This festival is the most important festival of Thailand and is also known as Thai New Year’s Festival. The term “Songkran” is derived from the Sanskrit word “samkranti” which has a literal meaning of ‘astrological passage’ meaning change.
It also pinpoints the start of a new solar year and the summer season. It occurs on the 13th of April every year but the celebrations are carried on till the 15th of the same month.
The date of the festival is in accordance with the Hindu calendar and leads to three days of fun and frolic filled water fights and partying.
The Songkran festival is rich in customs and traditions. The day starts with merit making which includes visiting temples and offering food and alms to the Buddhist monks. One of the customary acts of this day is to pour water on statues of Buddha which symbolize purification and cleansing away of one’s sins and bad luck. As this festival represents unity, people come home to their family and dear ones during this time.
The younger members of the family often pour water in the hands of the older members as an act of respect. One of the features of this festival includes paying homage to the ancestors. This holiday is most popular because of its water festivals that are majorly enjoyed by the younger population. Crucial and happening streets are closed for movement of vehicles and take the form of water fight venues. The largest Songkran party is seen to take place on the Silom Road and Khao San Road in the city of Bangkok. All the participants of the water fight splash water on each other which is a form of wishing the other person a happy new year filled with good luck and happiness. In some places, parades are held where the people taking part dress up in traditional Thai costumes. At the end of the event, a woman is crowned as “Miss Songkran”.
How Songkran Is Celebrated In Thailand
Central– As the festival approaches, the people of this region clean their houses and surroundings. Everyone dresses up in vibrant and colorful clothes for the occasion. The people wake up at dawn and offer food to the monks after which they make offerings to their ancestors too. They make merit offerings like donating sand for the construction or repair of temples. Other acts of merit include setting free of birds and fish.
North– In this region of Thailand, Songkran is marked with fireworks and gunfire to ward off bad luck. On the following day, i.e. on 14th of April, food and other handy things are offered to the monks of the local temples. People visit the temples and perform the ritual of pouring water over the statue of Buddha.
South– Thailand southerners have three basic rules for this day that they strictly follow. They are to work as less as possible and restrain from spending money, avoid hurting any person or animal and speak only truth.
East– Here, merit making is prevalent for all the three days and along with giving food to the monks, people also prepare food for the elder members of the family as a token of respect.
This festival is celebrated under the name of ‘Sangken’ in places like Bizu, Shangrai, Boisuk and north-eastern India by the indigenous people and members of the Buddhist community. This day is also celebrated by the people of the Khampti tribe. Sangken is generally observed in the month of ‘Naun Ha’ which is the fifth month of the year according to the traditional Khampti Lunar calendar. This month coincides with the month of April of the Gregorian calendar. This festival is celebrated on the final days of the old year and the new Lunar year starts right after the festival ends.
Rules Of The Water Fights
- Make sure you fight using clean water be it tap water or the ones kept in large jugs. See to it that the water is not hot. It can be at room temperature or ice cold water if it’s a very hot day. The water weapons used on this day are water pistols, buckets, mugs and garden hoses. Avoid splashing water directly at the eyes as it can cause irritation.
- Dress appropriately and avoid wearing white clothes. Wearing a swimsuit under the clothes is a smart move. Avoid thick fabrics like denims. Wear clothes that are suitable for the beach like shorts, flip flops and t-shirts.
- Bring a water proof pouch or Ziploc to keep your electronic gadgets and other valuable items away from the water.
- You can carry a water proof camera if you want to capture all the crazy and playful moments of the water fight.