Do you know that getting bathed in water brings good luck? Have you welcomed New Year by getting soaked in Water? Well in Thailand, people do. The month of April brings the festive fervor of Songkran. It is celebrated as the start of Thai New Year or famously known as Water Festival.
I too did not know all of this until I celebrated Songkran in Thailand this year. I had the privilege to be a part of this water festival both in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Believe me I have never enjoyed splashes of icy cold water and getting drenched in bucket-fuls of water more than this time. None can survive the Songkran fever if you are in a Thai province during this part of the year.
Songkran is usually celebrated from 13th to 15th April in Bangkok but in the rest of the provinces it can have different dates around the same week and spreading over four days. In Chiang Mai our group played it on 12th and in Bangkok we experienced the festive spirit on 14th April. The two places and their people had their own uniqueness in showcasing the mood and cheer of the festival. At Chiang Mai, it was an easy walk through the marketplace because it was less crowded but in Bangkok (capital city), Silom street and Khao San Road were absolutely packed with people. In fact it was difficult to find a place to place our feet. However, in no way the thrill and gesture of both the places cannot be compared.
Everywhere people could be seen smiling. The youngsters had their pistol guns intact. Their faces were smeared with a paste made from a powder (not harmful to skin). In Chiang Mai since the marketplace had a canal nearby, children could be seen filling their buckets from the available water resource. Those on the other side of the street had made their own special arrangements. Some had big drums of water, some had pipes while others had arranged for enough ice. On the roads, whether people walked or used their own vehicles, each one came prepared to splash and be splashed. In the Tuks-Tuks, girls shrieked in fun. We too played with a group of people who had put a drum and garden hose was connected to it. We borrowed small buckets from them and splashed water on each other and everyone who passed on the road. For sometime we actually forgot that we were from India. We enjoyed every bit of the fun. The splashes, the icy hits, the chills, the sprinkles and the non-stop pouring made our day in Chiang Mai.
This is how we played Songkran in Chiang Mai
In Bangkok, when we landed at Silom street, it was exciting to see people go bananas in the month of April. The shops, schools, offices everything was closed and it seemed everyone was on the street to be a part of this festival. No less, Thai people were seen enjoying every bit of it and the party continued for them from morning till night. Many people from different parts of Thailand had travelled to their native places to unite with their family at this time of the year. Like us, they were many tourists too who could be seen enjoying the splashy Songkran.
At the Silom Street, thankfully we could find some respite from the cold water by climbing up the over-bridge. It also gave a bird’s view from the top. All around there were people splashing water on each other with their water guns, garden hoses, drums, pipes, buckets etc. The crowd marched in happiness and group of friends danced underneath fountain of water. Some groups did water fights too but it was all done in positive spirits. We also spotted music bands playing for the crowd. Amidst all the fun and commotion, one thing that never stopped in Thailand was its people eating street food. Nothing can dampen the flavors. Street food was sold just at the nearest corner, vendors covered it with waterproof sheets and the crowd enjoyed eating while they played.
Thai people are very polite when they throw the water. I witnessed no rowdiness on the roads. I would like to say I saw a civilized form of Holi on the streets of Thailand. Even when I walked on a crowded road among drenched people, I did not see anyone misbehaving with others or trying to touch them in any indecent form. Being a tourist I experienced absolutely no discomfort while getting drenched with the locals.
More that I learnt about Songkran…
Like every other festival it is about spreading positive vibes. People ensure that they clean their houses to welcome the New year. Water is about cleaning and rejuvenating. In the earlier days and even now youngsters show respect to their elders on this day. They thank their parents for everything by pouring water on their palms at the beginning of a new astrological year. This New year is celebrated with respect to the old lunar calendar of Siam.
Pouring of Water Ritual is also associated with Songkran. Buddha images are bathed with fragrant water. Throwing water on each other is about cleaning out misfortunes and struggles. The first day of Songkran is officially National Elderly Day and second day is National Family Day.
Thanks to TAT, New Delhi for giving me this opportunity to travel to Thailand and experience its culture and festival. Our media group was absolutely fun. Thanks to Mridula Dwivedi for taking a waterproof camera otherwise we would have no pictures of Chiang Mai. For Bangkok, I too was able to carry my phone to the playful arena by keeping it in a waterproof pouch that I bought at Asiatique.
More stories to follow. Keep tracking me….