- Date: The Thai New Year (which is known as Sonkran) 2016 will be celebrated between Wednesday April 13 and Friday April 15, 2016.
- Calculations based on Astrology: The traditional Thai New Year celebration of Sonkran can be traced back to ancient times. It is believed to have been celebrated since centuries. An interesting fact about the Sonkran celebrations is that the origin is believed to have stemmed from the Hindu method of calculating the date of Sankranti, which as per Hindu calendar is the day that marks the transition of the Sun. In fact even the name Sonkran is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word “Sankranti”, which when literally translated signifies movement, transition or change. So just like Sankranti the day Sonkran also signifies movement or change or transition of the Sun. If we trace history then we can find a logical reason behind this. Thailand was ruled by the Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola Dynasty during 1012-1044 CE. Naturally it should not come as a surprise that the Thai celebration of Sonkran coincides with Puthandu, which is the Tamil celebration of their traditional New Year. In modern times however for the sake of convenience the date of celebration of Sonkran has been fixed. In case such date falls on a weekend, then the day immediately succeeding the weekend is a holiday in Thailand. As per the traditions of most of the South East Asian countries, Thailand’s traditional calendar also shows a luni solar pattern.
- History: The origin of Sonkran is related to various ancient legends and folklores. It is believed that in the ancient times there was a God by the name of Kabilla Phrom. This God had the tendency to bet. One day Kabilla Phrom was informed that there was a little seven year old boy by the name of Thammabal Kumara who could recite ancient scriptures before people without any mistake or even any kind of hesitation. Kabilla Phrom was tempted to test the knowledge of the little boy. He descended on Earth to meet the boy and challenged the boy with three questions in the form of riddles. He asked the little boy where the aura of a person rested during the morning, noon and night. However, due to Kabilla Phrom’s innate tendency to bet he had put a condition before the little boy. The condition was that whoever loses would have to give off his head to the winner. Thammabal Kumara was given a period of six days to contemplate on the answers to these riddles. The little boy thought really hard, but could not come up with the right explanations to the riddles. He was resting under a palm tree when he could overhear some eagles, who were happy that they shall be able to feast on the head of Thammabal Kumara in a few days time. However, they were wise eagles who also knew the answers to the riddles and were happily discussing those among themselves. The boy remembered what he heard. When Kabilla Phrom asked Thammabal Kumara the right answers after six days, the little boy said – A person’s aura rested on his face during the morning hours, on his chest in the afternoon hours and on his feet at night. He also said that this is the reason why it is considered to be beneficial to wash one’s face in the morning, sprinkle perfume on chest in the afternoon, and wash feet during the night. Kabilla Phrom lost the bet and kept his word. But there was a problem in cutting off his head, for if his head touched the ground, then it would set the earth ablaze, if the head was thrown in the water bodies, there would be drought, if the head kept floating in the air, the area would get face severe natural calamities. To prevent this, the seven daughters of the God placed the head on a tray with feet and carried it in procession to a cave in Mount Sumeru.
- Traditions and rituals: Preparations to celebrate the traditional Thai New Year begin days beforehand. This is the time when people give their homes a thorough spring cleaning. Thai people believe that New Year is a time to turn a new leaf over – to renew to rejuvenate. Homes are washed, altars are cleaned; so are statues or images of Gods or Buddha. The water that is used to clean the altars, shrines etc is considered to be blessed. It is considered to be auspicious if someone gently puts a little of this water over members of the family or over friends. The New Year’s Eve is known by the name of Wan Nao, and the people of Thailand begin their New Year’s celebration from this time. In fact New Year’s Eve is the time when more of the traditional and formal rites and rituals are commemorated. The actual New Year’s Day involves celebrations that are fun and entertaining. Wan Nao rituals also involve visiting the shrines. People seek blessings from the monks who mark their blessings with chalk mark. People also build sand statues on this occasion. This is the day when people also take a resolution to learn from mistakes of the past and stay in the path of virtue all through the New Year.
- Modern Day Festivities of Sonkran: These days it has become a common custom to organize for beauty pageants on the occasion of traditional Thai New Year’s celebrations. This has gained huge popularity because of the fact that it involves people and the winner is decided based on the vote of the public. Water fights are also organized as a fun activity. Not only children, but also adults arm themselves with water guns have a jolly good time. The Thai police department stays extremely alert during the festive days so that the excited crowd can be kept under control.
- Greetings: During the traditional Thai New Year celebrations people resort to wishing each other in a very traditional way in their native Thai language. Literally translated Happy New Year in Thai would be “Sawasdee Pee Mai”. The greeting Swasdee is very commonly used in Thailand, and it can signify either a hello or even a goodbye. The word Mai means New and the word Pee means Year. Another way of communicating Thai New Year’s greetings is by saying “Suk San Wan Pee Mai” – the words suk san signifying happiness. A simple yet popular form of Thai New Year Greeting is “Suk San Wan Sonkran” which literally translated means “Happy New Year’s (Sonkran) Day”.
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