In the wat, children learn the rules and expectations of Buddhism that will guide them through their life. Children also come to the wat for education, since elementary schools are built on the grounds of the wat. In school, the monks teach the religion as well as important subjects like reading, writing, and math. The village wat usually has a large meeting hall for members of the village and a large playground for children. Village youth gather in the playground in the early evening hours to play traditional Thai sports such as takraw. (Madihol University, 1996, http://www. mahidol. ac. th/Thailand/religion/Buddhism. html)
RITES OF PASSAGE Shortly after the birth of a child (usually a few days), there is an important naming ceremony in which the birth parents often consult a monk in deciding a name for their child. The name should be linguistically satisfying and should also have a good meaning. A lot of names refer to natural objects such as flowers, trees, stars, and gems. (Bello, 2000, 5) In some villages, a Brahmanic rite is followed in which the baby’s head is shaven when he/she is one month old and the ceremony (also known as the Khwan ceremony) is sometimes accompanied by a Buddhist ceremony where monks recite passages from sacred texts.
During childhood, children have topknots (small tufts of hair growing in the middle of a completely shaven head). When the topknots are about to get cut off, family members and relatives pray to the monks, and the monk cuts the topknot first before the parents and other relatives cut the rest off. After cutting the topknot off, the hair is put onto a lotus leaf and put onto the river to float away. (Sriwittayapaknam School, 2003, http://www. thailandlife. com/) When a girl has passed three days of age, it is a tradition for the mother to pierce the ears using a needle, thread, and cotton.
The most important rite in the lives of most Thai men is going into monk hood (being a monk) for a short period of time. In Thai society, it is considered that a man matures from monk hood and prepares him for the adult life. Monk hood usually occurs after the man has reached the age of twenty and many parents prefer that monk hood should take place before marriage. Another purpose of this practice is to achieve merit. Buddhists believe that the more merit you achieve in life, the better the life will be when reborned. (Bello, 2000, 12) While living as young monks, men spend the mornings praying, meditating, and studying.
During the afternoons, they take bowls and go out to collect food. A day before the monk hood is scheduled to take place, the young man will have his head and eyebrows shaven completely and will wear white clothes. Senior monks, friends, relatives, and neighbours are invited to participate in the ceremonies (by attending the ceremony, they gain more merit). On the day of the practice, the young man is carried around a monastery a total of three times before he is taken into the monastery hall where a group of senior monks will wait for him. The young man will be read the necessary conditions of being a monk.
He will then be accepted into monk hood and will now wear the saffron robes. (Madihol University, 1996, http://www. mahidol. ac. th/Thail-and/religion/Buddhism. html) As mentioned in Family Structure in this report, Thai youth have the freedom of choice in choosing a mate since Thai parents rarely arrange marriages for their children. They believe that the couple may have been together in a previous life. (Bello, 2000, 5) Buddhism plays an important role in Thai marriage ceremonies. In the villages, marriage often takes place at the age of twenty but it sometimes depends on the readiness of the couple.
Traditionally, monks are invited to chant and bless the couple in the bridal’s home in the evening before the marriage ceremony. On the following morning, the couple offers the monks food. Before the wedding, there is a ceremony in which the monks and other people such as friend and relatives gather to sprinkle holy waters on the bride and the groom. The actual wedding takes place right after the ceremony or later in the afternoon. One part of the wedding is the “Khan Mark” where friends and relatives of the groom dance and celebrate their way to the bride’s house with gifts.
Another traditional part of the wedding ceremony is paying respect to dead ancestors. Before the wedding takes place, the groom’s parents give money or gifts to the bride’s parents. (Madihol University, 1996, http://www. mahidol. ac. th/Thailand/religion/Buddhism. html) The wedding ceremony begins with chanting and blessing from the monks, and the monks bless the couple with holy water and then they go to a temple. During the wedding, guests pour holy waters from a shell onto the hands of the bride and groom. The hands are then held in a worship position as the couple kneels on a low bench, and the couple is symbolically joined together.
The engagement ring is usually given a day before the wedding takes place or on the same day. After the ceremony, the couple and the wedding guests join together for a dinner and celebration. (Sriwittayapaknam School, 2003, http://www. thailandlife. com/) When someone has died, a bathing ceremony takes place usually on the first afternoon after the death. It can either take place at the home where the person died, or at the monastery where his/her body is taken from another place. (Ivanova, 1996, http://www. orient. pu. ru/ivanova.
htm) Monks, relatives, and friends pour scented water on the outstretched hands (palms) of the person who died and a sacred thread is passed three times around three different parts of the body that will symbolize the bonds of passion, anger, and ignorance. The body is then placed in a coffin decorated with fresh flowers and in the evening, monks are invited to the home of the deceased for evening chanting. Friends and relatives also come to give wreaths or fresh flowers and to listen to the chanting. It is common for evening prayers to occur for at least one week. On the day before the funeral, the coffin is taken to a special pavilion.
In the evening, monks are invited again for chanting and praying as the family, friends, and relatives pay their final respects. On the day of the funeral, cremation is performed and is followed by a lunch offering. The ashes of the cremated person are then collected and some are placed in urns (vases that hold a cremated person’s ashes) that is to be kept at home near the family or in the monastery grounds, while the rest of the ashes are scattered in the water or blown away by the wind. Every year, on the anniversary of the death, family and relatives invite monks to chant verses and bless the ashes.
(Madihol University, 1996, http://www. mahidol. ac. th/Thailand/religion/Buddhism. html) CONCLUSION As you now know, the culture and lives of Thai rural villagers are much different than the culture and lives of those who live Thai modernized cities in terms of work, housing, rules, agents of socialization, and rites of passage. Thailand’s rural village culture is highly influenced by religion (Buddhism) and is comprised of a unique history, geography, foods, family structure, work, rules, communication, agents of socialization, and rites of passage.
In Thai history, there are normally four main historical periods that saw the development of the Thai culture and in terms of geography, Thailand is naturally divided into four topographic regions and the climate is warm and tropical with a monsoonal period that lasts from May to September. In villages, the household consists of an extended family with many generations living in one house. Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand, and plays an important part in a Thai person’s life. Thailand’s cuisine is pungent and spicy, with rice being the main food that is eaten with almost all dishes.
The majority of villagers earn a living in agriculture, from harvesting rice to selling fish. Respect is also very important in a Thai person’s life, and a Buddhist should respect the spirituality rules. In communication, the main language is Thai and it has its own unique alphabet. There are two important agents of socialization in a person’s life that of which is the family and the wat. There are many rites of passage in life, the first one being the naming ceremony. The most important rite (for a man) is going into monk hood, and a special rite for a couple is getting married.