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Q: Thailand's Water Festival ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Thailand's Water Festival
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: gcse-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 19 Nov 2004 19:43 PST
Expires: 19 Dec 2004 19:43 PST
Question ID: 431355
I'd like to know more about this festival. As much detail as possible
if you can like how it started, what does it mean...etc
Subject: Re: Thailand's Water Festival
Answered By: easterangel-ga on 20 Nov 2004 03:00 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi! Thanks for the question.

Before providing a rating, please ask for clarification if you will
need further assistance in the answers I have provided below.

I will provide the needed info about the Thailand Water Festival
(locally known as Songkran) by looking at the historical, cultural,
traditional background, significance and extra notes about this event.
This festival is held annually from April 13 to 15.

Overview of the Water Festival:

?Songkran - an official holiday throughout Thailand - there are
parades, beauty pageants, singing, dancing in the streets and lots of
water. Visitors should expect to become totally drenched - and love
every minute of it!?

?The most famous spot for Songkran revelry is in the northern city of
Chiangmai, where thousands of foreign tourists join the locals for a
bit of watery mayhem.?

Source: ?The wetter the better: Thailand's Songkran festival? By Donald Gilliland

?The festival has undergone changes and modern interpretations over
the last 20 years, today amounting to the world?s largest water fight.
63 million Thais arm themselves with water guns, hoses, buckets and an
unimaginable slew of contraptions designed to hurl water with maximum
soaking force.?

Source: ?Songkran Scott Coates? 

History, Origin & Legends:

Our next link provides a detailed discussion of the water festival or
Songkran which basically signals the New Year. The discussion is
mainly focused on astrological basis of the origins of the event.

?The term Songkran itself means, ''a move or change in the position of
the sun from Aries to Taurus,'' it falls sometime between April 10 and
April 18 and in Thai tradition it includes the celebration of the end
of one year -- 'Troot' -- and the beginning of a new year -
'Songkran'. The phases of the moon and the lunar calendar also play an
important role in determining the Thai New Year.?

?The Tais migrated southward into Thailand from their farming, areas
of southern China long ago. With them they brought their culture,
customs and beliefs which were based on a combination of Chinese
models and local climatic features of crop sowing, and harvest
times?After migrating southward to the more tropical climate of
Thailand and adapting to new cultures already in the area as well as
somewhat different weather patterns, a change took place and the flew
Year eventually came to be celebrated in April??

?The first two days together make up what is called the 'Troot
Festival', where 'Troot' has a double meaning: 'the end of something
combined with the beginning of something new'. The larger Songkran
Festival as it is celebrated today is comprised of four days. The
first two are the 'Troot Festival', and the second two immediately
follow and are a time for relaxation and merriment after attending to
family and religious duties.?

Source: ?The Origins of the Songkran Festival? 

The succeeding article meanwhile mentions that Thais could?ve adapted
the festival from the Burmese who ruled Chiang Mai then. They also
speculated that the Burmese in turn could?ve probably copied such
ceremonies from India.

?According to "A Comparative Cultural Study", a book by Songsak
Prangwattanakul of Chiang Mai University, Thais modified Songkran from
the Indian tradition.?

?Rungroj Piromanukul, a lecturer at Tulakit Bundit University, said
people in central Thailand adopted the water-sprinkling custom from
the northern province of Chiang Mai, which was under Burmese rule
during the Ayutthaya period. The custom is understood to have existed
in Burma long before this time.?

Source: "SONGKRAN: Ancient, region-wide custom"

A Thai legend meanwhile is another popular basis for the origin of the Songkran.

?One in particular tells the tale of the seven daughters of King
Kabinlabhom, who were required to rotate as the Songkran Lady. Items
of their clothing and jewellery were used in rites as the basis for
making predictions of the well being of the Thai nation in the year

Source: ?SONGKRAN: Ancient, region-wide custom? 

You can read a more detailed account of this legend from the next two
articles below.

Source: ?Songkran? 

Source: ?Happy New Year Songkran Festival?

Other legends speak of serpents spouting water to bring the rains and
kings of heavenly spirits.

?It is a traditional belief that Nagas or mythical serpents brought on
the rains by spouting water from the seas. The more they spouted, the
more rain there would be so the custom of throwing water at Songkran
is actually a rain making practice.?

Source: ?Songkran Festival? 

?It is believed that Indra, the king of heavenly spirits, comes to
earth each year for three days to take note of the good and evil deeds
committed since his last visit. The Thai New Year begins following his
return to the spiritual world. Traditionally, in efforts to cleanse
themselves for his visit, young people washed their elders' hair
during this time and bathed Buddha images with scented water.?

Source: ?Getting Wet in Thailand Chiang Mai, Thailand? by Grace Rauh 

Traditional Rites:

- ?In ancient days, old people were actually given a bath and clothed
in new apparel presented by their young relatives as a sign of

- ?Another unique Songkran custom is to release live birds and fish
purchased in the markets. It is believed that great merit is gained
through kindness.?

Source: ?Songkran Festival? 

- ?Songkran Day (13th) will see people giving their houses a general
tidy-up and preparing for ritual washing ceremonies.?

- ?The 14th (named Wan Nao) is a day of preparation. People will cook
and prepare food for traditional merit-making ceremonies (the
following day) and perhaps collect sand for the building of sand
chedis in their temple compound.?

 - ?On the 15th (called Wan Payawan) the previous day?s preparations
come to fruition. During early morning, people will go to their temple
and make offerings of food, fruit, new robes and other "treats" to the
monks. This is also the when, in the past a little delicate "water
play" was permitted. Nowadays, this indulgence has had a growth-spurt
and developed into a water free-for-all??

Source: ?The Formal Side of Songkran (New Year) Festival? 

- ??the first official day of the New Year and on this day people
cleanse the Buddha images in their homes as well as in the temples
with scented water. The family is dressed in traditional Thai costume
and wearing leis of jasmine flower buds. The water is scented with the
petals of this flower.?

- ?As part of the water sprinkling, water splashing and string tying
rites, you may also encounter a person with a small silver bowl filled
with a white powder or pasty substance. This is one of the oldest
Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and
promises to ward off evil.?

Source: ?The Rites of Songkran (Thai New Year )? 

- ?In a more serious vein, another Songkran custom is a religious
service in memory of the dead. Monks officiate at a ceremony wherever
ashes or bones of the dead have been deposited. In some places, bones
of the dead are brought by people to the village Wat where a joint
ceremony is held.?

Source: ?The Songkran Festival?

Cultural Values and Significance of the Songkran:

- ?The underlying significance of Songkran is the process of cleansing
and purification - the purging of all ills, misfortune and evil and
starting the New Year afresh with all that is good and pure. Water is
symbolic of the cleaning process and signifies purity.?

- ?There is also a much deeper significance to "Songkran". Apart from
marking a new beginning, Songkran is also a time for thanksgiving.?

Source: ?Songkran is ?The water festival? Thai new year 13-15 April annually? 

- ?The first cultural value is "THANKSGIVING" - The demonstration of
gratitude and an expression of thanks to individuals who have "done
good" or shown goodwill and are worthy of respect and recognition.?

- ?The second cultural value is loyalty to ancestors. This is achieved
through merit-making.?

- ?The third cultural value focuses on the individual's sense of
awareness of his/her responsibilities towards the family and home. It
is demonstrated via the traditional custom of ?spring cleaning?.?

- ?The fourth value addresses the value of religion and highlights the
well- defined roles and responsibilities of the "temples and

- ?The fifth value is ?ACTS OF KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY? towards others
or doing good for others.?

- ?The sixth value is the spirit of co-operation and community spirit
demonstrated through the enthusiastic participation of individuals of
the community in Songkran festivities, sharing in the fun, spreading
happiness and goodwill to all.?

Source: ?Songkran - The Water Festival? Compiled by Soruch Chamyen-ura 

- ?Water is at the heart of the mid-April festival in the four
Buddhist-majority countries, signifying the washing away of sins and
rancor, and refreshing the region as it is embraced by scorching
summer weather.?
Source: ?Water festival washes away sins?


- ?Related to the water pouring is a ritual that involves tying
strings around the wrists of elders and expressing good wishes. At
Songkran a person could end up with dozens of strings on each wrist if
they are around enough family members and friends.?

- ?One less pleasurable element to Songkran is the dreaded white
powder. Originally this powder or paste was applied to the face, neck
or torso of others as a sign of protection or to ward off evil.
Nowadays it is smeared on indiscriminately and can sting the eyes of
unsuspecting victims.?

Source: ?The wetter the better: Thailand's Songkran festival? By Donald Gilliland 

- ?Farangs (the Thai word for "foreigners") are special targets and
should be prepared to either take part or stay in the hotel room.
There will be water balloons, squirt guns, buckets, hoses, etc. And
you will be hit when you least expect it. In Bangkok it is not
uncommon for water balloons to be through from the backs of pickup

Source: ?Songkran The Buddhist New Year in Thailand is all wet...? 

- ?At this time, people from the rural areas in Thailand who are
working in the city usually return home to celebrate the festival.?

?Thus, when the time comes, Bangkok temporarily turns into a deserted city.?

- ?Songkran is a Thai word which means "move" or "change place" as it
is the day when the sun changes its position in the zodiac.?

Source: ?Thailand Songkran festival Thai traditional New Year? 

 - ?Songkran lasts officially a few days and business comes to a stop
during the Songkran public holidays. Invariably however, the
festivities of Songkran usually last around a week.?

Source: ?Songkran set to soak Bangkok Thailand while tourism dries up? 

Songkran Celebration in Pictures:

Source: ?Thailand The Songkran Festival this year on 13th, 14th and 15th April? 

Source: Google Images 

Search terms used:
Thailand ?water festival? Songkran history origins

I hope these links would help you in your research. Before rating this
answer, please ask for a clarification if you have a question or if
you would need further information.
Thanks for visiting us.                
Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by gcse-ga on 21 Nov 2004 04:17 PST
Can you find more pictures on Songkran?

Clarification of Answer by easterangel-ga on 21 Nov 2004 15:12 PST
Hi again!

Here are more pictures for Songkran.

"Songkran - Thai New Year"


"Songkran in Bangkok"

"In pictures: Celebrating Songkran" (just click the page's forward
arrow button for more pictures)

"Pictures of Songkran, 13 April"

"Songkran, WET, FuN and wild! : New year celebration, Thai stlye!"

"Water Fights"

"Songkran 2003 Pictures"

"Chiang Mai #6"

"changnoi's Sonkran"

I hope this would be of help.

Thanks again!

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