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A man has his head shaved on the way to becoming a monk today

Men and Boys Become Monks: Photo Special

Saturday, March 7, 2009
50-Photo Album Above

SOME expats say that Phuket does not have much of a culture. The truth is, those expats seldom look hard enough.

They expect the culture to come to them. It seldom does.

An early morning ordination ceremony for would-be monks at Wat Lattiwarnaram in Phuket City today produced plenty of insights into Thai culture and religion.

As with most important events, it was sandwiched, or at least noodled and riced, between and around a couple of meals. In this case, breakfast and lunch.

And despite the seriousness of the ordination, there were moments of fun, too, as there always are in every important Thai cultural event.

About 40 men of all ages began the induction ceremony by having their hair trimmed, then cropped, then shaved.

The candidates came from all kinds of backgrounds. Some had tattoos, others wore glasses. Some looked tough. Others probably sit at a desk all day.

Some were of an age where they had probably postponed this important rite of passage while having children, starting a business, raising a family.

The children were certainly there today, taking photographs as their fathers became monks.

So broad is the desire to snap memorable moments these days that even some of the monks were taking photographs. And with the brand that Phuketwan favors.

Our guess is, on the little we know of life, that among the candidates today were boys wanting to be men, and men who probably long to be boys again.

The trimmings began in a formal ceremony, with the candidates moving on their knees from chanting and a blessing to having their first clippings taken by monks and elders.

Then each of the would-be monks gently carried their scissors outside, in banana leaf bowls, to be properly barbered.

Almost everyone wore a checkered sash, a little like a Scottish clan tartan, across one shoulder.

All the precious hair clippings were preserved, in the bowls, for the more formal ceremony to follow.

Outside now, the candidates spread out and sat on plastic chairs for their haircuts. Hundreds of relatives and friends followed them to the outdoors area of the wat.

In some cases, swarms of sisters, mothers, cousins and mates descended to cut their hair in twos, threes and fours. The temple monks became involved, too.

Some lost their locks quickly. Others took their time. One or two got soap in their eyes.

And then it was time for the eyebrows to go.

At this point, the fun seemed to dissipate and be replaced by serious spiritual application.

By the end of the day, these boy-men and men-boys will be monks.

The Culture Adventure


Phuket Heroines Festival, March 7-15
The famously efficient women of Phuket owe a lot to the Heroines of the 1785 battle against the Burmese. The sword waving sisters would probably be judges or businesswomen today.
Phuket Heroines Festival, March 7-15

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