A UNIQUE ceremony was held at the Buddhist temple in Knaphill on Sunday, marking the largest alms-giving ritual in the Buddhist year.

The Wat Phra Dammakaya temple celebrated the Kathina robe-offering festival.

Dr Phra Nicholas Thanissaro said: “The festival was attended by a congregation of more than 200 from as far away as the USA, Australia and Thailand, who gathered to offer robes and contribute funds for adding a hospitality and childcare annexe to the present building.”

In addition to the formal ceremony attendees were able to enjoy a wide selection of dishes from a wide selection of food stalls.

The ceremony originated 2,500 years ago at a time when nomadic Buddhist monks in south east Asia were marooned in one place for weeks by the monsoon season.

This period of inaccessibility is known as Vassa, or the Buddhist Lent or the Rains Retreat over a period which lasts for three lunar cycles from around July to October.

Kathina ends this period of seclusion and is a time of giving by devotees of Buddha who mark the occasion by donating robes, cloth and food in gratitude to the monks.