvana (final nirvana) at the age of 80, the Buddha’s body was laid in state for a week, allowing his followers to pay their respects. On the eighth day, his body was cremated in a grand ceremony.

Legend has it that the Buddha’s funeral pyre (made of sandalwood) spontaneously ignited, which followers interpreted as divine confirmation of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the truth of his teachings.

The spontaneous cremation fire also represents the ultimate purity and enlightenment of the Buddha, who had transcended the cycle of birth and death, and it serves as a poignant reminder of the Buddhist teaching on impermanence.

Atthami Bucha Day is a significant day for Buddhists because it symbolizes the end of the Buddha’s physical presence and the continuation of his teachings. The Buddha’s teachings, or Dharma, are seen as his enduring legacy, guiding Buddhists throughout Thailand even after his death.

However, there are not many special events on Atthami Bucha Day, other than quiet merit making ceremonies at Thai temples throughout the Kingdom.

The two most notable events occur at Wat Borommathat Thung Yang (วัดบรมธาตุทุ่งยั้ง), in Uttaradit Province, and Wat Mai Sukontharam (วัดใหม่สุคนธาราม), in Nakhon Pathom Province.

At Wat Borommathat Thung Yang, they celebrate Atthami Bucha Day by holding a mock cremation ceremony that is preceded by a beautiful light and sound show that signifies the Buddha’s final attainment of Nirvana.

Wat Mai Sukontharam celebrates this holy day with a processions of merit offerings, as well as the firing of rockets and fireworks. A mock cremation ceremony also is held at the end of the event.

Coincidentally, Atthami Bucha Day falls this year on the same day (May 30th) that Thais honor the 83rd anniversary of death of King Rama VII (Prajadhipok), who like King Bhumibol the Great, was steadfast in his commitment to upholding the “10 Virtues of a Thai King” (ทศพิธราชธรรม).

David Alan