Thailand remains to be a frequented destination in the Southeast Asian region, especially for its paradise-like beaches, royal palaces, ancient Buddhist temples, and distinct cuisine. It also ranks higher in travellers’ go-to lists every April, when the Songkran Festival—known as the most famous festival in Thailand—takes place across the country. Read on to learn the five things you didn’t know about this important celebration for local Thais, which has become equally popular among tourists.
1. It originated from Northern India. Known to Indians as Songkranti, the Songkran Festival has been adopted from the ancient Brahmins, who held the belief that the sun completed its orbit on the 13th of April after having re-entered Aries. It is also during the same month that spring officially starts, with the locals taking this as a sign of a new beginning. The Thais then implemented a similar tradition during this period, especially since this is a time when they are taking a break from working in the rice fields.
2. It is otherwise known as the Thai New Year. Derived from the Sanskrit term Samkranti, Songkran directly translates to astrological passage. The festival thereby represents the transition from dry season, considering how the agricultural industry plays a significant role in Thailand’s growth. The Songkran Festival also signifies the beginning of a brand new year, which is welcomed in a three-day celebration that transforms streets into a massive water fight.
3. It is named as the largest water fight in the world. Because of the legendary water fights, the Songkran Festival is considered as the most unique New Year celebration in the world. Aside from being an important element in the agricultural sector, water becomes a symbol for cleansing—of washing away bad luck and starting with a clean slate. The festival is the time to get soaked, with the crowds splashing water onto everyone they come across in the streets. The only exceptions are monks, officials, and the elderly.
4. It promotes rituals intended to invite good luck. It is during this time that Buddhists go temple-hopping to pour fragrant water on images of Buddha, as well as on the hands of monks, to show their respect. Aside from throwing buckets of water, Thais also put white pasty powder on one another’s face or neck to ward off evil. Children likewise participate, but make use of colourful talcum powder to represent how the monks preserve blessings through chalk marks. There is also this ritual of tying white strings on another’s wrist as an expression of well wishes. They are meant to be worn until they fall off on their own.
5. It is celebrated across the provinces in Thailand. The Songkran Festival is an occasion that brings families together, as this is their only chance to head back to their hometowns and spend time with relatives. The festival officially kicks off at Wat Pho in Bangkok, but is also celebrated in the backpacker area of Khao San Road. Meanwhile, Chiang Mai holds a procession in the city, as well as traditional performances and other cultural celebrations. Phuket, the country’s largest island, is occupied by pickup trucks with youngsters splashing water on both locals and tourists.