In Laos, as in other countries that practice Theravada Buddhism, it is customary for monks to go on early morning alms runs, known as tak bat. They do so with alms-bowls in hand, donning their traditional saffron robes and pounding the pavement or dirt roads with bare feet. Devotees place food — such as balls of sticky rice or bananas — into the monks’ bowls. Afterward, the monks chant a prayer for them.
Buddhism maintains that the more one gives — and the more one gives without seeking something in return — the wealthier he or she will become. The almsgiving ritual then, allows Buddhist followers to take one of the requisite steps towards achieving Nirvana.
I took these pictures in the northeastern Laotian town of Phonsavan, which is located in a somewhat remote corner of Laos. Though this tak bat’s setting is less picturesque than the tak bat in Luang Prabang, Phonsavan’s scene is more authentic.
In the tourist mecca of Luang Prabang, visitors flock in droves to witness the morning almsgiving run. Unfortunately, the spiritual component of Luang Praban’s tak bat has been overshadowed by commercial ventures and aggressive tourists.
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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.