Songkran, the Thai Water Festival, is similar to the well known Holi Festival in India. It takes place in the hottest months of the year, April 13.-16., and is a major holiday marking the new year. People cleanse for the new year and wash off the old to approach the new year clean and fresh. There are tons of ceremonies, rituals and fun activities to partake in Thailand around this time. Here are some background informations and some advice where to go and what to do.
Story behind the festival
Astrologically Songkran marks the Thai new year. However, according to the National Cultural Commission, the story of Songkran Festival goes back to an ancient folk tale, where a smart young man was challenged by a greedy god. The god posed the young man with three very difficult riddles and gave him seven days to solve these. The man sat down defeatedly under a tree, thinking he won’t be able to solve the riddles. In the tree there was a family of eagles and the hungry eaglets cried for food, when the mother calmed them down saying, soon the man would be dead, because he will be unable to win the challenge and the god will kill him. In calming down her babies, she told them the solutions to the riddles, not knowing that the young man was able to understand bird language.
On the seventh day, the man presented the god with the right solutions, and the god had to kill himself. His head was so full of evil, that it falling down on earth would have cause devastation. Thus, the head was stored in a certain cave in heaven. According to the tale, every year on Songkran Festival the head is taken out of the cave by the god’s seven daughters and carried around the Meru – the buddhist Olymp – like the procession of the sun. After that the head is taken back to the cave, where is remains for the next year.
What to do?
For buddhists, the festival starts the night before Songkran – the 12th April – when they clean out the their houses and burn the refuse of the old year. The next day they give offerings to the monks, cleanse buddha statues and images, wear new cloths and honor their elders by washing their hands with sacred water and presenting bathing utensils. In the olden days this way of showing their respect to their elders consisted of actual bathing rituals.
As a tourist, interested in the culture of Thailand, Songkran festival will offer many opportunities to do so. Visit the temples to witness the ceremonies or watch some of the cleaning rituals of the images and statues of Buddha.
After the spiritual ceremonies – not just – the children enjoy a bathing ritual of their own, utilizing numerous water guns. On the streets everybody will be squirted at and you will get wet. The kids enjoy this as much as the adults. April is the hottest month in Thailand, just in the end of the hot season and everybody enjoys this unique form of refreshment.
Where to go and stay?
For many tourists, Chiang Mai is the place to be for this festival. There will be many interesting activities, such as washing the face of a Buddha statue yourself or witnessing the celebrations in one of the many temples in this historic city/province. The Hmong Hilltribe Lodge will be nice place to return to after the celebrations and relax, dry up and even cool down in the year round cool climate in the hills. It will also offer you to experience another aspect of traditional Thai culture, the culture of the Hmong Hill tribe, a tribe without written-down history, which is known to have travelled through ‘a land of dry sands and of cold and snow’ and ‘a land six months light and six months dark’, to Mongolia and southern China. Today, most remaining Hmong are still concentrated in remote, mountainous regions.
Khao Sarn Road
If you decide to stay in Bangkok, Khao Sarn Road will be a nice place to enjoy the fun Thai Water Festival. Check out Hotel de Bangkok for good rates during this time. For special promotions, please visit here.
Suk san wan songkran! (eng.: Happy Sogkran Day!) We hope to welcome you for this year’s songkran festivities!