Wax castle procession: a thriving Lao tradition

Published on November 5, 2014

Introduction: Thousands of people in Vientiane, bearing colourfully decorated castle-like structures adorned with yellow wax petals, gathered on Wednesday the 5th of November at That Luang stupa for the annual procession, a colourful and joyous event that is typical of Lao customs. Thousands turn out for wax castle procession which is one of the highlights of the annual That Luang Festival.

Story: November 5th the people hold the annual wax castle procession and traditional ceremony, which commences at 2:00pm. There will be about 448 teams from the villages of the nine districts of the capital taking part in the procession.

The procession starts at Vat Simeuang temple at 1pm, and at 2 pm will move on to That Luang stupa.

The parade led by monks and government officials, and everyone will be elegantly dressed in their traditional finery, topped off with gleaming silk sashes. There will also be musicians dressed in various ethnic costumes, who will play as people dance and sing folk songs.

Upon reaching the stupa, the procession was slowly circumnavigate around it three times in a clockwise direction, led by monks from Vat That Luang chanting ancient Pali verses.
Following this, they placed the wax castles at the stupa and light candles and incense to ask for blessings from the Buddha.

Wax castles are a longstanding Lao tradition, and taking one to the stupa on this occasion is believed to bring considerable merit.

They are considered a very worthy offering to Buddha. According to legend, a monkey once offered honey to Buddha, and was reborn as a human. This is symbolised in the use of honey in the wax petals that are attached to the handmade structures. The procession also represents solidarity among communities, as people from all walks of life come together to pay homage to the stupa.

The wax castles are made of diverse materials such as banana stems, flowers, kip notes, books, pens, pencils, incense, and toothpaste.

Vientiane residents bring their wax castles to the That Luang stupa in homage each year because they believe the stupa contains a relic of the Buddha. Placing castles at the stupa on this occasion is believed to bring considerable merit as they are considered a very worthy offering to Buddha.

In the past, most people spent a lot a time carefully making their castles by hand. Some still do so, but busy professionals are increasingly buying ready-made castles.

This tradition is popular with people of all ages and every year increasing numbers of young people take part in the festivities.

According to legend, a monkey once offered honey to Buddha, and was reborn as a human. This is symbolised in the use of honey in the yellow wax flowers that are attached to the handmade structures.

The procession also represents solidarity among communities, as people from all backgrounds come together to pay homage to the stupa. Groups from across the country aimed to bring at least one wax castle in homage, as they believe the stupa contains a relic of the Buddha.

Source: Lao National Television News in English
Broadcast on November 05, 2014