We walked out into the large open space surrounding the temple and my eyes fell immediately on the bright colours over the other side. Well, you knew they would, didn’t you?
Oh, said Sanda, it’s a novitiation ceremony and those children are about to become monks and nuns. Their family are there to celebrate. Let’s watch.
Well, we watched as the aunties, uncles and grandparents stood very solemnly, dressed in their finery and bearing gifts for the temple. The photographer was shooting video, taking still pictures and generally ensuring that no angle was forgotten.
Meanwhile, the centre of all the attention was playing by the large bell. Dressed in silks and satins, the little chap looked nervous and his even smaller sister hid from view.
“Isn’t he rather small to become a monk?” I asked.
Apparently not. Small boys frequently become monks during the summer holidays, when they don’t have to go to school.
(my apologies for the cynical thought that this could be a source of free child care here)
But surely, such small children will cry for their Mummies? Well, it seems as though Daddy often goes along into the monastery at the same time…and Mummy may well bring food from home each day too.
Even so. (and yes, I know some send their small child off to boarding school at a similar age!)
At this point, their sister – the nun-to-be appeared, dressed and made up to the nines, looking far more sophisticated than her nine or ten years. She was looking very serious and was keen to have us take her photo on such an auspicious occasion.
Just how much did these children understand about what was about to happen?
How could their parents bear to let them go?
The answer to the last one is possibly that parents can gain karma by allowing their children into the monastery/nunnery…
Either way, these three were getting a little tired of waiting about in the heat, especially in all that silk and satin.
As they posed for the family photograph with parents and grandparents, we took our leave. Personally, I couldn’t bear to think of those sweet children having their heads shaved, having to wear robes and be denied all comfort (no bed…sleep on the floor) for however long they were expected to. The customs and beliefs must run very deep indeed.
We looked around the temple, where teenage monks were gathering.
We observed the men applying gold leaf to the buddha in the temple,
and we noted the signs down below. All kinds of mixed up messages were swirling around in my head when we heard a commotion outside and it was time.
The little family were processing through the temple, in preparation for the ceremony.
We stood and watched, getting a shy wave from the little girl and returning our good wishes to her in the form of a wave and the broadest smiles we could manage.
We went off to look at the old murals in the oldest part of the temple.
Peered down long corridors where palm readers and astrologists would tell fortunes for anyone who wanted to know what lie ahead for them. (No thank you)
We left the way we’d come in, through the shopping arcade. My mind was on those children but thankfully, there was another little event taking place to prevent my worrying further. I’ll carry it over to the next post, shall I?