One of the most important religious holidays along with Makha Bucha in many Buddhist countries, Visakha Bucha (pronounced Wisakha Bucha in Thailand) celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha, which according to the Theravada Buddhist traditions, all took place on the same day of the year: On the full moon of the Indian lunar month of Wisaka.
The sixth lunar month, usually falls in May, or beginning of June. This year, it was on the 4th of June in Chiang Mai.
In most Buddhist countries, including Thailand, it is an official public holiday. Like many Buddhist holidays, pubs and bars are also closed and no alcohol is served anywhere during the whole day.
On this day, devotees, usually dressed in white, visit temples, bring offerings, meditate and listen to sermons. In the evenings there is often a candlelit procession, and the devotees walk around the main Chedi (stupa) of the temple three times, celebrating the triple jewel of Buddhism – the Buddha, his teaching (Dhamma), and the monkhood (Sangha).
In Chiang Mai, a pilgrimage is also held at night, up Doi Suthep, the local mountain towering over the city. It is believed that anyone who accomplishes the pilgrimage and does the wien tiane (walking around the chedi) for three rounds on Wisakha Bucha day, will receive the results of making merit: virtue, luck, and prosperity.
Here are a few shots I took in Wat Pan Tao, one of my favorite temples in the old city. In the evening, young monks place candles all around a pond and meditate while Buddhist chants echo in the background.
Enjoy. (click on the images for a bigger photo)