The day finally came for the opening of the study centre last week. It was what all the work on renovating Pensri's parents' old house had been about: The Rin-Homhual Mahanil Study Centre and the Don Chao Poo Research Centre. As is often the case in Isan, most of the ceremony took place very early in the morning -- before breakfast. Monks were invited to the house instead of walking on the alms round, so they brought their bowls with them and food was placed in each bowl as it would have been on the alms round, although more food was offered after they had chanted.
(CLICK on the images to enlarge them.)
Many of the preparations were literally last-minute, but we had got the study centre ready for the ceremony AND in good shape to show off the various activities we are hoping to promote.
The number of people out and about and prepared to attend our ceremony at 6.30 in the morning was quite impressive. There were eight farangs in town and sitting on the floor too, which must be almost a record, I think, for this small town.
The moment when the holy water is sprinkled on the lay people as a blessing is enjoyed by everyone, especially the monk. Here, the abbot of Wat Don Khual was doing the honours.
While the monks were having their meal, the rest of us began the baci suk kwan. These were the youngest dancers I have seen performing the introductory dance, and very good they were too.
The dancers had an attentive and appreciative audience (we all applauded when they finished) and then they were suitably rewarded by Pensri.
Our four researchers from the UK were the recipients of the baci and hopefully the ceremony will have brought them the good luck and success that people wished them as they tied the sacred threads on their wrists.
The opening speeches were made by the District Officer (nai amphur), in the pink shirt below, and by my brother-in-law, Somnuk Choovichian.
After his opening speech, Khun Somnuk was invited to strike the gong (three times) …
… and then to draw back the curtains to reveal the name of the study centre and research centre, proudly displayed in Thai and English. And then most people went home or to work, while those of us who remained posed for the group photo.
In the photo below, Pensri and I are with Pensri’s elder sister Arunee and her husband Somnuk. They and their three children have been the driving force behind the renovation of the house and the setting up of the centre and they have been the major donors both in terms of cash and books and other items. But all the families of the descendants of Ta Rin and Yai Homhual Mahanil have contributed very generously, and so have several people here in Phana, most notably Ajarn Kulyani Singnak who has offered much valuable wood, furniture, and her enthusiasm, too. She will continue to play an important part in running the centre.