Bangkok, July 24 (IANS) Eleven members of the Thai youth football team rescued from a flooded cave have had their heads shaved as part of a Buddhist ceremony to ordain them as novices.
The boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16, will live in a Buddhist temple for nine days, a tradition for males in Thailand who experience adversity. They were trapped for more than two weeks in Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai before a dramatic rescue, the BBC reported.
Their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who had already lived as a Buddhist novice for a decade, will be ordained as a monk. One of the boys, 14-year-old Adul Sam-on, will not be ordained on Wednesday as he is a Christian.
The boys of “Wild Boars” football team were released from hospital last week and were said to be in good health after their ordeal.
This step is intended to be a “spiritual cleansing” for the group, and to fulfil a promise by the families to remember one of the divers who died in the rescue operation, the report said.
“They should spend time in a monastery. It’s for their protection,” said Seewad Sompiangjai, grandfather of Night, one of the rescued boys. “It’s like they died but now have been reborn.”
They will stay in different monasteries till August 4 meditating, praying and cleaning their temple.
Dozens of local residents joined in the temple ceremonies to show support for the group, whose rescue captivated people around the globe. About 200 people had gathered at the temple as monks shaved the heads of the boys and their coach in preparation for their ordination.
Wednesday’s ceremony will take place at another temple on a Chiang Rai mountaintop before the group returns to reside for more than a week at Wat Pha That Doi Wao, near Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar. That temple is close to the group’s homes, making it easier for friends and relatives to visit, reports said.
The cave system has now been closed off, but officials said it could be reopened in future as a tourist attraction.