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Since October 01, 2007

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Temples , boat races mark end of Lent

Crowds flocked to local temples across the country yesterday morning to give alms to mark the end of Lent (Ork Phansa).

Fine early morning weather drew throngs of believers and their families to visit the monks and hear chants of Buddhist dharmma.

Boats gather at the Houng River in Xayaboury province in a competition for the best decorated craft. The province has organised more activities for its Boat Racing Festival this year to make it a more colourful event like those held in other towns around the country. --Photo Ounkam

The annual festival serves as a reminder to farmers that the rainy season is over for another year, so they can begin harvesting and preparing their soil for the next planting season.

The end of Lent allows monks to leave their temples overnight to visit relatives after three months of immersing themselves in Buddhist teachings. According to tradition, during Lent monks are not allowed to travel so they don't accidentally step on insects or damage villagers' rice paddy walls.

From dawn until 9am the temples were packed with devotees, with young and old arriving in traditional dress to give alms and baskets of offerings. Some parents brought their youngsters along to share in the Buddhist ritual, so they could learn about living in peace.

After sunset crowds lined the banks of the Mekong to watch the traditional ritual of layheuafai, when brightly lit boats made by villagers and monks are set adrift to glow in the evening darkness.

Many people placed their own small banana leaf boats adorned with flickering candles on the water, to pay homage to the mighty river.

Processions also took place at temples featuring model boats made from bamboo and decorated with flaming candles.

Today, villagers living near the Mekong will prepare meals for their relatives and friends, who will come from other districts to watch the boat races and cheer on their team.

Of this year's 26 finalists, there are 14 traditional boats in the men's division, six traditional boats in the women's division, and six sports boats.

The winning teams in the men's and women's traditional and sport boat races will each receive a 1kg silver cup and 6 million kip.

The runners-up in these categories will each receive a 750g silver cup and 5 million kip.

The third place teams will receive a 500g silver cup and 4 million kip, and fourth place will win 4 million kip.

Apart from cheering on the row ers, spectators can wander through the street fair, snack at restaurants and visit stalls set up by various organisations, companies and government agencies promoting campaigns for environmental conservation, health related issues and other topics.

The last day of the Vientiane Boat Racing Festival gives everyone a chance to buy goods at discounted prices.

A Vientiane Times correspondent in Champassak province reported fine weather drawing many people to take part in the local festivities, particularly the longstanding tradition of the lantern procession.

The spectacular events in Champassak along with a street fair brought an enjoyable atmosphere to the riverbank as more than 60 boats from throughout the province drew spectators to cheer on their efforts to win a trophy from the Prime Minister and 10 million kip.

On Saturday the province organised a procession of beautiful ladies leading the boats, while on Sunday at 6pm thousands of people and 200 monks took part in a haekhomfai procession around Pakxe district.

Savannakhet and Xayaboury provinces are also holding boat races. This year the Boat Racing Committee in Xayaboury organised many traditional activities to raise the annual festival up to the national level, and this year attracted 15 women's traditional boats and 18 for men.


By Phonesavanh Sangsomboun
(Latest Update October 5 , 2009)

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