Songkran (Thailand)

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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
Observed by Thai and Malaysian Siamese[1]
Significance Marks the Thai New Year
Begins 13 April
Ends 15 April
Date 13 April
2016 date 13 April, Monkey
2017 date 13 April, Rooster
2018 date 13 April, Dog
2019 date 13 April, Pig
Frequency Annual
Related to South and Southeast Asian New Years
Water fights, Chiang Mai

Songkran (Thai: เทศกาลสงกรานต์, pronounced [tʰêːt.sā.kāːn sǒŋ.krāːn]) is the Thai New Year's festival. The Thai New Year's Day is 13 April every year, but the holiday period includes 14–15 April as well. The word "Songkran" comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti (Devanāgarī: संक्रांति),[2] literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti,[3] the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart[4] and with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.

New year traditions[edit]

The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begin with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues and the young and elderly is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one's sins and bad luck.[4] As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.

The holiday is known for its water festival which is mostly celebrated by young people. Major streets are closed to traffic, and are used as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young and old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. Traditional parades are held and in some venues "Miss Songkran" is crowned.[5]” where contestants are clothed in traditional Thai dress.

Songkran at Wat Thai, Los Angeles
Water fights along the west moat, Chiang Mai
People in a tuk-tuk getting soaked during Songkran, Chiang Mai
The use of chalk (Thai: ดินสอพอง) is also very common having originated in the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.

Songkran in Thailand[edit]

Central Region People in this region clean their houses when Songkran approaches. All dress up in colorful clothing or Thai dress. After offering food to the monks, the people will offer a requiem to their ancestors. People make merit such offerings as giving sand to the temple for construction or repair. Other forms of merit include releasing birds and fish. Nowadays, people also release other kinds of animals such as buffaloes and cows.[citation needed]

South Southerners have three Songkran rules: Work as little as possible and avoid spending money; not hurt other persons or animals: not tell lies.[citation needed]

North In the northern region of Thailand 13 April is celebrated with gunfire or firecrackers to repel bad luck. On the next day, people prepare food and useful things to offer to the monks at the temple. People have to go to temple to make merit and bathe Buddha's statue and after that they pour water on the hands of elders and ask for their blessings.

East The eastern region has activities similar to the other part of Thailand, but people in the east always make merit at the temple throughout all the days of the Songkran Festival and create the sand pagoda.Some people, after making merit at the temple, prepare food to be given to the elderly members of their family.

Monks receiving blessing at a temple in Ban Khung Taphao

Songkran elsewhere[edit]

Songkran is celebrated by the Malaysian Siamese community in the states of Kedah, Kelantan, Penang, Perak, Perlis and Terengganu where most of the community are located.[1] The festival is celebrated as Sangken in northeastern areas of India and in Bizu, Boisuk, Shangrai, and Boisabi in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, as the traditional New Year's Day by the Indigenous people and 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.

Vishu, a Hindu religious festival, celebrated mainly in the South Indian State of Kerala (and some parts of Tamil Nadu), also falls during the same timeframe. It is predominantly a harvest festival where 'Kani' or a visual treat is seen as the first view in the morning.

In some villages in south India, especially Karnataka, a festival called "Okhali" or "Okhli" is celebrated in which every household keeps a barrel of water mixed with chalk and turmeric to throw on passers-by. The date of Okhali coincides with that of Songkran in Thailand and Thingyan in Myanmar, not with the dates of Holi, which is a north Indian festival.

Songkran is celebrated annually on the U.S. territory of Wake Island by Air Force members and American and Thai contractors.[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])



"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. 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. Approximately 70 percent of the accidents that occurred during the long holiday period were motorcycle accidents. About 10,000 people per year die in motorcycle accidents.[8]

During the 2014 Songkran festivities, 322 deaths and 2,992 injuries occurred from 11–17 April. Drunk driving and speeding were the leading causes of accidents, in which most involved were motorcycles and pickup trucks.[9]

During the "seven dangerous days" of the Songkran festivities in 2016, from 11–17 April, 442 persons died and 3,656 were injured in road accidents, up 21.4 percent from 2015.[10] The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) says a total of 110,909 people were arrested and 5,772 vehicles impounded at road safety checkpoints across the country between 9–16 April.[11]


  • Police arrested a British tourist in Chiang Mai on the first day of the 2016 Songkran holiday, 13 April, for violating the junta's ban on indecent dress. In a water fight the culprit was topless, wearing only short pants, but no shirt. He was taken into custody, fined 100 baht, then released. Temperatures in Chiang Mai reached 41 °C that day.[12]
  • A man was arrested during Songkran 2016 for posting a video of a topless woman dancing during the 2015 Songkran festival. Police said Jakkrapatsorn Akkarapokanan, 29, was charged under the Computer Crime Act for posting the year-old video of a woman rolling up her wet shirt to let revelers touch her breasts. Jakkrapatsorn was released on a 100,000 baht bond. Police said they attempted to find the topless woman in the video to fine her 500 baht for indecency, but the one year statute of limitations had expired.[13]

Intellectual property[edit]

Celebrate Singapore[edit]

In 2014 "Celebrate Singapore," a large two-day Songkran-style water festival,[14] 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.[15] 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 a tradition.[16] 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.[17]

Dates in Thai lunar calendar[edit]


Gregorian Date Animal Day of the week Gregorian Date Animal Day of the week
2001 13 April Snake (มะเส็ง) Friday 2026 13 April Horse (มะเมีย) Tuesday
2002 13 April Horse (มะเมีย) Saturday 2027 13 April Goat (มะแม) Thursday
2003 13 April Goat (มะแม) Sunday 2028 13 April Monkey (วอก) Saturday
2004 13 April Monkey (วอก) Tuesday 2029 13 April Rooster (ระกา) Sunday
2005 13 April Rooster (ระกา) Wednesday 2030 13 April Dog (จอ) Monday
2006 13 April Dog (จอ) Thursday 2031 13 April Pig (กุน) Tuesday
2007 13 April Pig (กุน) Friday 2032 13 April Rat (ชวด) Thursday
2008 13 April Rat (ชวด) Sunday 2033 13 April Ox (ฉลู) Friday
2009 13 April Ox (ฉลู) Monday 2034 13 April Tiger (ขาล) Saturday
2010 13 April Tiger (ขาล) Tuesday 2035 13 April Rabbit (เถาะ) Sunday
2011 13 April Rabbit (เถาะ) Wednesday 2036 13 April Dragon (มะโรง) Tuesday
2012 13 April Dragon (มะโรง) Friday 2037 13 April Snake (มะเส็ง) Wednesday
2013 13 April Snake (มะเส็ง) Saturday 2038 13 April Horse (มะเมีย) Thursday
2014 13 April Horse (มะเมีย) Sunday 2039 13 April Goat (มะแม) Friday
2015 13 April Goat (มะแม) Monday 2040 13 April Monkey (วอก) Sunday
2016 13 April Monkey (วอก) Wednesday 2041 13 April Rooster (ระกา) Monday
2017 13 April Rooster (ระกา) Thursday 2042 13 April Dog (จอ) Tuesday
2018 13 April Dog (จอ) Friday 2043 13 April Pig (กุน) Wednesday
2019 13 April Pig (กุน) Saturday 2044 13 April Rat (ชวด) Friday
2020 13 April Rat (ชวด) Monday 2045 13 April Ox (ฉลู) Saturday
2021 13 April Ox (ฉลู) Tuesday 2046 13 April Tiger (ขาล) Sunday
2022 13 April Tiger (ขาล) Thursday 2047 13 April Rabbit (เถาะ) Monday
2023 13 April Rabbit (เถาะ) Friday 2048 13 April Dragon (มะโรง) Wednesday
2024 13 April Dragon (มะโรง) Sunday 2049 13 April Snake (มะเส็ง) Thursday
2025 13 April Snake (มะเส็ง) Monday 2050 13 April Horse (มะเมีย) Friday

Nang Songkran[edit]

The mythical origins behind the celebration of Songkran revolve around the Nang Songkran or the Seven Ladies of Songkran. Kabilla Phrom also known as Brahmā enjoyed betting and met a seven-year-old boy named, Thammabal Kumara who was able to recite scriptures in public. Kabilla Phrom wanted to test the child's knowledge so he descended to earth and presented three riddles to the boy and in return if he knew the answer Kabilla Phrom would offer him his head to the boy. However, if the boy failed to come up with seven answers within seven days he would lose his head to Kabilla Phrom. The three riddles were, "where did a person's aura exist in the morning, where was it at noon, and where did it appear at night?" For six days the boy pondered over the riddles and could still not find an answer. However, the boy who was laying under palm trees heard a male and female eagle joyfully talking about how they would soon be able to feast on a boy's dead body. The two eagles then revealed the answers to the riddles which the boy overheard and he immediately went to Kabilla Phrom. The boy recited the answers, "In the morning, a person's aura appeared on his face, so he washed it. At noon, it was at his chest; so, he wore perfume there. And at night, his aura moved to his feet; that was why he bathed them", Kabilla Phrom had lost the bet and so had to cut off his own head. Kabilla Phrom's head however held special powers, if it should touch the ground, the earth would catch fire; if it should be left in the air, there would be no rain and if it should be dropped into the sea, the sea would dry up. In order to save the world from these possible disasters, the god's seven daughters or Nang Songkran placed their father's on a phan and carried it around in procession around Mount Meru before placing it in a cave on Mount Kailash with many offerings. Thus, at the beginning of each year Kabilla Phrom's daughters would take turns to bring out the god's head and carry it in procession around Mount Meru, this celebration is known as Songkran.[18][19]

Day Name Flower Stone Food Right hand Left hand Vehicle
Sunday Tung Sa Devi Pomegranate flowers Ruby Fig Discus Conch Garuda
Monday Ko Rak Devi Cork tree flowers Moonstone Oil Sword Staff Tiger
Tuesday Rak Sod Devi Lotus flower Agate Blood Trident Bow Pig
Wednesday Manta Devi Champak flowers Cat's eye Butter Stylus Staff Donkey
Thursday Kirinee Devi Magnolia Emerald Nuts and sesame seeds Hook Bow Elephant
Friday Kimita Devi Water lilies Topaz Banana Sword Lute Buffalo
Saturday Mahotorn Devi Water hyacinth flowers Blue sapphire Hog deer meat Discus Trident Peacock

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Adnan Jahaya (2005). "Songkran Masih Jadi Teras Tradisi Masyarakat Siam di Perlis". Perlis Public Library Body (in Malay). National Library of Malaysia. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • "Celebrating Songkran in Kelantan". Tourism Malaysia. 12 April 2006. Archived from the original on 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • "The Opening Ceremony of Terengganu Songkran Festival 2015". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • "Songkran jadi produk pelancongan Perak" (in Malay). Astro Awani. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • Nazmil Nasiruddin (15 May 2015). "Uniknya Pesta Songkran" (in Malay). Utusan Malaysia. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • Edmund Lee (13 April 2016). "Revellers with water pistols celebrate Songkran festival". The Sun. Archived from the original on 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
     • "Malaysian PM Hopes Songkran Will Bring Ray Of New Hope For Siamese Community". Bernama. South-South Information Gateway. 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Monier-Williams, Monier (1899). "Saṃkrānti". A Sanskrit-English dictionary : etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to cognate Indo-European languages. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b "The magic and traditions of Thai New Year (Songkran)". Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom, TAT Newsroom, Thailand Tourism News, Tourism Thailand, TAT. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  5. ^ Chadchaidee, Thanapol. "Songkran Festival" (PDF). D.K. TODAY CO.LTD. 
  6. ^ Captain Anastasia Schmidt (April 19, 2017). "Air Force members celebrate Thai New Year and Water Festival at Wake Island". Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. 11th Air Force Public Affairs. Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  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. ^ "Songkran Road Toll 2014". 4 August 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Road toll soars to record 442 killed over Songkran". Bangkok Post. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "Songkran death toll rises to 397". Bangkok Post. 2016-04-17. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  12. ^ Rojanaphruk, Pravit (2016-04-13). "Topless Farang Fined 100 Baht in Chiang Mai". Khaosod English. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  13. ^ Mokkhasen, Sasiwan (2016-04-16). "Man Arrested for Posting Topless Songkran Clip From 2015". Khaosod English. Retrieved 16 April 2016. [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Tết té nước tại thái lan". 
  15. ^ "Suit eyed for Singapore Songkran". Bangkok Post. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "Songkran in Singapore". Bangkok Post. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Only in Singapore: No Songkran". Bangkok Post. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]