Songkran Festival or Water Splash Festival
This is the most famous festive event of Thailand among tourist all across the world and voted to be 1 of 5 most colorful festival of Asia. Songkran Festival is so-called Thai New Year since long time ago before the time to take the New Year as occidental style. Unfortunately, this festival is known by the foreigners as the Water Splash festival in summer time only.
What is Songkran Festival?
Actually, Songkran is an old tradition of Thailand since long times. This tradition took place among family members or neighborhood, but presently has been expanded to broader society and tends to be changed in the wat of thought and belief. Originally, Songkran used a symbol as the core element for its rites were using of water to unbind the ambient of hot weather in the summer time as time for the sun to move into Aries (following to the zodiacal period), watering for each other to reduce the heat of the body, asking for the greet from seniority, remembrance and gratefulness to the deceased etc.
Nowadays, Thai people have the trend to go back home town during Songkran and call this time as “Family Day”. At first, there was a sprinkle water onto the Buddha image to bring luck and start the New Year with happiness. Nonetheless, the communication to promote the tourism presently is just the “Water Festival” or “Splash Festival” and forsake the original part. So that today we can only experience Songkran as the festive event with fun that abandon the beauty of Thai tradition from the past. Therefore, giving the fact and information of Songkran Festival to anyone whether foreigners or Thai is a good way to share the history and culture of Thai which is so meaningful and important for anybody to learn about it. And here we conclude the story of Songkran that may make you get to know it better.
Songkran festival is Thai traditional New Year since the Sukhothai era which abide continuously until there was changing to be the 1st of January as western style in 1940. However, Thai still adhere to Songkran as an important day. Songkran festival is addressed in the Thai calendar between 13-15 of April annually and is holidays as well.
Songkran is come from Sanskrit means step up, changing, or move forward which is same as the astrology for Songkran is time that the sun move from Pisces to Aries (following the zodiacal system) which is fallen on 13, 14, and 15 of April annually. There are more than 3 days celebrations taken place in some provinces in Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Phra Pradaeng (Mon tribe’s community in Samut Prakarn province), Pattaya etc. and besides Thailand there are neighbored countries i.e. Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia have the Songkran festival as well.
Activities during Songkran Festival
During these three days there are many activities for example by following;
On the 13th of April is a day the sun enters Aries called “Ma Ha Songkran”, is the New Year Eve. The people do cleaning their place to get rid of any bad things out of their house and to welcome the New Year. There is some gun fire, firecrackers or anything that make loud to oust bad things.
On the 14th of April is day after the sun enters April called “Wan Nao”. There is a preparation to make merit for Songkran. In the afternoon, there are moving of sand to the temple to prepare for sand pagoda building. Just so you know, there is old people’s belief that must not say any bad thing to others nor fighting today unless to be unlucky all through the year.
On the 15th of April is an era to ascend called “Wan Ta Lerng Sok”, is the day people go to the temple to make merit and dedicate to their ancestors. There is water-pouring ceremony to ask a blessing from a respected seniority, building the sand pagoda, playing water of the young people that is the significant occasion for them to meet and converse and dalliance during this time.
The story of Songkran Goddesses
In accordance to the record at Wat Pho, once upon a time there was a rich man, who had a plenty of wealth but unlucky for children. So that he had prayed to the Sun and the Moon for three years to ask for a child. Unfortunately, there was any luck. Until one day when the sun enters Aries, the rich man brought his servants to the banyan tree nearby the river and rinse the rice grains into the water for 7 times. Then cooked that rice to worship a spirit living under that tree. The spirit had sympathy for him then soar to see Intra (Hindu deity) and reported him. And it was not long time Intra sent a son named “Thammban” to take birth into the rich man’ wife. The baby named “Thamban Ku Man”. And when the baby grew up, he finished the study of the three Vedas of Hindu when he was 7 years old and became a sorcerer after then. One day, Prom Thawokbin asked Thamban Kuman 3 questions were “where is the renown in the morning?” “Where is the renown at noon?” and “where is the renown in the evening?”. Then Thamban Kuman asked for 7 days to solve this puzzle.
The Thamban Kuman had been tried to find the answer until entered the 6th day, then he came to lay down under the palm tree and thought that he would die in an unseen place rather than a punishment by Prom Thawokbin. Accidentally, there was a couple of eagles were making their nest and a hen asked a male that “where will we go for the food tomorrow?” and the male answered that “we will go to eat the body of Thamban Kuman whom killed by Prom Thawokbin since disability to answer the quiz”.
Then the female asked that “what is the quiz?”, and the male told her about it and she could not answer it. Thus, the male eagle gave the answers are “in the morning, the renown is on the face because the human need to wash their face every morning, then at noon the renown is on the chest because human put on the scent on their chest and in the evening the renown is on the feet as the human wash their feet before get to bed”. Thamban Kuman heard all through the conversation of the couple. In the next morning which is 7th day, Prom Thawokbin came following his word and Thamban Kuman answered the puzzle with the answers he heard from the eagle.
Then Prom Thawokbin called for his 7 daughters to gathering and told them that he would cut his head to worship Thamban Kuman, however if locate my head over the earth it will burn the land, if throw in the air it will be dry spell, or if throw into the ocean it will be waterless. Thus, he asked his daughters to carry his head on the tray with pedestal. After his word, he cut off his head and gave to “Thungsa Devi”, the oldest one and she carried clockwise around the Suamne Moutain took time about 60 minutes and then kept within the Khan Tuli cave in Kailas mountain.
Whereupon, the 7 daughters of Prom Thawokbin have taken turn to carry their father’s head and rotate around the Suamne Moutain about 60 minutes and keep in the place annually and each year they have taken charge to take care over the Ma Ha Songkran day so there is a prophecy for each year following the daughter who takes charge for the year.
The Activities for Songkran Festival
- Give food offering to a Buddhist monk to make a good deed for oneself and dedicate to their ancestors. To do this, the people will prepare the offering in prior and bring to the temple to offer to the monks at pavilion at the temple where the place to collect all the offerings. And after then there will be the building of sand pagoda.
- Pouring of water is the way to bless for each other. Mostly the water is blend with the fragrances and flowers.
- Sprinkle water onto the Buddha image that can do both at the temple and at home. There are pouring water for the monks in some place as well.
- Requiem to the passed people which can be done with their relics stored in an urn.
- Pouring water to the respected elderly, mostly the elderly will sit down and the younger will pouring the water that blended with fragrance and flowers on their palms. And then the elderly will give a bless. In case of monk, they will offer the monk’s cloth on the other hand they will offer sarong or loincloth to the seniority.
- “Dum Hua” or pour water on the hands of revered elders and ask for blessing is similar to what happen in Central of Thailand. This ceremony mostly appears in Northern of Thailand. It is the thing to perform respect to the monk, seniority. It is the apologies for anything are molest or asking for bless. Thing to be used for this are clothes, coconut, bananas, soap pod, candle and flowers.
- Building sand pagoda is bringing the sand to build into the pagoda shape structure and decorate with any flowers.
- Release bird and fish is so-called expiate sin or exorcise resulting to make life to be happy in the New Year.
- Bringing sand to donate to the temple is popular in northern of Thailand in order to be auspice, prosperous, and get wealth as the sand brought to the temple. On one hand, there is a belief that taking sand from the temple by accidentally is a sin so bringing back the sand to the temple is a must.
Highlight spots to join Songkran Festival
Silom Road, Bangkok (13-15 of April)
Silom is one of landmark for foreigners and Bangkokians because this is the tourist spot and easy to access whether by BTS or MRT. Moreover, there are plenty of shopping malls, spas, restaurants and entertainment complex.
Khao Sarn Road, Bangkok (13 – 14 April)
This is must-check in spot for tourists. Though this is just a small street with only 400 meters length but this is the place full of cheap accommodation, restaurant, tattoo shop, bookstore, massage, pub and bar. And Songkran here is divided to 2 parts are main spot is on the main stages with light and sound to have fun along the street and another is pub & bar located on the on the street that set up a party with hot deal of drinks.
Chiang Mai (13 – 15 April)
To talk about Chiang Mai, we may imagine to the Lanna ambience with a beauty of Northern culture. Songkran in Chiang Mai takes place on 13th April and starts with fire of firecrackers in the morning to drive out the evil. And in the afternoon, there is the noteworthy Buddha image procession that both Thai and international tourists wait to sight and enjoy playing water splash. The popular spot to play water are Ku Muang, Tah Pae and Kad Suan Kaew.
Pattaya (12 – 20 April) (19 April is a Flow Day)
Pattaya is one of the most famous tourism city of Thailand as it is not far from Bangkok with the beaches and islands including to shopping mall, restaurant, pub, bar and entertainment complex. And Songkran at Pattaya focuses on a Flow Day on 19th April specifically that is the day to play the water from the morning to the night. The road along the beach will be closed to allow the people to enjoy the water splash particularly shops, pubs and bars nearby the road will offer special promotion and join the people on the road.
Bang Saen, Chonburi (13 – 18 April) (17 April is Flow Day)
This is another landmark of Thailand where is not too far from Bangkok with many of sightseeing like sea, mountains, temples including entertainment places, academic institutes, restaurants, shopping mall. And Songkran at Bang Saen is started around 16-17 April annually and there is locally tradition called “Kor Phra Sai Wan Lai Bang Saen” which is the day to bring the sand from Bang Saen beach to build up according to the theme concept for a contest. And there are shows, music and allow to play the water all along the street as well.
Khon Kaen (5 – 15 April)
One on the landmark spot in northeast of Thailand that has a unique tradition, history and culture. The highlight of Songkran here is “Khao Neaw Road” and “Rim Bueng Kaen Nakorn”. The former presents joyful and entertainment with music and show for people to join without alcohol, and the later presents entertainment activities focuses on local culture.
Phuket (11 – 13 April)
The most famous tourist spot in south of Thailand so-called “The Pearl of Andaman” as it is plenty of sightseeing and beautiful beaches such as Promthep cape, Patong beach, Karon beach, Rawai beach, Mai Khao beach, etc. And of course, Songkran at Phuket is very so much fun especially at Patong beach and Soi Bang La where is filled with tourist spots, shopping malls, restaurants, and entertainments to attract the tourists to visit continuously.