There is a Buddhist myth that during one Rains Retreat or “Khao Phansa” Lord Buddha went to heaven to deliver a sermon to his mother who died after giving birth to Lord Buddha (then Prince Siddharatha) and was born again in heaven. The sermon given was said to last for the entire period of the Rains Retreat (3 months).
Upon completing his mission in heaven, Lord Buddha then returned to earth and was greeted by a crowd of his disciples and followers. To commemorate this event, two public festivals are held, namely; the “Tak Bat Devo” in the central region and the “Chak Phra” in the south. Both portray the event of Lord Buddha’s return to earth and annually take place immediately after the end of the 3-month Rains Retreat. However, the celebration of these two festivals may be different in its preparation and practices. In other words, Tak Bat Devo means “offering of food to Buddhist monks”. The celebration is an imitation of Lord Buddha’s descent from heaven. Thus, a high place such as the hill is preferably used as a starting point, the Golden Mount of Wat Sraket in Bangkok is a good example of this. But for the temple built far away from the hill, the consecrated assembly hall (or Uposatha) can also be used as a starting point.
When all is ready, the row of Buddhist monks, headed by the image of a standing Buddha carried by men representing God Indra and God Brahma, will move slowly along the path arranged in advance. People then offer a variety of food and fruit to the passing monks. The rite ends when the last monk in the row finishes the entire route.
Meanwhile, Chak Phra literally means “pulling of the Buddhist monks” and it is celebrated in many southern provinces such as Nakhon Si Thammarat, Pattani, Phatthalung, Songkhla and Yala. The most impressive Chak Phra festival is on the Tapi River in Surat Thani Province. To mark this occasion, two float-pulling ceremonies are held, one on land and the other on water. On land, the splendidly adorned floats are pulled across the town by the participants of the ceremony. At the same time, on water, the ceremony is highlighted by a float decorated in colourful Thai design of a float made to carry the Buddha image. This float is then towed to the middle of the river for a religious ceremony. On the following day, the float carrying the Buddha image is towed along the river so that people can worship and make merit. Both land and river events are highly colourful. The Chak Phra festival then concludes with an exciting boat race and a traditional game.