Kathina Day is an important and auspicious day in the Buddhist calendar. On this day, the Buddhist people assemble in the temples and offer robes and other gifts to the monks.
Kathina is a Pali word used for the wooden frame on which the monks used to sew the scraps of clothes to make their robes. Although the robes today are made of new cloth, they are made from fourteen patches to keep the tradition alive.
Kathina was initiated by Lord Buddha for the benefit of the monks who had observed the Vassa retreat. The Vassa retreat begins from the full moon of July till the full moon of October. As this is also the rainy season, it is also known as the rainy retreat.
During this period, a Sangha community (group of 5 or more monks) is supposed to stay in a temple (Vihara) continuously to meditate and practice self-discipline. When the monks come out of retreat which is somewhere in November, the Kathina Ceremony is held in which common people donate robe cloth and other basic necessities to the monks as gifts.
This is followed by a feast. In the evening, the special Kathina robe known as the Kathina Cheevera is presented to the most suitable monk who has observed the Vassa Retreat. The Sangha chooses the monk who deserves the robe.
The monk the carries the robe with him for three months where ever he goes. Kathina originated when a group of monks came to visit Buddha. Their robes were muddy and drenched as they did not have an extra set to change. On the suggestion of a common devotee, Buddha allowed the common people to provide robes to the monks thus initiating Kathina.
Nowadays ready-made robes are offered but back in the days of Buddha, white cloth, was collected by the common people, which were then cut, dyed and sewn into robes by the Sangha within one day.
On Kathina Day itself, there’s a special Kathina robe (called Kathina Cheevera) which is offered to the most suitable monk who has observed Vassa.
The monk must then take it along everywhere with him for three months. Kathina ceremony promotes generosity and selflessness. It also provides an opportunity to the people to gain spirituality.