Thailand’s Songkran Festival
In the old days, Songkran was regarded as the Siam kingdom’s New Year’s Day. Taking place during the 13th to 15th of April every year, the traditions of the festival see influences from Brahman beliefs. It first began with the observance of nature. For Thailand, the designated period coincides with the end of the harvest and the planting of new crops. April is usually the hottest month of the year, so people engage in cooling down activities – including alms-giving events and fun activities; such traditions remain until today.
With the backdrop of summertime, sun and fun, Thailand’s Songkran Festival has participants dealing with unbearable heat, a factor that makes the festivities even more enjoyable. In this annual event, people nationwide come out in the streets to join in a water fight. Back then simple household items, namely a water bowl and hose, were the weapons of choice before advancing into a variety of colourful water guns. The best of Songkran splashing can actually be found in many spots such as Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Songkran Phra Pradaeng in Samut Pradan province, the “Pi Mai Mueang” tradition for the northern Thai New Year around Chiang Mai’s Old City Canal, and Songkran celebrations at Khao Niew Road in Khon Kaen province.
Apart from the exuberant sloshes, the Songkran festival reflects the beauty of the Thai tradition and upheld as Family Day countrywide. Among some of the activities taking place during the festivities are the bathing rituals for Buddha statues for auspiciousness and alms-giving as well as paying respect to the elderly folks. Traditionally, people in big cities will travel back to their hometown to see their families during the Songkran festival as well.
In Thailand “Din Sor Phong” or powdered marl is a popular item during Songkran, a mineral mixed together with scented water. Made of marlstone with deposits of calcium carbonate, the name Din Sor Phong comes from its origin in Din Sor Phong Village, Lopburi Province. Powdered marl is produced following an herbal medicinal recipe. It’s used for minimizing rashes, curing acne, reducing perspiration and giving a cooling feel. As it comes in a white colour, people participating in Songkran then love to mix it with water and pat the mixture on their faces and bodies. One caution is that if the powdered marl goes into your eyes, it must be immediately rinsed off with clean water or do a wash in sterile water.