is one of the most momentous occasions in these young boys’ lives – and one of the most important duties their parents are to carry out for them.
Decked head to toe in vibrant costume and made up with lavish jewellery and make-up, these two boys are about to be ordained as Buddhist monks.
Under the Theravada form of Buddhism, widely practised in Thailand and Sri Lanka, the children are ordained during initiation ceremonies known as the ‘Going Forth’. Afterwards they become immersed in Buddhist teachings, potentially for the rest of their lives.
Saw Win Gy and The The Win wake up early on the first day of the Ta Pew initiation ceremony to be carefully made-up by their mothers
On the morning of the shaving ceremony one of the boys gets carefully made up by his mother
Saw Win Gy and The The Win get dressed by their mothers. Gold and jewellry is used to remind of the rich past of Prince Siddharta
The The Win’s mother disentangles a snarl of trinkets with which she will adorn her child
This remarkable collection of pictures follows ten-year-old Saw Win Gy and The The Win, 12, as they are ordained into the Buddhist tradition at the Mae La refugee camp, in Thailand.
Photographer Vincezo Floramo captured the images during the Ta Pwe celebrations, where, as part of the ordination, at least 40 children had their heads shaved at the camp during a full moon in March.
Saw Win Gy and The The Win are two Karen boys who went through the festivities, which begin on the eve of Ta Pwe with dances and musicians performing, while the families offer tea for the guests.
During the first day of the festivities the children were carried on the shoulders of family members around the camp, stopping off at the homes of friends and relatives.Each family will then invited the boys into their home to worship at a Buddhist shrine.
Children are carried around the streets on their parents’ shoulders during the Ta Pwe celebrations at the Mae La refugee camp
The two friends have a rest at a friend’s home.The visit around the camp is taking its toll
At the Mae La refugee camp, during Ta Pwe celebrations, children are carried on their parents’ shoulders around the streets. In this photo Saw Win Gy is pictured on his uncle’s shoulders
Musicians playing traditional drums and bamboo sticks perform in a parade just behind the two children
The two boys take the chance the to relax and share an intimate moment in the early morning of the day of the shaving ceremony
The The Win performs the guest invitation ceremony on a small Buddha Shrine
The two friends invite a guest to the shaving initiation. The guest accepts by wetting his face
Saw Win Gy and The The Win honour the Buddhist Shrine in a friend’s home
The The Win waits for his turn for an outdoor shower after a long day touring around the camp
The big day itself starts with a procession to the monastery, with the young boys dressed in resplendent silks embroidered with gold.
The ritual symbolises the Prince Siddharta Gutamama’s departure from the royal palace, with its sensuous pleasures and luxuries, as he left his wife and newborn son in search of the Four Noble Truths.
Once at the monastery, the monks, who preside over the ceremony, shave the heads of the boys, who exchange their princely dress for white robes and recite the Ten Precepts.
The The Win gets ready to start the walking parade to the monastery for the ceremonial shaving
The families of the young boys follow the procession to the Buddhist Monastery of Mae La refugee camp
Saw Win Gy at the monastery where all the children wait to have their head shaved
Saw Win Gy has his head shaved by a monk at the Thirisanda Buddhist Monastery at Mae La refugee camp
Having swapped their princely garb for white robes, Saw Win Gy and The The Win recite the Ten Precepts
It is at this point the boys receive their saffron robes, which they are helped into by monks.
At the end of the ceremony, the parents throw a mix of coins, sweets and popcorn into the air as an offer to the participants.
The boys are then given their alms bowls and palm-leaf fans by their parents, who then have to part with their children for the first time as they start their new lives as monks.
The Mae La camp is home to some 45,000 people, and is the largest of nine camps along Thailand’s border with Burma.
When the ceremony is finished and the children become monks, parents throw popcorn, candy and coins into the air
The The Win at the end of the ceremony. His family will leave him in the monastery where he will be ‘alone’ for the first time
The parents of the children bow in a sign of respect
Saw Win Gy receives the saffron robe and is helped by a monk to wear it properly
The abbot of the Thirisanda Buddhist Monastery instructs the newly initiated young monks on what they can expect of their monastic life