Stamps: The Colours of the Days of the Week

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao MondayThese series of stamps from Thailand and Laos illustrate a shared Buddhist custom of the colours of the days of the week.

History

Buddhist customs in Thailand and Laos associate a colour with each day of the week. This custom is influenced by Hinduism, which associates a Hindu god with each day of the week. Each of these gods has a symbolic colour. These colours have been preserved in the Buddhist custom, but the association with the gods of Hindu belief has been replaced by the postures of the Buddha statues represented on the stamps. The postures of Buddha statues throughout Thailand and Laos are significant; there are several common postures, each with a different meaning connected to the life of the Lord Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).

More Information

The Stamps

I think it is interesting to compare these two sets of stamps and see the similarities of customs between Thailand and Laos. There are also a couple of deviations.

  • The Thai stamps show the colours for Wednesday and Thursday as orange and green, according to Hindu custom, but the colours on the corresponding Lao stamps are reversed. The internet has let me down; I can’t find any information about this switch.
  • The stamps for Saturday are also different colours: purple and black. However, both of these colours are associated with the Hindu god (Shani) worshipped on this day.

The Thai stamps were issued as a series between 2000 and 2006: one stamp issued on an important Buddhist day each year. The Lao stamps were issued together in one set in 2005.

Sunday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Sunday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 16th July 2000 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The Buddha stands with arms crossed over the stomach, right hand over the left, with the back of the hands facing outward. The eyes are open and this is a pose of mental insight.


Monday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Monday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 7th May 2001 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The right hand is raised in the pose of Preventing Calamities or Preventing Relatives from Fighting.


Tuesday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Tuesday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 26th February 2002 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The Buddha lies on His right side, with right hand tucked up under the head, and the left hand lying along the left side of the body.

The “reclining Buddha”, as this posture is known, is often associated with the Buddha’s state of being before entering nirvana. The Reclining Buddha statue at Wat Pho in Bangkok is one of the largest of this kind at 43 metres long.


Wednesday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Wednesday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 10th July 2003 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

… the Buddha in the pose of collecting alms, where both hands carry and alms bowl in front of the chest.


Thursday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Thursday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 2nd June 2004 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The Buddha In Meditation, one of the most well known poses of the Buddha. The Buddha sits in the lotus pose with the hands resting in the lap, both palms facing upwards.


Friday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Friday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 23rd February 2005 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The Buddha standing in contemplation, with both arms crossing the chest, and the right hand on top of the left, with the backs of the hands facing outward.


Saturday

Stamps Buddhism Thai-Lao Saturday

Country: Thailand / Laos
Issue Date: 12th May 2006 / 13th April 2005

Buddha Posture

(From The Buddha Garden)

The Buddha Seated under a Naga (Seven Headed Serpent), again in Meditation. This pose depicts the meditation Buddha being protected from falling rain by the spread out hood of the Naga.


The Colour of Daily Life

So far there has been a lot of history in this post. Do these customs influence Thai and Lao people today? My experience is mainly of Thailand, but the colours of the days can still be found in daily life.

His Majesty King Bhumibol

The strongest influence can be seen in the Thai people’s affection for their King. His Majesty King Bhumibol was born on a Monday, and so his birthday colour is yellow. When I lived in Bangkok, the vast majority of people out in public wore yellow every Monday, to show their support and respect for the King. On the King’s birthday, when crowds gather before Dusit Palace to see the King, a sea of yellow extends as far as the eye can see in every direction.

The Royal Standard

Thailand Royal Flags
Royal flags in Thailand

Thai people are very patriotic. They love their country, and they love their King. You don’t need to go far in Thailand to see the national flag fluttering outside shops and people’s homes.

Along with the national flag you might also see a yellow flag, bearing a royal crest. This is, of course, the flag of His Majesty King Bhumibol. You might even see a blue flag: this is the flag of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, who was born on a Friday.

You Can Bank On It

On any day of the week, if you go into a bank or visit a government office for some reason, the staff often wear shirts corresponding to the colour of the day.

So, I think that in public life at least, this custom is still observed.

Important Buddhist Days

The Thai stamps shown above were issued on one of three important days in the Buddhist calendar. On these days, people might go to the temple to make merit, or give alms to monks early in the morning. (See also here for a description of making merit.)

Asalhapuja Day

This day is the full moon day of the 8th lunar month (the day following the full moon). This day commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment. The sermon was given to his following of five ascetics in the forest. The Buddha taught them to follow the “Middle Way”; to avoid either extreme of emotion or action. After this sermon, the leader of the ascetics was ordained as the first Buddhist monk – the foundation of the Buddhist Order, or the “Sangha”.

Visakhapuja Day

This day is the full moon day of the 6th lunar month. This day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. All these events occurred on the same day: the Buddha was born on this day in 623 BC, attained enlightenment in 588 BC, and died in 543 BC (passed into nirvana).

Maghapuja Day

This day is the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month. This day commemorates the spontaneous assembly of 1,250 disciples of the Buddha nine months after his enlightenment. Each of the disciples was ordained by the Buddha himself. The meeting took place 44 years before the start of the Buddhist Era (587 BC). The Buddha gave a sermon at this meeting, expressing the principle ideas of his teaching and how they might apply to everyday life.

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