Magha Puja Day is one of the most important Buddhist celebrations which falls on the full moon day of the third lunar month (about the last week of February or early March).
This day marks the great four events that took place during Lord Buddha’s lifetime, namely;
- 1250 Buddhist monks from different places came to pay homage to Lord Buddha at Veluwan Vihara in Rajgaha, the capital of Magaha State, each on his own initiative and without prior notification or appointment.
- all of them were the enlightened monks (or Arahantas)
- all of them had been individually ordained by Lord Buddha himself (Ehi Bhikkhu), and
- They assembled on the full moon day of the third lunar month.
On the evening of that day, Lord Buddha gave the assembly a discourse “Ovadha Patimokha” laying down the principles of His Teachings summarised into three acts, i.e. to do good, to abstain from bad action and to purify the mind.
If was unclear as to when the Magha Puja Ceremony took place. However, in a guide book of ceremonies for the twelve months written by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), it is said that, “..In the past, the Magha Puja was never performed, the ceremony has just been practised during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV)…” Having realized the significance of this day, King Rama IV ordered the royal Magh Puja Ceremony to beperformed in the Emerald Buddha Temple in 1851 and to be continued forever. Later the ceremony was widely accepted and performed throughout the kingdom. The day is declared as a public holiday so that people from all walks of life can go to the temple to make merit and perform other religious activities in the morning and to take part in the candlelit procession or “Wien Tien” in Thai in the evening.
At the same time, at this auspicious time, His Majesty the King will preside over the religious rites to mark the occasion at the Emerald Buddha Temple and will later lead hundreds of people in a candlelit procession held within the temple’s compound.
In fact, the candlelit procession can be held at any time suitable to the public’s convenience, either in the morning or in the evening. However, in Bangkok it will usuallly take place in the evening at about 8.00 pm and the procession will be led by Buddhist monks.
In general, most Buddhaists are not aware of the significance of this day. As a result, a number of people taking part in the ceremony may be less than on other days such as Visakha Puja or Asanha Puja Days. Even so Magha Puja Day carries an equal meaning to all Buddhists.