Songkran (Thailand)

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Songkran
Songkran in Wat Kungthapao 03.jpg
New Year celebration, Rot Nam Dam Hua, a traditional way to celebrate with elders. Most Thai people go back to their hometowns to meet their elders.
Official name Songkran Festival (สงกรานต์)
Observed by Thai
Significance Marks the Thai New Year
Begins 13 April
Ends 15 April
Date 13 April
Next time 13 April 2015 (2015-04-13)
Duration 3 days
Frequency annual
Related to Thingyan, Lao New Year, Cambodian New Year
A truck load of people after a "hit", Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์, pronounced [sǒŋ.krāːn], listen; from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti,[1] or literally "astrological passage") is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia.

New year traditions[edit]

Songkran at Wat Thai in Los Angeles
Water throwing along the western moat of Chiang Mai, Thailand
People in a tuk tuk getting soaked during Songkran in Chiang Mai
The use of chalk (Thai: ดินสอพอง) is also very common having originated in the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.
Some children having fun at the Bangkok Zoo during Songkran.

The traditional throwing of water is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away and is sometimes filled with fragrant herbs when celebrated in the traditional manner.[2]

Monks receiving blessing at a temple in Ban Khung Taphao

Songkran Elsewhere[edit]

Songkran is celebrated as Sangken in northeastern Part of India, as the traditional New Year's Day by the Buddhist Community. The Sangken festival is celebrated by the people of the Khampti tribe. The festival is also celebrated by Singpho, Khamyang, Tikhaks (Tangsa) and Phakyal community of Arunachal Pradesh, and Tai Phake community of Assam. Sangken generally falls in the month of 'Naun Ha', the fifth month of the year of the Khampti Lunar calendar coinciding with the month of April. It is celebrated in the last days of the old year and the Lunar New Year begins on the day just after the end of the festival.

Controversy[edit]

"Celebrate Singapore"[edit]

In 2014 "Celebrate Singapore", a large two-day Songkran-style water festival, was planned for Singapore and the event was promoted as the "largest water festival party in Singapore". However, controversy emerged when the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for Tourism Products, Vilaiwan Twichasri, claimed that Thailand holds exclusive rights to celebrate Songkran and planned to consult with officials at the Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Culture to discuss a potential lawsuit; the Deputy Governor's view was supported by numerous Thai citizens on social media websites.[3] Chai Nakhonchai, Cultural Promotion Department chief, pointed out that Songkran is a traditional festival shared by many countries throughout Southeast Asia, while historian Charnvit Kasetsiri stated that no single nation can claim ownership of the tradition.[4] On 25 March 2014, the Bangkok Post reported that the Singaporean government had intervened in the festival's content and there would be no water-throwing, no water pistols and no public drinking; the festival was also reduced to a one-day event.[5]

Public nudity[edit]

Two Thai people were arrested during the 2014 celebration, as they had revealed their breasts in public in Pitsanulok province. Images of the nudity were disseminated on the Internet and condemnation was expressed in response. The pair was charged with indecent exposure, fined THB500 each and were taken to a local shrine to seek forgiveness from spirits. As of 15 April, a third person was being traced for exposing his penis in public in the same province.[6]

In other calendars[edit]

Songkran occurs at the same time as that given by Bede for festivals of Eostre—and Easter weekend occasionally coincides with Songkran (most recently 1979, 1990, and 2001, but not again until 2085.[7])

Accidents[edit]

Thai people should think about what we want and how we want to promote the image of our country. Do we want to be known as the hub of the water party with booze and a high death toll? Or do we want to be known for having a beautiful culture that no one else has" —Prommin Kantiya, director of the Accident Prevention Network (APN) [8]

Police statistics show that the death toll from road accidents doubles during the annual Songkran holiday. According to the figures, between 2009 and 2013 there were about 27 road deaths per day during non-holiday periods and an average of 52 road deaths per day during Songkran. Thailand has the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world, with 44 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Approximately 70% of the accidents that occurred during the long holiday period were motorcycle accidents. About 10,000 people per year die in motorcycle accidents—both the drivers and passengers.[8]

During the 2014 Songkran festivities, 204 deaths and 2,142 injuries occurred by the end of the third day. Drunk driving and speeding were the most significant causes of accidents, in which motorcycles and pickup trucks were mostly involved.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Saṃkrānti, Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  2. ^ http://www.thaiworldview.com/feast/songkran.htm
  3. ^ "Suit eyed for Singapore Songkran". Bangkok Post. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Songkran in Singapore". Bangkok Post. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "Only in Singapore: No Songkran". Bangkok Post. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Ladyboys Arrested For Songkran Breast Exposure". Khaosod English. Khaosod Public Co.,Ltd. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Ronald M. Mallen (April 2002). "Easter Dating Method". Astronomical Society of South Australia. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012. List of Easter Sunday Dates 2000–2099 
  8. ^ a b "Lawless culture takes its toll". Bangkok Post. 11 Apr 2014. Retrieved 11 Apr 2014. 
  9. ^ "Forty three more die on third day". Thai PBS. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

E-books