Kathina is a Theravada Buddhist festival that takes place in the months of October and November. Kathina has been observed for more than 2500 years. It is a time when families take part in the largest alms-giving ceremony of the Buddhist year. Kathina occurs at the end of Vassa, the three-month retreat, also known as Rain Retreat or Buddhist Lent.
Buddhists make a special offering of the Kathina cloth or robes to the Sangha. The offering can take place at any time during the four weeks following the end of Vassa, starting after the full moon of the 11th month in the Buddhist lunar calendar. The Sangha are not allowed to request for offering and it is important that the initiation of the offering is done entirely by the lay people. The cloth is to be offered to the whole Sangha and not to any particular individual. The cloth is normally about three metres to make one of the main robes. In addition to offering cloth or robes, the devotees also give financial donations to the temple.
Kathina is also known as Thod Kathin in Thailand. ‘Thod’ meaning making an offering to a monk and ‘kathin’ means to make a new robe. Kathina is practised by Theravada Buddhists in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Malaysia. It is also the time for the Buddhists to express their gratitude to the Sangha.
Kathina is a Pali word, which means the wooden frame used to measure the length and width of the cloth to be cut to make robes for the Sangha (monastic community of monks and nuns).