HUFFINGTON POST

Inside The Colorful Coming-Of-Age Ceremony For Young Buddhists

Boys between 7 and 14 wear lavish costumes for Poy Sang Long.
The boys' sumptuous dress refers to the Buddha's own princely origins.
The boys' sumptuous dress refers to the Buddha's own princely origins.

Earlier this week, dozens of boys in Thailand took part in Poy Sang Long, a traditional rite of passage for young Buddhists from the Shan ethnic group.

The annual ceremony, which normally spans three days, marks the initiation of boys, typically 7 to 14 years old, as novices in the Buddhist community. The boys' participation in this rite helps them and their families accumulate merit, which Buddhists believe moves them along the path to achieving enlightenment.

As part of Poy Sang Long, the boys have their faces decorated and dress up in lavish costumes -- a reference to Siddhartha Gautama, who was said to be a prince before embarking on the religious journey that led him to become a Buddha.

Heads shaven and fully adorned, the boys wait for Poy Sang Long to begin.
Heads shaven and fully adorned, the boys wait for Poy Sang Long to begin.

At the end of the three days, the novices remove their colorful costumes and begin their study of Buddhist doctrine.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Thailand-based photographer Taylor Weidman followed two youngsters, 10-year-old Han and 11-year-old Kemachart, as they prepared for their initiation. According to Getty Images, the boys are neighbors from Chiang Mai who traveled to Mae Sariang, a small town in northern Thailand near the Burmese border, for the ceremony.

Take a look at more of Weidman's photos of the runup to Poy Sang Long below:

  • Robes and cushions for novices are laid out at Wat Supan Rangsri in Mae Sariang, Thailand, on April 5.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Robes and cushions for novices are laid out at Wat Supan Rangsri in Mae Sariang, Thailand, on April 5.
  • Boys take photos before they have their heads shaved.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Boys take photos before they have their heads shaved.
  • Then they all receive haircuts before the ultimate shave.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Then they all receive haircuts before the ultimate shave.
  • Kemachart grimaces as a monk shaves his head.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Kemachart grimaces as a monk shaves his head.
  • Kemachart is dressed before a ceremony at Wat Supan Rangsri.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Kemachart is dressed before a ceremony at Wat Supan Rangsri.
  • Boys watch a companion being made up before the ceremony.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Boys watch a companion being made up before the ceremony.
  • Makeup is put on.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Makeup is put on.
  • A makeup artist's tools are displayed.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    A makeup artist's tools are displayed.
  • A grinning, made-up novice has his photo taken.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    A grinning, made-up novice has his photo taken.
  • The boys, partly dressed, rest before the ceremony.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    The boys, partly dressed, rest before the ceremony.
  • A man helps a novice-to-be put on his costume.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    A man helps a novice-to-be put on his costume.
  • Kemachart and other novices take part in a prayer ceremony at a shrine near Wat Supan Rangsri on April 6.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Kemachart and other novices take part in a prayer ceremony at a shrine near Wat Supan Rangsri on April 6.
  • Han, wearing his flower-laden costume, waits for the ceremony to begin.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Han, wearing his flower-laden costume, waits for the ceremony to begin.
  • Kemachart is adorned with jewelry before the ceremony begins.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Kemachart is adorned with jewelry before the ceremony begins.
  • Fully costumed novices look out the window of Wat Supan Rangsri.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Fully costumed novices look out the window of Wat Supan Rangsri.
  • Boys wait for the ceremony to begin.
    Taylor Weidman via Getty Images
    Boys wait for the ceremony to begin.
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