Long queues formed on Saturday morning as people waited to give alms to 99 monks who gathered in the capital for the consecration ceremony of the Vientiane City Pillar Shrine.

Vice President Bounnhang Vorachit and Vientiane Mayor Soukanh Mahalath were among those present at the almgiving, which was the final event of the three-day ceremony.

Also in attendance was the Honorable President of the Vientiane City Pillar Shrine Construction Project and Former Prime Minister, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh, and President of the Vientiane City Pillar Shrine Construction Committee and Former Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Mounkeo Oraboun.

The almsgiving ceremony began at about 6am, with crowds of devotees holding silver bowls full of offerings for the monks in an act of homage to the Vientiane City Pillar Shrine.

The bowls contained kip notes, sweets, fruit, flowers, candles, sticky rice and other food items.

Devotees had to wait quite some time to give their offerings, with thousands of people gathering from before dawn to take part in the ceremony and forming a queue that stretched for more than 200 metres.
Ms Daosavanh Chittakhone, from Thongkhankham village in Chanthabouly district, said she arrived at the shrine at 7:15 am.
“I spent about 30 minutes queuing up to give alms to the monks,” she said.

Another devotee, Mr Sitthideth Keokhamhak of Phonpapao Thong village in Xaysettha district, told Vientiane Times he queued for about 20 minutes but was not able to reach the donation bowls that had been placed on rows of tables.

“I decided not to wait any longer but my two friends stayed and continued to wait.”

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos and most people visit temples regularly. Many also give food to monks on their morning alms round.

On special Buddhist days people offer food, candles, incense and flowers to the large Buddha statues set up in temples and donate money, in the hope it will bring them good fortune and prosperity .

Work on the city pillar shrine began in February 2010 and was completed last month. The construction costs of 15 billion kip were financed by the government and public donations.

The decision to build the shrine was taken after 193 pieces of stone were unearthed at the site on Setthathirath Road in 2007 and identified by experts as being part of the long buried city pillar that was erected in 1560. Subsequently, more stones were discovered in 2009 and 2010, bringing the total number to 473.

The original pillar was built during the reign of Chao Phothisarath, who ruled the Lane Xang Kingdom at that time. The king is renowned for his valiant deeds and his attempts to defend the kingdom against foreign invaders.

Source: Vientiane Times
November 19, 2012