Eoulim Madang: The First Event of the Lotus Lantern Festival
The Lotus Lantern Festival was this past weekend and boy was I exhausted by the end of it. As a member of the Festival’s International Volunteer group, we were there before it started on Saturday and Sunday and stayed until the very end both nights. We got to see every aspect of the merriment surrounding Buddha’s Birthday Celebration: the ups, the downs and the all-arounds. Within our group were five teams. Each team had a particular goal throughout the festival. My team was in charge of monitoring the different events that make up the festival, taking surveys to see what people found to be the highlights and what could be improved and we were to enjoy ourselves of course.
To begin, we headed to the kick-off celebration known as Eoilim Madang, or Dharma Ceremony and Cheer Rally. Up in the Dongguk University Stadium all of the people that will take part in the parade either carrying lanterns or pushing floats gather to dance, sing and get ready together. There are groups in traditional Korean Hanboks of greens, reds and yellows, groups wearing traditional royal garb, and still more groups wearing other traditional sets of clothing. A stage is flanked by large screens so that everyone can see the speakers. There are dancers on risers spaced throughout the stadium in every sector so that those young and old can get a good view and follow along. Those in attendance had already learned the dances as each group was able to view the videos online. We had learned them as well and it was pretty intense jiving along with thousands of other people.
The rally starts at 4:30 in the evening and runs until the start of the parade. There is a ceremony bathing the baby Buddha, a Dharma Ceremony, which includes a chorus, Temple Bell, Three Refuge, Heart Sutra, Opening Announcements, Prayers, a Chanting Sutra and finally ending with the Declaration of the Lantern Parade. The best part, aside from dancing with a thousand other people, was seeing all of the different costumes and beautiful lanterns that everyone had brought. It was even possible to get a free lantern for those that had just come to watch.
Even though the night would be long and feet were sure to be sore when all said and done, people were in high spirits, clapping hands, dancing and just enjoying the scene.
Dongguk Stadium is the beginning of the parade path and it was really amazing to see how smoothly everyone got into line and filed out. Upon entrance to the stadium there are large signs and information providers to usher people to their proper sectors. Each area has a number corresponding to the name of a group and at the end of the ceremony it was clear why. Groups were easily called by number and found their place in the parade line to leave the stadium and begin the slow two our march to Jogyesa Temple. While I wouldn’t recommend watching the parade from Dongguk University because it’s still light out when it starts and I think the lanterns and floats are at their prettiest in the dark, it was a sight to see so many people line up so calmly and efficiently.
Of course the monks started the procession and were led out first. There were people controlling the crowd and still more people ushering the first group out while simultaneously stopping the next group to maintain a certain distance between them.
After the monks, it was group after group, some coming from schools and some coming from temples, of people ready to illuminate the night.
Next post, I’ll share my experience walking in the festival for the first time.
서울특별시 중구 필동3가 26
26 3-ga Pil-dong Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
Bus: 104 , 105, 421 , 463 , 507
Subway: Dongguk University station, exit 6. Walk straight and take the escalator up to the university grounds and follow signs from there.