Every year there is a festival in Thailand called Songkran. This big celebration is very popular and is held in all cities of Thailand. The importance of Songkran is so great that it is one of the most important official holidays of this country and is one of the most popular national ceremonies in Thailand.
- Celebrating the beginning of the new year in Thai style.
- It is the biggest war using water guns around the world, which is also mentioned in Guinness with the same name.
- It is considered the biggest water festival around the world.
- By participating in it, you will get to know many opinions of Thai people.
- It is the most important festival in Thailand.
Getting to know Songkran Celebrating the beginning of the new year in Thailand
Every nation starts their new year with special customs. The celebrations of the beginning of the year are all rooted in the thoughts of the ancestors of the people of that country, and getting to know them can open a new window to the knowledge of the natives of different regions of the world. Asian countries, especially East and Central Asia, are among the countries that have been pioneers in various festivals and celebrations for a long time.
Songkran is one of the biggest festivals that is held in Thailand every year on April 13th, corresponding to April 24th. On the occasion of this great ceremony, April 14th and 15th (April 25th and 26th) are declared as official holidays so that the people of all Thai cities can participate in this celebration, thus Songkran lasts for 3 days.
The word “Songkran” is rooted in the Samkranti word “saṃkrānti”. This word is in Sanskrit language and means heavenly miracle, some consider it equivalent to the word password or approach. If you have no idea about the Songkran festival, we must say that this festival is considered one of the most wonderful customs around the world because everything that is done in it is a symbol and represents a special issue. It doesn’t matter what age each person is, a special mission is prepared for them so that everyone can start their new year together. Water games are part of Songkran celebration; But due to the fact that many people play water during this festival, it is often known as the custom of water play and even in some cities it is called the water festival.
The main philosophy of Songkran is cleansing from sins and removing misfortunes from life, and everything that is done during the few days of Songkran is rooted in this theme. During this celebration, Thai people try to wear their traditional clothes to show their culture more to the foreign participants. So, if you plan to participate in Songkran, know now that you will have a unique and exciting celebration ahead.
Songkran is also held in countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, Vietnam, etc.; But if you want to see a full Songkran, you have to go to Thailand. Stay with us to experience water sports in Thailand for three consecutive days and tell you about its customs.
Celebration rituals How do Thai people honor Songkran?
A few days before the arrival of the Songkran festival, special places in the alleys and streets of different cities in Thailand are identified for people who are interested in participating in water games to go to these places. In the past, older people mostly participated in Songkran; But today, this festival is very popular with young people, especially boys, and they make up the largest number of people present at this festival.
At the beginning of the festival, images of Buddha are installed throughout the cities to indicate the coming of a religious festival. By the time the Buddha pictures are played, the participants have finished cleaning their houses and are leaving their houses to play water.
Without a doubt, water is the most important element in Songkran. From around 8 am, the participants of this festival can be found on the streets of Thai cities. Everyone is wearing colorful clothes to show their happiness. Equipment such as water guns and water buckets are also abundantly seen among the participants who brought along to start the water fight.
During Songkran, it doesn’t matter who you are facing; You have the right to shoot water at everyone in this exciting festival and you have to shoot everyone. Now that we have had a general look at the Songkran festival, we will examine its customs.
*Appropriate clothes Preserving tradition along with security
Wearing the right clothes is one of the most important things about the Songkran celebration. To participate in this festival, everyone wears shorts and clothes with happy colors so that the heat does not bother them and show that they are happy for this celebration and respect their ancient traditions. If it is your first time to participate in this celebration, bring protective glasses with you so that splashing water in your eyes will not cause you discomfort.
* Freedom of animals
One of the proper rituals performed during the Songkran festival is the release of animals, especially fish and birds. Of course, it has been seen that buffalo and cows are also released so that these animals are also free in the new year.
*Sight and visit Respect for elders
During the Songkran festival, Thais go to the temples and bring various food and treats for the monks. By doing this, they want to pay tribute to their religious elders and also thank them for preserving the old traditions. Of course, many people also go to the temples to visit the Buddhas and take food for the statues. To thank the visitors, the monks give them delicious food and sweets. Monks often treat people to a delicious and full breakfast on Songkran days. Some people who have gone to the temples, after having breakfast, pour water on the hands of Buddha statues and consider that water as a blessing and a source of purity.
Thais believe that it is a good thing to visit parents during the celebration, that’s why many return to their hometown and visit their elders.
* Cleanliness etiquette
As we said before, the reason for playing in the Songkran festival is to get rid of pollution. In this regard, people who have converted to Buddhism and care about their rituals, ask their elders to pour water on them. Pouring clean water by old people on young people shows that they are free from pollution. During the Songkran festival, the monks of Buddhist and Hindu temples take on the task of pouring water on young people and asking for forgiveness for them.
If you look more closely at the faces of the participants of this celebration, you will notice that some of them have smeared mud (often clay) on their faces. This work is also done symbolically because at the end of the celebration, the flowers are cleaned and as if they are cleansed of impurities and are ready to enter the new year. Some also believe that these flowers were rubbed on the faces of ordinary people by monks in the past and were a sign of blessing. In the meantime, you may also see people who have plastered on themselves, plaster is considered a sign of blessing in Songkran. It is necessary to mention that some are of the opinion that the custom of applying plaster to the head and face was specific to Indians.
Apart from cleaning the body and soul, house cleaning is also very important on Songkran days because Thais prefer to start their new year in a pollution-free environment.
In the last few years, we have seen that music has entered the Songkran celebration. This issue has nothing to do with the ancient customs of the Thai natives and is only for more excitement. The music played in Songkran is happy and sometimes western.
* Fragrance diffusion
The interesting thing about Songkran is that many people perfume others with water. This work refers to two issues; First of all, wearing perfume is a hygienic thing and it helps to clean people and will make them enter the new year with cleaner bodies. Another thing is that, as we mentioned, Songkran is held on the occasion of the arrival of the New Year and is always known for its colorful and fragrant flowers. Diffusion of perfume is also a way to remember the arrival of spring.
Songkran festival venue
Undoubtedly, Songkran is special to the country of Thailand and is celebrated all over it; But nevertheless, it is more fun to participate in this celebration in some places. Among the best places to participate in Songkran are the following:
- Chiang Mai | Chiang Mai in Bangkok: a residential city in the north of the country. The largest and longest Songkran celebration is held in Chiang Mai.
- Tanon Khao San Street Thanon Khao San in Bangkok : One of the streets of Bangkok where Songkran is held every year. During the Songkran period, the whole street is filled with large buckets of water and statues and pictures of the Buddha and the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
- If you are interested in participating in Songkran but traveling to Thailand is difficult for you, you can also visit Laos. In this country, Songkran is widely held, which, of course, does not reach the glory of this ceremony in Thailand, but it is spectacular in its own way.
- The New Year celebration in Cambodia is also very similar to Songkran, with the difference that the women of this country wear disguises and pretend to be queens and participate in the competition to choose the best lady.
- In Myanmar, there is also a festival called Thingyan, which is not unlike Songkran, and in other words, it can be said that it is combined with the customs of this festival, so if you are on your way to Myanmar, you can enjoy this festival.
- Thailand has a beautiful and wonderful nature and long rivers can be seen in most of its cities. People who are against wasting water during Songkran go to the rivers and play in the rivers.
- In Thailand and East Asian countries, elephant riding and the use of these animals are popular, during the Songkran, elephants were also not neglected and they were trained to sprinkle water with their trunks on people walking around. So if you visit the elephant keeping or display centers around Thailand, they will be good places to celebrate Songkran.
Rules of the Songkran Festival
For the safety and comfort of the participants and to preserve the valuable traditions of the Thai natives, there are rules that every participant who attends Songkran must follow. These rules are as follows:
- You should not splash water on the money because the face of the King of Thailand is on it, also, as much as possible, you should not use money in these few days so as not to eat money with wet hands.
- No one has the right to harm animals or other human beings.
- No one should lie.
- Natives should be kind to foreign tourists.
- It is forbidden to splash hot water on others.
History of Songkran Festival
It is interesting to know that Songkran had interesting meanings in the past, which unfortunately even many Thais are unaware of today. At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that one of the meanings of songkran is to pass and move. Contrary to popular belief, this word does not mean passing away from impurities and purification, but the purpose of the movement of the planets and the sun. We know that the passage of years is measured based on a 12-year category or 12 months of the year. In astronomical terms, the passage of these twelve towers is called the zodiac. So, the meaning of passing and moving in the word Songkran is the movement of constellations and the end of a year and the beginning of a new year. In the past, Songkran was celebrated to announce the beginning of the new year and also to welcome spring, so they decorated their houses with flowers and natural vases and considered the arrival of spring to be auspicious.
If we take a look at the history of Songkran, we will find that many people and celebrations have had an impact on it, for example, some believe that Songkran originated from the beliefs of the Indians because they have been hunting and farming for a long time and water It had a vital role in their lives, and with the beginning of spring, they would hold a ceremony for the prosperity of agriculture and visit their parents.
Another theory, which is more valid than the previous one, states that the modified Songkran is a festival called Makar Sankranti. This festival is held in India to commemorate the harvest. In Makar Sankranti, the position of the sun and the passage of the moons are very important and this is the most important reason why Songkran is considered as an advanced Makar Sankranti.
In the early years of Songkran celebration, civil servants and high-ranking members of Thailand paid their respects to the king and all went to kiss his hand; But today, this work is not mandatory for everyone and is done informally. The purpose of this work was to pay respect and renew the covenant with the king, and in return, the ruler promised to provide food for the people and improve their lives.
The exact date of Songkran celebration is not known; But we know that there was such a festival during the time of King Rattanakosin. He started his rule in 1782 and his capital was Bangkok. Songkran is said to have been created to entertain this powerful king; But historical evidence shows that it is likely that Songkran existed before him, but it was prevalent among the middle class of society.
Songkran also has similarities with Nowruz Eid; Because this celebration is considered ancient and its history is attributed to many years ago. There is also a possibility that Songkran is derived from the Iranian celebration, because Iranians used to clean their houses and visit their parents at the beginning of the new year.
With all these details, we are sure that since 1888, Songkran has been registered as an official celebration and holiday in the Thai calendar.
Legend of Songkran
Behind the great Songkran celebration, there is a fascinating legend that narrates the reason for holding this ceremony, let’s read this beautiful story together:
In the distant times, a god named Kabilla Phrom lived in the heavens. He, who was a kind God, had an inappropriate moral and that was jealousy. Kabila was jealous of everything that was superior to him. One day, he hears that there is a boy on earth who can understand the language of birds and talk to them. This greatly arouses Kabila’s jealousy and makes him go to the ground and take the boy with him to the heavens; But the boy’s face arouses Kabila’s pity, for this reason, God sets three riddles for him and makes a bet that if he finds the answer to them, the boy will not only survive death, but also Kabila himself. hits
The boy in the story thinks about the riddles for a whole week, but he doesn’t find any answers to them. Finally, out of despair, he leans on a palm tree and sinks into his despairing thoughts. Suddenly, he hears the voice of an eagle from above the tree saying to his children:
Don’t worry, soon this stupid boy will die and we will mourn his corpse. He is too dumb to solve such easy riddles.
After these sentences, the eagle explains the answers to all three riddles to his children, and the boy, who was listening to their words, understands the answers.
Kabila, who was very fond of betting and always kept his promises, when he heard the boy’s answers, he was satisfied with hitting his neck, and finally Kabila hit his neck.
As soon as the people of heaven die, they realize a big problem; If Kabila’s big head falls on the ground, it will cause a fire, and if it falls into the seas, it will dry them up. So they decide to keep that huge head in a room in the sky. The Thais say that this head still exists in the heavens.
But what does this story have to do with Songkran?
The natives of Thailand believe that every year during Songkran, the door of the room where Kabila’s head is is opened, and from his presence, the earth becomes green and fertile and spring comes.
Interesting points about the Songkran festival
Together, here we have a look at interesting and readable points related to the famous Songkran festival:
- Thais believe that during the Songkran festival, participants are purified both spiritually and physically.
- Nowadays, more attention is paid to the entertainment aspect of Sunkgaran than to its spiritual aspect.
- Fortunately, this festival takes place when Thailand has warm weather and everyone can play in the water without worrying about catching a cold.
- In Tajikistan, there is also a festival similar to Songkran, which honors the elderly in a way.
- It is interesting to know that the principles of Songkran are to purify themselves with water on the first day, visit the elders on the second day, and spend the last day in temples, but over time, this celebration has become a national water game.
- It can be said that Songkran is a Thai-style New Year celebration, just like Holi in India or Chinese New Year and even Christian Easter and Christmas.
- The importance of water is not hidden from anyone, especially for agriculture, which is directly related to human life. Some researchers believe that because agriculture was and is one of the most important jobs in East Asia, it led to the creation of Songkran and showed the importance of water. in the countries of this region.
- During Songkran, the average temperature in Thailand is 40 degrees Celsius, so it is considered the best time for water sports.
- In some Thai villages, during Songkran, they light fires or set off fireworks to drive away the spirits.
Opinions of opponents of the Songkran festival
Songkran festival has many fans all over the world and attracts foreign tourists every year, but it is not bad to know that there are many objections to this ceremony, which we will discuss some reasons and opposing opinions:
- Songkran is done to celebrate spring and the importance of this season as well as cleanliness. These issues are all good and positive, but water games make the people of the world see Thais as consumer-oriented and mindless people, which is far from the main purpose of the festival.
- During the Songkran festival, the number of accidents in the country doubles.
- Although it is stated in the festival law that no one has the right to harm another; But again, the number of injured in this celebration is high. The participants do not intend to show Thailand as a wild country, but such damage will tarnish Thailand’s image.
- Apart from the accident, Songkran also increases the amount of traffic in all cities and people are forced to spend many hours in traffic.
- It is true that Songkran is actually 3 days; But it involves all the participants for about 7 days and this issue increases the number of deaths and accidents.
- Songkran’s popularity has also distorted it. For example, in 2014, such a celebration was held in Singapore and it was called “the biggest water festival in Singapore”; This issue caused a dispute between this country and Thailand because Thailand considered itself the owner of Songkran and stated that there was no such thing as alcoholic beverages in this celebration and Singaporeans distorted Songkran. These disagreements and conflicts still continue because many people are of the opinion that no country can claim ownership of a tradition. In general, a celebration should strengthen different nations, not divide them.