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Thursday, 26 April 2012

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Water-splashing New Year in Thailand

April is a month of celebration for almost all Asians due to the harvesting of crops with the help of monsoon winds and people have ample time for fun and frolic in the spring.

Elephants spraying water on tourists and Thai public to celebrate the Songkran festival

Thai public and foreigners engaged in
building sand pagodas at local temples.

As we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate the New Year this month, it is a month of celebration for the Thai people as well. They call it the Songkran festival which has been celebrated from time immemorial.

Millions of people from across the Kingdom of Thailand flocked to celebrate the Songkran festival on April 13. It is the traditional Thai New Year which is celebrated on a grand scale at several popular venues such as Khao San road in Bangkok, Khao new road in Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai city. These areas were packed with thousands of Thais and foreigners splashing water.

The biggest annual event of Thailand, the Songkran festival, includes the fun-filled water throwing and paying respect to the elders by sprinkling their hands with scented water as Thais consider water as a symbol of cleansing for the New Year. There were also demonstrations of Thai traditional cooking, cultural performances from various regions and bathing of the Buddha images.

This year, the Thailand Tourism Authority (TAT) organized the Songkran festival at 13 temples including Wat Pho in Bangkok, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), Wat Ratchaorasaram, Wat Ratchapradit, Wat Ratchabophit, Wat Bowonniwet, Wat Suthat Thepwararam, Wat Phraram Kao Kanchanaphisek, Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Hanasongkhram, Wat Kanlayanamit, Wat Sakhet (the Golden Mount) and Wat Rakhang from April 12 to 16.These temples held Songkran rites and activities including traditional performances during the festive season.

This year, the Great Songkran Day fell on April 13 and the designated symbol was Kimitha Thewi, a lady who lies down but not asleep on a buffalo's back, wearing a jongkonnee flower behind one ear and wielding a sword on her right hand and a harp in her left. Every region in the country celebrated the festival under the common theme Cool Songkran all over Thailand. April 12 is a big day for Thais to accumulate merit. Thais were engaged in various religious activities such as pouring scented water onto the Buddha images and monks. It is an auspicious act to receive blessings for the New Year by offering alms to monks to dedicate merit to the ancestors of Thailand and listening to Buddhist preachings. They also engaged in building sand pagodas around the temple as these could be used later for the renovation of temples.

Many local organizers too organized the Songkran festival in nine provinces including Mueang-U area in the Udonthani Province, Sai Khao Chae road in the Phetchaburi Province, Khao San road in Bangkok, Kluay Take road in the Phitsa Nulok Province, Khao Thip road in the Chantha Buri Province, Khao Nieo road in the Khon Kaen Province and Nakhon Phanom in the Nakhon Phanom Province from April 11 to 18.

The ritual bathing of the Buddha images by pouring scented water.

Thais and tourists enjoying the splashing of water on each other on the roadsides.

Despite the blazing heat, these areas were crowded with Thais and foreign revellers. They were involved in activities such as offering food to monks, bathing the Buddha images, the Songkran procession, floral parade, bathing and paying respect to elders by pouring scented water, Thai classical folk dancing show, Songkran beauty pageant, concerts, selling food and drinks and enjoying splashing water on people.

TAT Mumbai Office Director Sethaphan Buddhani said “Songkran is a centuries old festival which marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. It is a unique event during which we splash others with water to offer and gain blessings. The word Songkran (Sangkranthi in Sinhala) is derived from Sanskrit which means 'to pass' or 'to move into' (transition). It implies the moving of the sun, moon and planets into a new orbit in the zodiac.”

The Thai people clean their houses and all other public places, such as, temples, schools and offices to welcome the New Year with a fresh start. With the dawn of the New Year, Thais go to temples to bathe the Buddha images and old monks with high veneration. They pour scented water on their parents and sometimes, it is done with a powdered water gun. They apply powder on each other's faces and spray water.

A team of journalists guided by Thai host Tim visited the Khao San road in Bangkok where a number of Thais and foreigners got together to celebrate the Songkran on April 13. Both Thais and foreigners, equipped with water guns, soaked one another amid booming music. Most of the Thai teenagers enjoyed a water battle with foreign tourists. The atmosphere was playful with friendly water wars amid tight security provided by the Thai Police and security volunteers. A number of tourists had arrived in Thailand especially to participate in the water festival which has become a major tourism attraction in April. TAT had arranged all required facilities for the participants. All hotels in the main cities were filled with tourists who were seen enjoying splashing water on one another. Tourism brings in high revenue during the month of April in Thailand.

 

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