Thailand is the home of many Buddhists as you can see from the many temples throughout our country. You will also see the Buddhist monks walking along the road sometimes, especially early in the morning. This is normal because they are performing “Tak Bat” for the people as it is very important to their culture. This alms-giving ceremony is also performed in many other Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
What is Tak Bat? Alms Giving Ceremony
“Tak Bat” is the almsgiving ceremony or morning alms ritual performed by monks for hundreds of years for spiritual redemption and is a symbiotic relationship between the monks and the Buddhist people.
Each day, early in the morning between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., the monks will leave the temple and walk the streets and roads to meet the people who are “alms-givers”. Each monk carries a large alms bowl attached to a strap that is over his shoulder. This bowl is used to accept anything from the people, as a monk is unable to “take” from anyone.
The alms-givers will sit, kneel, or stand in front of the monk at the side of the street while the monk comes to accept the gifts. The alms givers will place their items into the monk’s bowl and pray while the monk gives a blessing to that person.
The monk will sometimes have an assistant that helps collect alms. The monk will then move along the street to the next person and continue until all of the alms-givers are gone. They will bring the food back to the temple to share with the other monks and the underprivileged.
The act of giving to the monks is called “making merit”, which can be done in various ways in Buddhism, but “Tak Bat” is the most common. At temples, Buddhists can also release birds from cages to make merit. They may also take fish or turtles from the market and release them back into the river at the temple or a park where people cannot fish, so they will live free again.
Many times, Thai people will donate money or materials for the repair or building of a temple or monastery. Many people will also donate blood regularly at the hospital to make merit.
What do you offer to the monks?
You can give many different things for tak bat. Usually, it will be cooked food, cooked rice, sticky rice, bottles of water or milk, dry noodles or other instant food, and fruits. We also give flowers like a lotus but must be a group of three, a bunch of orchids, or little flower wreaths that Thai people make at markets or on the street.
Joining the Tak Bat Alms-Giving Ceremony
You are free to participate with the proper intentions, even if you are a non-Buddhist. It is always nice to receive a blessing.
- Wake up early (5:00 a.m.) and get an offering, or the night before if dried goods.
- After you have your offering, wait patiently until the current alms giver has received their blessing.
- Line up in the direction the monk was or is traveling.
- Hold your offering in clear sight for the monk or his assistant to see.
- You can politely ask “Nee Mon” to the monk.
- Place your offering in his alms bowl.
- Bow your head.
- Receive your blessing.
What to do during tak bat: Dos and Don’ts Respectfully
- If you see a monk performing their duties, please try not to interrupt them or try to make contact with the monk during the ceremony.
- Here are a few rules to be respectful of regarding Buddhist traditions:
- Do not disrespect the monk or the Buddhist people by speaking loudly or standing too close while you are waiting your turn,
- If you are going to make an offering, please wear clothes that cover your body to show respect.
- If you want to take a picture, take it from a far enough distance and do not use a flash. It breaks the monks’ concentration, detracts, and is disrespectful.
- Do not touch the monks. Please do NOT try to shake their hand or hug them.
When do you tak bat?
This religious ceremony is a daily ritual, but there are special events that can happen when the town or a business invites the monks. During these events, the monks will sit, side by side, in front of the people and perform a blessing. Holidays and festivals mark special days when you may see many monks performing this fascinating ceremony. Below are special days that many Thai will get up very early and go to give alms or make merit.
On these more special days, you may see hundreds of monks leaving their temples, wearing their bright saffron or other colored robes, barefooted, and performing this silent ritual.
- Tak Bat Devo is an annual Buddhist festival celebrated after Wan Ok Phansa, the first day of the 11th waning moon, normally between October and November. A celebration of Buddha’s return to Earth after delivering a sermon in heaven to his dead mother.
- Vesak (Buddha day) (in Thailand, Visakha Bucha day)
- Magha Puja day (in Thailand, Makha Bucha day)
- Asalha Puja day (in Thailand, Asanha Bucha day)
- Thailand Mother’s day
- Thailand Father’s day
- Thailand New Year (Songkran)
Seeing monks performing “Tak Bat” is a common sight in Thailand. I like to make merit and receive blessings. Next time you come to Thailand and see the monks with their alms bowls, you will understand “Tak Bat”!
Where is Tak Bat Devo Ceremony held in Thailand?
This ceremony is held in many Buddhist temples throughout Thailand. Some of the notable ones are below.
- Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai
- Wat Phra Phutthabat located in Saraburi
- Wat Khao Di Salak in Suphan Buri
- Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri in Uthai Thani
At many of these locations, during the “Tak Bat Devo” ceremony, you will see hundreds of monks file past in the procession. These are great places to observe “Tak Bat” on a grand scale. Festivals and cultural events such as these are a great spectacle to witness and participate in. When making your travel plans, make sure to check the Thailand festival and events calendar to see what is taking place during your trip to Thailand.
What is the Biggest & Best Event to see “Tak Bat”?
If you want to see the largest assembly of monks 10,000 of them and thousands of almsgivers assemble from time to time in Thailand. Normally, a large area in the location of the event is blocked off and prepared for the almsgivers to give alms and the monks to receive alms in this exciting ritual (the most recent one was in Korat in 2020).
This is, in my opinion, a good time to see or participate in an extremely important Thai cultural event. Thousands of monks will be bused in from other provinces. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Thailand during one of these special times, it is something to consider seeing. Here are a few tips for attending this almsgiving event.
- Get there the day before to purchase your alms, for this event I recommend buying dried or packaged goods.
- Try and book a hotel near the event.
- Get up early to prepare as there will be thousands attending the event.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you will need to take off your shoes during the alms-giving or be barefoot.
- Bring a sweater or something small to keep warm it can be cold in the morning depending on the location.
- Don’t be surprised to see young boys in the procession. These are called little monks or samanera these are novice male monastics.
- Be respectful to the monks and the almsgivers at all times and try not to speak loudly it can disrupt the ritual.
- Take lots of pictures and videos!
How to pronounce “Tak Bat”?
The easiest way I have found to teach English speakers to pronounce “Tak Bat” is Tuk or tuck short sound and bought or baht, as in the name of Thai currency.
♥♥♥ Namfon ♥♥♥