Songkran (Thailand)

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For other related new year festivals of South and Southeast Asia, see Songkran. For the related Lao festival of the same name, see Songkran (Lao).
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 2017 (2017-04-13)
Frequency Annual
Related to Thingyan, Lao New Year, Odiya New Year, Tamil New Year, Cambodian New Year, Sinhalese New Year
Water fights, Chiang Mai

The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์, pronounced [sǒŋ.krāːn], listen) 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),[1] literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti,[2] 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,[3] the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.

New year traditions[edit]

The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begins 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 is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away one's sins and bad luck.[3] As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders.[3] As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders' hands. 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 for 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 venue "Miss Songkran" is crowned.[4]” 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. 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 always 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 do merit and bathe Buddha's statue and after that they pour water on the hands of revered 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. 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 as Sangken in northeastern areas 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.

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.

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.[5])

Downsides[edit]

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) [6]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Arrests[edit]

  • 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.[10]
  • 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. Jakkrapatsonr 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.[11]

Intellectual property[edit]

Celebrate Singapore[edit]

In 2014 "Celebrate Singapore," a large two-day Songkran-style water festival,[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Saṃkrānti, Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c "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. 
  4. ^ Chadchaidee, Thanapol. "Songkran Festival" (PDF). D.K. TODAY CO.LTD. 
  5. ^ 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 
  6. ^ a b "Lawless culture takes its toll". Bangkok Post. 11 Apr 2014. Retrieved 11 Apr 2014. 
  7. ^ "Songkran Road Toll 2014". Songkran.travel. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "Road toll soars to record 442 killed over Songkran". Bangkok Post. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "Songkran death toll rises to 397". Bangkok Post. 2016-04-17. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  10. ^ Rojanaphruk, Pravit (2016-04-13). "Topless Farang Fined 100 Baht in Chiang Mai". Khaosod English. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  11. ^ Mokkhasen, Sasiwan (2016-04-16). "Man Arrested for Posting Topless Songkran Clip From 2015". Khaosod English. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  12. ^ "Tết té nước tại thái lan". 
  13. ^ "Suit eyed for Singapore Songkran". Bangkok Post. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Songkran in Singapore". Bangkok Post. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "Only in Singapore: No Songkran". Bangkok Post. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

E-books