A crowd of tens of thousands packed That Luang Esplanade of Lao capital Vientiane for one of the largest and most spectacular Boun That Luang festivals in memory on Sunday, media reported Monday.
The ceremony was attended by 6,000 monks from across the country as well as thousands of faithful including Lao Vice President Bounnhang Vorchit, deputy Prime Ministers Somsavat Lengsavad and Asang Laoly among other government officials and foreign diplomats. The almsgiving ceremony was the culmination of the Boun That Luang festival honoring Vientiane's Grand Stupa, the most important religious monument in Laos.
Devotees woke early and struggled through dense traffic and crowds for the almsgiving ceremony that marks the final day of Laos' biggest religious festival on Sunday.
The faithful assembled early in the morning to present alms to monks who themselves gather from the across the country and beyond to pay homage to the stupa. Later, incense and other offerings were made for good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Many had to walk for kilometers to reach the hallowed stupa as the celebrations drew great crowds.
Later in the day people gathered to witness a traditional Tikhy match on the esplanade which somewhat resembles the game of hockey and pits local players against government officials.
In the evening people again flocked to the area for a final candlelit procession around the Grand Stupa and a spectacular fireworks display under the full moon of the lunar month in order to bring festivities to the end.
The preceding week, from last Monday to Sunday, has seen a huge celebration around the stupa with markets, carnival rides and performances showcasing the diversity and rich nature of Lao culture and heritage.
That Luang's official name is Pha Chedi Lokajulamani which means World-Precious Sacred Stupa. That Luang is featured in a vast array of iconography including the Lao national seal.