Thirty-thousand monks gathered on Sunday December 8th, for a spectacular alms-giving event, partly organised by a controversial mega-temple under scrutiny across the border in Thailand, according to AFP.
As the sun rose over the ancient town of Mandalay, a sea of saffron and maroon-robed monks, many barefoot, assembled in an area the size of a football field.
The practice of almsgiving is a deeply symbolic and common practice in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The alms bowl is a strong symbol of the Buddhist monastic order, and locals donate food and other items to the monks, who rely on these donations for their sustenance.
The event is designed to tighten the relationship of "monks and Buddhists between (the) two countries" and to "strengthen the monkhood" in the region, according to a statement from the organisers.
It was the third and largest event of its kind since 2015 and came as one of the organisers, the Thailand-based Dhammakaya foundation, attempts to re-establish its reputation after an embezzlement scandal more than two years ago.
"I hope we can continue to hold bigger events in the coming years," said 24-year-old Burmese monk U Thu Nanda.
In 2017, the Dhammakaya temple's large compound in northern Bangkok was under siege for two weeks as thousands of officers try to arrest the sect's spiritual leader.
Phra Dhammachayo was charged with colluding in a US$33 million embezzlement scheme and was believed to be hiding somewhere on the temple's sprawling 1,000-acre grounds. He was never found, and the temple is still operational.
In 2019, two large alms-giving events were organised by the temple in Thailand in September and October attended by 10,000 monks to solicit donations for flood victims.