Northern Thailand and morning alms, Travel Photo Mondays
The Buddhist ritual of the morning alms of monks happens all over Thailand. Rising early, along with locals paying their respects, the monks appear each morning on the main roads from the temple to collect food and other contributions from local people in the streets and offer blessings in exchange. This daily morning ritual has been a custom all over Thailand for a very long time with the monks walking barefoot and leaving their temples carrying empty alms bowls. The line up usually starts not with the eldest but the monk that has lived the longest time frame at the temple and this typically is the Abbott. Walking in a line, the monks come up to each participant who will be on their knees and placing in each bowl something that is ready to eat. Typically this can be rice, water, meats, curry or individually wrapped offerings they have made or purchased for the daily alms.
The process is a way of lay people showing respect to the monks and a way of merit and connecting with each monk. In return, the monk or the collective at the end of each collection will chant and give some type of blessing or prayer as a lesson to all the lay people present.
Witnessing and participating in this process was fascinating and beautiful. Not only was I immersed in the act offering daily sustenance but also connecting and exchanging something daily and culturally important to the Thai people and culture. From what I learned afterwards is that the monks take their food offerings back to the temples and shares it within their community and this sustains them for the two daily meals a day.
I alternated between standing and taking photographs and giving alms as a way of connecting and being part of this morning ritual. Afterwards, it was a fantastic opportunity to walk to the wat and through the grounds of the many temples at the wat. Freshly offered flowers and food were also put on display at various alters which made everything colorful and fresh to photograph, a perfect time to be present during the visit.
Visiting the temple grounds
It was nice that the alms ends directly at the local temple at Chiang Khan so it was easy to follow the monks in and explore on my own the various buildings of the temple grounds. While many of the buildings are open to the public this particular temple only had a few buildings open for the public to go and pay their respects to the Buddha. There where many statues and adornments to all the buildings to make this an interesting spot to focus on detail shots to each particular site.
A morning alms video at Chiang Khan
Some notes and observations
The time frame for morning alms ranges from 6:30 to 8:30 in each community so check ahead of time to find the correct times
Bring enough to offer to a group of monks and not just one monk
Bring something comfortable to kneel on and be barefoot or you can share if a lay person has brought a large blanket
You cannot touch a monk during this process only the bowl
The bowl is the only possession a monk will have personally
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