- Date – 13th April, 2018
The Thai New Year’s festival, also known as Songkran, falls on the 13th of April each year. This year, it’s on the 13th of April, 2018, that’s on a Friday. It’s a three-day affair and continues till the 15th of the month.
The term ‘songkran’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘samkranti’ that implies change. This festival is observed by the Thai people and the Malaysian Siamese. Just like the Chinese Zodiac Years,
Thai people follow the animal zodiacs for each year, the 2018 animal being that of a dog. This is an annual festival that is celebrated far and wide all over Thailand and usually coincides with the Easter weekend. If it by chance falls during a weekend, the next working day is also given a holiday as a form of compensation. It also coincides with the Indian festival ‘Vishu’ that’s celebrated in Kerala and a festival called ‘Okhali’ that’s originative from Karnataka.
- Mythical Origins Of Songkran
The mythical origins behind this festival involve the ‘nang songkran’ or the seven ladies of songkran. Kabilla Phrom or better known as Brahma was a huge fan of betting and when he named a seven-year-old boy, Thammabal Kumara who was said to able to recite scriptures in front of the public, he descended down to the earth to test the boy’s knowledge. He presented to the boy three riddles and if the boy could answer them all correctly, he would offer his own head to the boy. But if the boy could not come up with seven answers in seven days, he would lose his head to Brahma.
The three riddles were: Where did a person’s aura exist in the morning? , Where it went to in the noon? And where did it appear at night? The boy ultimately found the answers i.e. on the face, on the chest and finally on the feet of a person by overhearing a pair of eagles and got the head of Kabilla Phrom’s head in return which had magical powers.
If it touches the earth, it would set fire to it, in the air, it would stop all rain and if dropped in the sea, it would dry it up. Thus, the seven daughters of God placed it in a cave on Mount Kailash with many offerings after doing a procession with it around Mount Peru. Every year thus, his daughter’s would bring out the head and carry it in a procession around Mount Peru from which the yearly celebration came to be known as Songkran.
- New Year Traditions
This festival is endowed with traditions and rituals incorporating the richness of the Thai culture. The mornings of the three-day event begin with merit-making and for gaining merit, visiting local temples as well as presenting the Buddhist monks with offerings of food is a common practice. One of the iconic rituals for the Thai New Year is the pouring of water on Buddha statues that signifies the washing away of ones sins or bad luck. People consider this occasion to be that of unity and reunions and so the people who live abroad or outside homes come back to their home towns during this time to meet elders and loved ones. As an act of paying respect to elders, youngsters often pour water into the palms of elders and seek blessings from them.
This day is also highlighted as a day for paying respect to one’s ancestors. The most popular among the young people is the water festival that takes place during Songkran. All the major streets and areas are closed for traffic and they turn into arenas for water fights. Both young and old people join this festival by splashing water on each other. The use of chalks or chalk powder on each other is also popular and originated from the fact that monks use chalks to mark blessings. In some areas, traditional Thai parades set out where contestants wear traditional attires and Miss Songkran is crowned.
- Songkran In Different Parts Of Thailand
Songkran is celebrated in different ways having different customs in the different parts of Thailand as follows:
- CENTRAL THAILAND: People in this part of the country clean up their houses as the time of the festival approaches. Everybody dresses up in colorful Thai clothes and spend the day in offering food to the monks and paying reverence to the family ancestors. They also indulge in making merit offerings such as donating sand to the temples for its construction or repair. Other ways of earning merit is to release birds and fishes. Nowadays, other animals such as buffaloes and cows are also released.
- South Thailand : Southerners have three simple and clear rules for Songkran. The first one is to work as less as possible and refrain from spending too much money. The second rule is to avoid hurting other people or animals and the last rule is to never tell lies.
- North Thailand : In the northern parts of Thailand, the 13th of April is marked with the sound of firecrackers and gunshots to symbolize the warding away of bad luck. On the second day, the people make food dishes and offer those and other useful things to the monks in the temples. People have a responsibility of going to the temples in order to earn merit and they can do so by bathing the statues of Buddha and pouring water onto the hands of the elders and ask for blessings in return.
- East Thailand : The eastern areas of Thailand have traditions similar to those of the rest of the country. It’s just that the people here are into making merit on all the three days and make the sand pagoda. Some of the families after earning merit at the temples, make food especially for the elders to earn their blessings.