Songkran Festival In Brief
Phramaha Surasak Suramedhi (Chamaram)
4th Year Student of Humanities Faculty, Majoring in English
The Songkran Festival is one of the most important feasts that has been performed not only in Thailand but also in other countries (Laos, Cambodia, etc.) for a long time. It is also known as Thai Traditional New Year Day which falls on April 13 15 in a year. It is the great opportunity for merit-making and a special time for Thai people to have fun, traditional music, dance, games, and other activities in the pastime.
The Meaning Of Songkran Festival
The term Songkran means The festival celebrated on the day of passage of the sun to Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac1. It means that on Songkran Day the sun enter the sign of Aires. Its full name is called Maha Songkran which means the great Songkran.
The Origins Of Songkran Festival
There was an interesting Thai folk story connected with the Songkran Day. It tells now there once lived in a certain village a extraordinary boy by the name of Dhanapala. He was born into a very rich family, and was extremely intelligent and kindhearted. He even knew the languages of animals and could understand the humming of bees and the songs of the birds. People had great respect for him and his fame spread far and wide until it finally reached the ears of a rather strange but powerful God. This was Kapila Brahma, the god with the four faces, who could see four directions all at once. Kapila was a conceited god. He could not bear to think that there was anyone so intelligent and kind as to command the respect of so many people. He felt that people had begun to place more faith in Dhanapala than in himself. This he did not like and would not tolerate. one day he came down from heaven and challenged Dhanapala to answer three questions: Where is the persons glow in the morning ? Where is it at midday ? Where is it in the evening ? The stakes were high: if the boy could answer the questions, Kapila would offer his own head to him; if he could not, then he would have to give his head to Kapila as a trophy for his triumph. Dhanapala accepted the challenge and promised to find the answers in seven days. Six days passed by and Dhanapala could find on answers, but he was helped by some sympathetic deities, who transformed themselves into eagles and discussed the answers to the riddles within earshot of Dhanapala. By listening to their conversation, Dhanapala discovered the answers to Kapilas riddles. The answer is that in the morning a persons glow is in the face, because people always wash their faces in the morning to greet a day. During the day, when the weather is hot, people bathe themselves, splashing water over the chest, so at midday the glow is in the chest. In the evening, coming home from work, the wash their feet before going up into the house. Thus in the evening the glow is in the feet. In a more abstract but meaningful interpretation, in the morning we must put on a cheerful face, beginning the day on the right foot; during the day we must wear a brave heart to deal with the business of the day; in the evening when we come home from work we must be able to wash our feet, that is, let go off the days activities and great our family with a cheerful demeanor. Kapila lost the bet and was therefore compelled to cut off his head according to their agreement. Before fulfilling his promised, however, the unfortunate Brahma proclaimed: I am a very powerful god. If my head is dropped on the ground, the whole world will burst into flames. If my head is thrown into the ocean, the ocean will dry up immediately. And if it is thrown up into the air, there will be no rain for seven years. To avoid this catastrophe, the god Kapila ordered his seven draughts to take turns carrying his head in a big golden bowl, each for a period of one year. So the Songkran day marked the occasion when kapilas head changes hands and the year changed too!2
The Activities On Songkran Festival
In the morning, people go to the temple to make merits by offering food to monks and novices, observing the precepts, Five or Eight precepts and listening to the Dhamma talk. In the afternoon, they perform the bathing ceremony of the Buddha images and monks and novices who live in a temple. During this time, the younger people ask blessings from the elders. This is known as Water Splashing Feast. It might be said that the Songkran festival is the Respected festival to the elders or the Family Day.
1 Dictionary of Buddhism, Phra Dhamapitaka. See the word Songkran, page 349.
2 Basic Buddhism, Sunthorn Plamintr.1986; 121-122.