One of the greatest joys that Buddhist parents find is the chance to have sons enter the monastery as a novice for a few days at least. The boys too, consider it an honour to become sons of the Buddha and bear with uncommon dignity the strict rules they have to live by, including not eating after 12 noon until dawn of the next day. Usually cousins and nephews are included in the ceremony.
The first novice was Rahula, son born to the Buddha when he was Prince Siddhahta and who at seven years of age followed his father to a lifetime in the Order. To signify the fact of Rahula leaving the life of a prince, the soon-to-be novices are first dressed in princely raiment and paraded through town on horseback or on open cars before they return to the monastery to beg of the Abbot that they be allowed the honour of becoming novices.
Mass donations are often collected to novitiate poorer boys of a village or town, giving a chance for their parents to see their sons in the holy robes.
During the parade when the procession is led by a loud music band and even dancers, they are shaded with golden umbrellas and if young, carried on the shoulders of their uncles or elder brothers. Even for a private ceremony for one family, the community of neighbours and friends will rally around to help with anything from arranging transportation, be it open backed trucks, horses, or carts and to cooking enough for the monks and hundreds of guests.
Then their heads are shaved and the yellow robes donned.
The next morning, great feasting for hundreds of guests follow after a meal offered to the monks and the new novices. This too, is a community affair with girls and young women of the neighbourhood taking part in the procession, led by the proud grandparents and parents of the boys.