The colourful lotus lantern festival

The colourful lotus lantern festival

I am always on the lookout for interesting festivals during my travels, and luckily my trip to Seoul coincided with the lotus lantern festival. Commemorating the birth of Buddha, it is one of Seoul’s landmark festivals, and perhaps the most colourful one too. Thousands of people take to the streets to participate in the festival.  The main attraction of the event is a 2 hour parade starting from Dongdemun gate and culminating at Jogyesa temple.

A shy young girl posing for a quick photograph before joining the parade

I planned to be there at the origin of the parade an hour early to photograph the excitement on people’s faces and vibrant costumes. The parade itself ended up being way longer than I had expected it to be, with many groups participating. Among the participants was the core group from the Jogyesa temple, and many other Buddhist communities representing their groups. There were groups representing their countries as well: Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Laos amongst others.


One of the core parade groups getting ready to roll-in

People kept joining the parade for over an hour: dressed in colorful costumes, carrying lanterns of all shapes and sizes, some with heartfelt messages, some in well though out formations, some just walking with the crowd without any care in the world. I followed the parade for a while, and eventually decided to head for the temple via another route so that I could witness the welcoming at the Jogyesa temple. As soon as I arrived at the temple, the crowd started to roll-in: perfect timing! Each group was welcomed by their name, as they finished the walk at the temple – some like the group form Jogyesa got special mentions. The temple itself was adorned by thousands of lanterns. The monks welcomed the crowd and opened the stage for celebrations -  choreographed dance performances set the tone for rest of the evening. I clicked a few pictures and then put it back in my bag to join the dance!


 Participants and volunteers swinging and swaying


A cheerful crowd as monks congratulate the entire group


A powerful performance by the Jogyesa group: choreographed and rehearsed to perfection

About Praveen Maloo

Praveen is currently based out of Seattle, United States. He loves coffee, conversations, micro-brews, and intimate jazz music scenes. When its not raining in Seattle, he can be seen enjoying the beautiful outdoors of the Pacific North-West.

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