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Tue 28 Mar 2017
Ceremony for the Dead
Written by National Culture Commission   
Tuesday, 20 February 2007 18:34

This ceremony is a religious service that is performed in sacred memory of the dead. It is really one of the important duties that needs to be done during the Songkran Festival. When a person died and was cremated, the ashes and charred bones were buried at the root of a sacred fig-tree in a temple. Such trees are to be found in the grounds of almost every temple. It is a symbol of the Lord Buddha's enlightenment for under such a tree did Buddha sit in meditation and receive his enlightenment. If a person is able to erect a Pra Chedi or pagoda in the temple, the ashes and bones are then deposited in it. In later times a portion of the bones was sometimes kept in the house in a receptacle.

The white string or what we called "sai sin" in Thai. You will that area for the ceremony is made sacred with this sai sin Around the outside wall are the places where the ashes of our dead ancestors are kept

On Songkran Day a religious service in sacred memory to the dead may be officiated by a monk or monks at the place where the ashes and the bones have been deposited, or as in some localities the people bring their dead bones to a village temple in company with others where a joint memorial service is performed. In some parts of the country the guardian spirits of the village and town receive also their annual offerings on Songkran Days. Obviously there are reminiscences or traces of ancestor and animistic worship in by-gone days.

My grandmum is replacing the old garlands there with some new and fresh ones for our relations. Inside the wall there is where we have the ashes of our relations. Anyway, they aren't all my relations!!! There are also someone else's too. After changing the garlands, we then pay our respect to our dead ancestors in front of their picture on the wall.

A couple of my relations are getting the monk's offerings ready while everyone is coming here. After that we then pay our respect to the Buddha images inside the bot while the monks are walking here.

Some of the monks are arriving already, the head monk for this ceremony is sitting near the sai sin. When all the monks are here, they start the ceremony with the first chanting.

After the first chanting has finished, we pass along the sai sin to nearly everyone there. Then at last after we passed it along, my dad picked it up and then went to put it back on a tray next to the monk.
The monks passed the sai sin to each other then they started to chant again, the second chanting. After the second chanting has finished, we are giving the offerings to all the monks. We are touching each other to have some merit from it. She is going to put the offerings on the cloth that is on the floor. This is because female people are not allowed to give something directly to the monk.

My dad is burning some pieces of paper that has all the names of our relations written on. The reason is to pass some of the merit to them. The head monk is getting ready for another round of chanting while my aunt is getting ready for "gruat nam". This is one way of many different ways to pass the merit to the ancertors.

They are doing "gruat nam" on to the ashes of the papers that my dad burned a minute ago. My aunt is praying to the monks after she has finished hers. While we are doing "gruat nam", the monks are giving us a final chanting for the ceremony before they leave.