Sart Thai Day

September 2019

 

‘The word Sart, derived from the Pali language, means season and in particular autumn or fall. Sart Thai day is also referred to as Memorial Day. Sart Thai is a time to remember dead relatives with prayers, Buddhist rituals, and merit making on their behalf’. This is my story of our morning in the village to celebrate this event.

In addition, September crops (including rice) in Thailand are beginning to ripen. As such it marks the start of the harvest (not the end). From a traditional point of view people believed that the first harvest of crops should be offered to the spirits. This was thought to ensure that the harvest would be bountiful and they would avoid starvation.

One of they traditions is the preparation of a sweet dessert called “Krayasart” or “food for the Sart rite”.  This dessert consists of rice, beans, peanuts, coconut, sesame, and sugar. Lay people would bring “Krayasart” to the Temple to offer to the monks. After the offering, water was poured in dedication to dead ancestors in order to earn merit for them. People believed that the offering of “Krayasart” would mean that their ancestors would have food to eat and that the person would be blessed.

My thanks to Wat Tampa for these words above and you can find the original entry HERE. There is also an excellent and more detailed account of the day HERE and I have extracted this section form that blog, which also talks about the food aspect:

Other dishes that are commonly seen during the Sart rite differ across each part of Thailand. However, the basic ones must be made from rice. The major food is called “Krayasart” prepared from sticky rice, bean, sugar and sesame which is cooked into a paste and then wrapped in a banana leaf. Others are Kao Pong, Kanom La, Kanom Kong, Kanom D-sum, and Kanom Ba. The food is brought to the Buddhist temple to be offered to the monks. The rite being complete when libation water is poured as the monks chant the Dedication of the Transference of Merit to benefit all spirits, and the deceased relatives who are still in the realm of the living. It is believed that all the spirits should be given sufficient food and water, to fulfil their needs during their transition, and that the merit assists them to move toward favourable rebirth.

Stage 1 – Early morning feeding monks.

For me the day started early and we were at the temple without my usual kick-start coffee at 6:00 am. This is the new Buddha hall, which is getting a bit of use since it opened. This was early on so only a few people had arrived at this stage.

Pick the odd one out! I know it looks silly in a Thai moo ban (village) environment but I try to make an effort to show the locals that I am respecting their special occasion. Thankfully it’s a bit cooler nowdays as we come to the end of the ‘wet’ season.

Making contributions to the four monk begging bowls that have been laid out on this table. Flowers, sticky rice and milk.

Yuan and Gaun adding their offerings. The bowls fill up quickly so there are people who collect the contributions and takes them elsewhere to be sorted – see later photo.

A full house. Many of the ladies have dressed up in traditional sarong and fancy top but the rest are in neat casual.

The yai (grandmothers) at the front dressed in white. The new wall paintings have turned out well haven’t they.

Food, food and more food of course. All of this is served to the monks to pick from but the majority is returned to be eaten by the crowd after the blessing and when the monks have finished their selection.

A separate food sorting area. These are made up from the donations made at that table I showed you before. Sticky rice in the big pots.

A long chain of people delivers the food from the preparation area to the front where the monks are. This is all donated by villagers.

Passed hand to hand.

Gaun doing her bit.

This is the head monk. Happy to have a few things to nibble on for breakfast 🙂

The blessing taking place.

Spot the real monks merged into the backdrop.

As described in my introduction:

The rite being complete when libation water is poured as the monks chant the Dedication of the Transference of Merit to benefit all spirits, and the deceased relatives who are still in the realm of the living. 

Here the water is slowly poured into a container while the monks chant Buddhist scripts.

And then after the ceremony this water is poured onto plants returning it to the soil.

With the early morning stage over I head home for that coffee and croissants while Gaun goes to the family home to help prepare the banana leaf food parcels for the second stage of this ceremony!

Stage 2 – Feeding the ancestors.

The next three are Gaun’s photos. Back at the family home Bear and Yuan were putting together the food parcels. A lot of work goes into this whole ceremony.

They look beautiful don’t they. Lovely colours.

The banana leaves being folded and held together with tooth picks.

With food prepared mid-morning we headed back for the second half of this ceremony – feeding the ancestors. As always Thais travel in groups and rarly alone. Here from left to right, a neighbour, Bear (Gaun’s older sister), Yuan (her younger sister), and Gaun. All dressed up.

But wait….there’s more!

Plus one more neighbour who lives opposite the family home.

And this is her requested temple photo. I will have to get it printed for her.

Even though it’s only been a couple of hours since the monks had breakfast more food has made an appearance.

The ceremony took about an hour to do and I won’t add photos of that as it was a close duplicate to the early morning session (for an outsider anyway). Money was being donated and I am told it is to fund the building of steps into the wat, which from this photo you can see are definitely needed.

This is where the ancestors are fed. Some of the packages are hung in trees. These are collected later and distributed to spirits that may have missed out of getting a meal here because they are based at home or farms.

Yuan and Gaun.

Bear laying out her food parcels. The names of the spirits are called out while this is happening to alert them to the meal. If they aren’t around it is hoped that by calling out their names other spirits can pass on the word!

Gaun with her meal and pouring blessed water onto the ground.

Yuan. Note the cigerettes, which are lit as spirits don’t have lighters 🙂

This food is left but doesn’t go to waste. What the spirits don’t eat the local dogs will.

Collecting the food parcels to be handed out at home and farm.

A final requested group photo in front of the wat.

Stage 3 – At home.

Gaun delivering her food to family spirits that might be in the garden. She is constantly chatting to them telling them food is here and using their names.

I think this is a lovely tradition. It makes a real personal connection, as far as one can with deceased relatives. 

My mother and father were included but I am not sure how they will cope with the Isan food 🙂

And because it is unusual for us to get dressed up here are a couple of together photos to finish.

With the formal part over Gaun headed out to the farm to deliver the remaining food parcels to ancestors who might be out that way.

What a great involving way to start the day.

 

Thanks for reading.

Tony

4 Comments

  1. Adrian W Martin

    Thanks so much for the interesting cultural notes and excellent photos. I’m just about to forward this to friends here on the Gold coast.

    All the best.

    Adrian

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      And thank you for taking an interest.

      Reply
  2. Jim Busby

    Once again, you give us the behind the scenes meaning to another memorable ritual of the deeply religious Isan people (rent the anime movie COCO). I haven’t been back to North Carolina to visit my parents grave in 15 years. When I do go back, I am sure I will include some flowers, but whether or not my dad gets a cold Miller Beer and a hotdog, or my mom some lit cigarettes, we’ll have to see. Funny you talk about calling out their names, because on certain occasions I sort of talk to the photos I have of my folks to bring them up to speed on things, including my possible expiating (I’m sure that doesn’t go over well in the spirit world). You always wished you could have said, or done the right things when they were alive, but in some way you find peace in just talking to an old photograph to make yourself feel better. Thai people are not any different from us, except in the language. Our Memorial Day in the US is celebrated at the end of May (official start of summer), to pay tribute to the men and women who fought for our freedom. However, now most people just use it as an excuse to take a vacation, or have a cookout, since most wars happened too long ago for them to care much anymore.
    I like that you dress up for more serious events, but I have to say that tie looks so 70-80’s. Next time you’re in Udon Thani, upgrade to a thinner tie without the horizontal stripes. Maybe with some tiny cute Koalas, or kangaroos in true Aussie spirit.
    I’m really glad that you think you don’t have anything to write about anymore, and the blog is winding down . What I just read was just another small story in Isan, with a nice background into a more revered celebration to past relatives. Funny that America has all sorts of celebrations from National Hotdog Day, or Pizza Day, etc., but no celebration honoring our past relatives. We sort of have to do that on our own, which I try in my own small way, just as I am sure you do for your mum. Well now that you aren’t writing anymore, I can stop checking in on your website, and get back to drinking beer and cursing at our current administration’s actions.

    P.S. With the recent passing of Easy Rider famed actor Peter Fonda, Duk Dik makes a nice substitute don’t you think? His WSD title is not in jeopardy either with the new pup!

    P.P.S. You used to say Bear was shy and you never really had but a handful of photos of her, and Tham. Here she’s in a lot of photos looking quite comfortable with you taking her photo, maybe with the others. Good job.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Thank you Jim. It’s good to hear that your folk still have a place in your life. My parents were both cremated and we gave their ashes to the sea just before I came to Thailand, so I don’t have a focus point for chatting to them even if I was in the country. I can only think that wherever they are they will be delighted to see how things have worked out for me.

      I will take your advice on my dress sense to heart and see what else I can dig out for the next event, either the end of Buddhist Lent in October, which is huge here, or a Thai friend (the lady we bought our original block of land from) daughter’s wedding in November, which will also be big. No expense will be spared as the groom and his family is paying 🙂 There will be a live band if you can make it over with or without tie.

      As you can tell I am having a bit of a writing burst, even though some of the stories are ancient, so get out of the pool and drink your beer on dry ground. You motivated me to continue to entertain my regular readers. If you see the comments they are mostly from the same loyal band. I get lots of drop-in readers but they are generally so lazy that even clicking on a ‘like’ button is too much to hope.

      ERDD – Easy Rider Duk Dik! A more flattering image than the world’s scruffiest dog.

      You are right in that Bear has changed a lot. She never acknowledged me to start with, not through unfriendliness but just she was shy. Nowadays, while she will never be as open as say Yuan, she has improved a lot. Last night she came over to thank me for the temple shirt (blouse I believe is the technical expression) we bought for her in Udon Thani. That would never have happened in the past. Her husband Tham was equally shy back in the day and he got a friend and neighbour to propose to Bear rather than ask her himself. Such a lovely insight.

      Thanks as always Jim.

      Tony

      Reply

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