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Discover the vibrant That Luang Festival from Past to Present

  • By The Easia Travel Team
  • October, 18, 2018

The national symbol and one of the best-known landsite in Vientiane and Lao PDR is the golden Stupa. For Lao people, it is the most important religious monument.
Every year, Lao people celebrate the Boun That Luang, the most important Buddhist festival in Laos. Traditionally, the That Luang festival is held over three to seven days during the full moon of the 12th lunar month, normally in November in our solar year. In this article you will get an overview of the traditional meaning and procession of the That Luang Festival.

What is the That Luang:

A that  is also known as a Stupa and can be found in different shapes and sizes depending on the different monastery existing in the world. Traditionally, the Stupa is composed of three levels: the base, the body and the spire which symbolize the Cosmos.
That Luang, the grand Stupa, is a sanctuary of Buddha’s hair and breast bone. History says that it was originally built in the 3rd century when Vientiane was under the ancient Khmer civilization and people were known as the Cham. It was also the time where the second wave of Buddhism took place in Laos and Indian missionary came to Laos to bring a piece of bone of Lord Buddha to Vientiane.
The current Stupa was built over that ancient stupa in the 16th century when King Setthathirath moved the capital of the Lane Xang Kingdom (the Land of million elephants) from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.
In the 18th and 19th century, the Stupa was damaged their invasions by the Burmese, Chinese and Siamese during. It was only in the 20th century where French colonialists restored the That Luang.
The golden Stupa of today is 45 meters tall.
The religious festival is one of the largest national holiday in Laos and celebrated every year at full moon in November in order to honor the Stupa as well as King Xaysetthathirath. Every year, the festival starts at the Simeuang temple with a colorful candlelight wax castle (phasat) procession. The Wat Simeuang is an important temple in Vientiane where the old city pillar is located. There, believers gather and walk three times around the main hall of worship in honor of the Vientiane city pillar.

On the following day, the religious procession continues when thousands of people wearing their best clothes, gather to bring their wax castles to That Luang. These wax castles are tall creation of yellow trees which are decorated with wax petals and are festooned with golden paper and kip notes. At the Stupa, the worshippers walk around it three times in a clockwise direction which is led by monks.
On day 3, many people assemble in the early morning to give alms to monks coming from around the country and who represents all Lao wats. The alms-giving, also known as the taak baat, begins at 7am. Every year, the festival ends with a huge firework display.

What you can see during the That Luang Festival:

During the That Luang Festival, Lao people wear their best clothes and you can see men and women dressing in various Lao ethnic costumes. After the religious procession, families will have a picnic where they eat boiled chicken and rice, dance and play traditional music and songs. In the afternoon, people will gather on the esplanade to play tikhy, a traditional game with a ball and long curved stick, similar to hockey.

If you want to experience more about temples in Laos, Easia Travel recommends trying out the “Vientiane City Tour” or a “Meditation experience in a Temple” and a “Monk water blessing” experience.  For more information about this or other activities, please contact


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