BANG PHLI, Thailand – Thousands of people ventured down Wednesday morning to the river in Bang Phli, east of Bangkok in Samut Prakan province, to celebrate the Lotus Flower Receiving Festival, or Rap Bua as it’s known in Thai.
Between 5,000 and 6,000 people came out for Rap Bua, with most gathering to watch nine large boats decorated with Buddhist symbols float down the Bang Pakong River.
Some people arrived by water and floated along in their motorboats and jetskis.
But this was no mere boat-gazing event, and most of the thousands of festival-goers carried lotus flowers – regarded as holy by Buddhists – as they stood on the river bank, and then brought the flowers close to their faces as they prayed.
Once the ornately adorned boats approached, people tossed the flowers at the large golden Buddha statues on the boats.
As the sacred flowers flew towards the statues they piled up high on the boats, and a few landed in the river.
It is believed that throwing the flowers delivers them to Buddha and confers blessings on the thrower.
Some people said that fewer festival attendees showed up Wednesday compared to last year, while others said they come to Rap Bua every year.
The festival, an old tradition in Bang Phli, marks the end of Buddhist Lent or Vassa, a three-month period during the rainy season observed by Theravada Buddhists.
More than 90 percent of Thailand’s population of 68.8 million people adhere to Buddhism.