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The ‘real’ Songkran

The ‘real’ Songkran

Nopniwat Krailerg

Phra Buddha Sri Hing parade, Chiang Mai icon.

Celebration of the Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai again attracted huge crowds of tourists from all around Thailand and the world. The city has weaved its magic with the mixture of merit making in Lanna style with water splashing on every street and soi in the city, and especially around the city canal.

Suwat Tantipat, Chiang Mai Governor together with leaders in government service, MPs, mayor in the ritual bathing of Buddha parade.

One of the most important of these was a merit making ceremony to mark the occasion of the 710 year anniversary of the founding of Chiang Mai on April 12. The following day, there was the ceremony for “Pa We Nee Pee Mai Muang 2006” (Local New Year 2006) at Thapae Gate. In the morning, 111 monks made their round.

Also, there was Kad Mua “mixed market”, local music performed on Sa Lor, Sor, Sueng (Names of local music instruments; and a contest to choose Miss Songkran, “Mae Ying Kee Rod Teeb Kang Jong” (Miss Songkran riding a bicycle holding an umbrella).

Chiang Mai Governor receives his water splashes.

In the afternoon, there was a parade of important images of Buddha from 50 temples in Chiang Mai on which local people ritually sprinkled the images with water to bring good luck. This parade was led by Pra Buddha Si Hing, starting from Chiang Mai Railway Station, passing Nawarat Bridge, entering Thapae Road and then terminating at Wat Phra Singh. This parade occurs only once a year at the time of Songkran.

This was followed by the ceremony of “Khon Sai Khao Wat” (Bringing sand into the temple) and “Mai Kham Salee” parade (a parade of papal struts) to many temples on Thapae Road according to ancient beliefs.

Foreign couples enjoy splashing water from the back of a pick-up truck.

On the last day, April 15, there was a parade of government organizations, private sectors, academics, universities, housewives groups, and people from all over Chiang Mai. The parade started from in front of Three Kings Statue, reaching governor’s residence on Charoenprated Road.

There are many traditions which descended from the past; such as Songkran, Lai Sang Khan Ceremony (a ceremony of chasing bad things), Khon Sai Khao Wat (Bringing sand into the temple), the ritual bathing of the Buddha images, Taeng Da tradition, Tarn Tung Sand Pagodas, releasing birds and fish, Dum Hua (a tradition of paying respect to elder people), and city descending ceremony.

Foreign tourists take a quick break from the water wars.

In Songkran, the first day is called “Wan Sang Khan Lhong”, the second day is called “Wan Nao”, and the third day is called “Wan Tha Lerng Sok” or “Wan Pha Ya Wan” which is New Year’s Day.

For the first day, Sang Khan Lhong, there are gun shots or firecrackers throughout the night to ward off bad and evil. On this day, people clean their houses, wash their hair, cleanse their bodies, and dress with new clothes.

This mask merchant did brisk business during the Songkran Festival.

On the second day, Wan Nao, people transfer sand to the temples to build sand pagodas. This day is considered to be a very important day on which we should never do anything which is inauspicious, and we should never insult or argue with anyone. People also buy food and gifts on Wan Nao to prepare for making merit.

The next day, Pha Ya Wan, people make merit, dedicate merit to their relatives who have passed away, take flowers and “Tung” to make sand pagodas, and bring struts to hold up papal trees. In other places, people take holy water, called “Nam Som Poi” (a holy water which contains jasmine and flowers) in silver bowls to pay respect to older people such as fathers, mothers, teachers and people whom we respect. This is one of the many traditions which live on with Chiang Mai and Lanna people. Although time and modern technologies have important roles in our lives, they can never take the place of old tradition and beliefs.

Many people participated in the ritual bathing of Buddha at different temples throughout Chiang Mai.

Songkran parade 2006.

Beautiful women in local dresses, shaded by their umbrellas, were a featured attraction in the parade.

Foreigners enjoy being soaked on modified Tuk-Tuk.

A foreigner gets soaked.