Kathin ceremony at Plekwiwek Dhamma Center

Chula Kathin is a yearly ceremony held at Plekwiwek Dhamma Center featuring the handmade production of monk robes directly from raw cotton.  Local women from Karen and Lisu tribes turn cotton bunches into dyed and sewn robes in under 24 hours!  Six ATMA SEVA staff members and volunteers were fortunate to go to Wiang Haeng district to participate in the event, held each fall.

The roots of the ceremony go back centuries.  Historically, monks were itinerant, traveling nine months out of the year.  During their travels, they would collect scraps of cloth for their robes from charnel grounds (locations where people are layed after death).  During the three months of the rainy season, however, they stayed at a temple and did not travel.  Thus, they were unable to collect cloth during this period.  To supply them with fresh robes and gain merit, local villagers would make them new robes at the end of each rainy season.  At present, most robes are mass produced and purchased, making the ceremony where a handful of robes are still handmade at Plekweiwek Dhamma Center very special.

Step one: Pick the cotton

Most of the raw cotton came from Myanmar, however several bushes grow at Plekweiwek. Attendees honored these bushes through a flower and incense offering that celebrated their bounty and then picked the cotton.

IMG_7071

Offerings under the cotton tree

Step two: Readying the cotton for spinning

Impurities and seeds were removed from the cotton bunches by hand.

IMG_7004

Preparing the cotton

Step three: Spinning the cotton into yarn

Cotton was fluffed and fed slowly onto a spinning wheel (it sticks together like the pull-apart Halloween spider web decorations).

IMG_7022

Stringing the cotton

Step four: Weaving the yarn

Cotton yarn was threaded onto a simple loom and then woven together, creating long pieces of cloth.

IMG_7010

Taking the cotton from the wheel

IMG_7086

Weaving stations preparing the cloth

Step five: Dyeing the cloth

The cloth was dyed overnight for twelve hours using the center bark from a local tree that was steeped in a vat of hot water.

IMG_7036

The center part of the tree is used for the orange dye

Step six: Preparing the robes

The fabric was dried and sewn together into saffron robes.

IMG_7019

Weaving and sewing the robes

Step seven: Presenting the robes

Robes were presented in a special ceremony. The festival attracted visitors who flew in from as far away as Bangkok.

Below are pictures from the ceremony!

Corinne Kolm, on-site intern

info@atmaseva.org

www.atmaseva.org

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s