Maha Wetsandon Chadok is one of the most popular avadānas of Theravada Buddhism. The Vessantara Jataka tells the story of one of Buddha’s past lives, about a compassionate prince, Vessantara, who gives away everything he owns, including his children, thereby displaying the virtue of perfect charity. It is also known as the Great Birth Sermon.
The Vessantara Jataka is an important celebration known as Thet Mahachat, from Maha Jati or “Great Birth”, in Central Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The Thet Mahachat is very popular both in rural and urban communities, often with dance and drama performances, as well as festive parades and processions through the towns. During this Buddhist festival, the monks give a sermon of 13 chapters (Kans) of the Vessantara Jataka, accompanied by rituals and cultural performances. Because of its central role on the Thet Mahachat or Boun Pha Vet celebrations, the Vessantara Jataka is an important part of the traditional folklore in many areas of the Southeast Asian region.
- Kan 1: God Indra gives ten boons to Queen Phusati.
- Kan 2: People are angry at Vessantara.
- Kan 3: Vessantara gives away the cart to a brahmin.
- Kan 4: Vessantara goes into exile.
- Kan 5: Jujaka with Amittada, his beautiful wife.
- Kan 6: Hunter bent his bow, aimed at Jujaka.
- Kan 7: Jujaka asks the hermit for directions.
- Kan 8: Vessantara asks his children to come out of the lotus pond.
- Kan 9: Wild animals bar the way for Maddi.
- Kan 10: Indra asks Vessantara for his wife
- Kan 11: Devas take care of Vessantara’s children.
- Kan 12: The royal family is reunited.
- Kan 13: Vessantara is warmly welcomed.