With the end of the 3-month Rains Retreat (about July to September), monks throughout the country are free to move from place to place and are eligible to receive new robes in an annual presentaion ceremomy called “Thot Kathin“. Besides new robes, Buddhist literature, kitchen equipment, financial contributions and building materials e.g. nails, hand-saws and hammers etc. are also presented to monks on this occasion.
In fact, the word “Thot” means “making an offering to the monk” and the word “Kathin” literary means the “embroidery frame” used in sewing the yellow robes which, in those days, were collected from rags on dead bodies in the jungle since clothes were not available in plenty as nowasignificant form of merit-making next to the ordination of their close kin. Thus, once in their lifetime everybody is looking forward to having an opportunity to be the sponsor of a Kathin ceremony as it involves a lot of time, manpower and expense. Above all, an advance booking must be made with the temple, otherwise, the chance to be a sole sponsor of the Kathin may not be possible especially with the reputable temples. Nontheless, those who fail to be the sole sponsor of Kathin can also take part in the ceremony which, in this type, is known as “Lathin Samakki” or the “United Kathin”.
Meanwhile, for the royal temples such as the Temple of Dawn or the Reclining Buddha Temple etc. The King or his representatives will be the sponsor of the ceremony, and usually His Majesty the King himself will present the royal Kathin robes to the Buddhist monks of Wat Po (The reclining Buddha Temple) and other leading temples in Bangkok especially the famed riverside Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn). On this special occasion, the king will take a journey on board the Royal Barge accompanied by a colourful fleet of escort barges along the Chao Phraya River from the Wasukri Royal landing stage to Wat Arun. The grand waterbone procession of the royal barges is the most beautiful event and visitors to Thailand should not miss aa chance to take a glimpse which will remind them of Thailand forever.
Sometimes a Kathin group will travel for several hundred kilometers by bus, train, boat or even by plane to present the Kathin robes and other necessities to monks in remote temples or in other countries where Buddhist temples are established. People thus hold this merit-making festival not only for earning merit for themselves but also for enjoying a fun-filled holiday free from the daily hectic life full of stress and strain in the city. During the Thot Kathin period, it is very common to see Kathin processions traveling to and fro throughout the country. In fact, anybody can take part in the event through the simple method of enclosing a small amount of money in the white envelope given by friends or relatives.
It is to be noted that Kathin and Pha-pa (or the Forest Robe or a robe left for the monks to take as a discarded cloth) are totally differentr from one another, in other words, while the Kathin ceremony can be performed only once a year and only after the end of the Rains Retreat, the Pha-pa ceremony can be performed all the year round and at any time suitable. In addition, while each temple is allowed to accept the Kathin robes only one time in a year, the Pha-pa robe can be presented to monks as often as possible. Evidently, the Pha-pa ceremony is less significant than the Kathin ceremony which requires greater preparation. Thus, the Kathin is treated as one of the most significant religious events and can take part from the king to the poor people in rural areas.