Water plays a central role in Thai events and festivals. During the world’s hottest month, Thais come together to cool down in the world’s largest water festival, Songkran.
Armed with colourful water pistols and buckets, individuals come together to participate in water fights during Songkran, Thailand’s New Year. Held from the 13th to 15th April, Songkran is one of Thailand’s important holidays and pulls significant tourist dollar.
Different regions in Thailand celebrate Songkran differently as well! In the central, merits are performed by releasing animals like birds, fishes and buffalos back into the wild. In the south, Songkran is known as a free day with Thais observing 3 crucial rules of not working and spending money, not hurting other humans and animals and not lying. Lastly, in the north, gunfire and firecrackers are shot in the sky to remove bad luck. Food and other household items are also gifted to monks at the temple.
After the death of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October, Thailand has been in a year of mourning. Coupled with tighter regulations from the military government, celebrations for this year’s Songkran has been toned down, scaling back many major entertainment activities.
Instead of revelling in the water fun, the government has urged all Thais and tourists to mark Songkran in a more traditional way this year. With greater emphasis on familial and communal bonds, Songkran is also a time when Thais visit their hometowns to celebrate with their elders. Water is then poured over their elders’ palms as a sign of respect. Similarly, many stations have been set up for individuals to pour water over Buddha statues, symbolically purifying the body in preparation for good fortune in the New Year.
Contrary to popular understanding, water isn’t the only thing being thrown during Songkran. Colourful powder paste are is also smeared on faces as a form of blessing. This practice originated from monks marking blessings with colourful chalk.
Image Credit: jungceylon