Songkran – Part 2
The second day of water fun has now ended, and I am all the more tired from it. We went out for another round of riding (slowly) on our motorbike throughout the city, being sure to take side streets the whole way. After all, that’s where the action is, right? Absolutely. There were a LOT more people out today making merry in the streets, taking part in day 2 of the Songkran celebration here in Lopburi. Lopburi officially celebrates for 3 days, as does much of the country; however, there are regions that will extend the festivities for up to 10 days. Now, that would surely be crazy.
Even though I know you are ready to see what this whole water war thing is about, we have one more thing to talk about first. Today, as Brook & I were travelling about, we witnessed another very important ritual for Thai Buddhists during this holiday season. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but in Thailand there is a saying “to be Thai is to be Buddhist.” This means that virtually every part of their culture, traditions, and even daily life skills are rooted somehow in long-standing, even ancient, religious practices. Holidays are certainly no exception to this.
Yesterday, I told you about the pouring of lustral waters over the hands of elders as a way of giving them honor and blessing in the coming year. People also clean out their homes and bathe any idols or images of the Buddha that they own. Today, we saw the latter being done in a slightly different context, in a much bigger way.
Early on in the celebration of Songkran, the city’s most precious images of Buddha are paraded through the streets so onlookers may toss or pour clean, scented water over the statues. This provides one opportunity for Thais to perform a sort of ritual bathing of the Buddha in order to secure good luck and fortune for the coming year. The photo above is not from our city, rather I found it online, as we were in the midst of the travelling water wars (and riding on the motorbike) when we observed the practice for ourselves. What we saw was two large, clean pick-up trucks, decorated beautifully, each with a rather large golden Buddha (in the cross-legged seated position) riding in the back. These trucks were making rounds to each of the neighborhoods where people could come right out of their own homes to make merit and bathe the statue.
Depending on your city, there may also be areas set up similar to the photo above, where one can go to pour water over Buddhas each in a differing position (images of Buddha can be in a number of seated or standing positions, each with distinct meaning).
As I mentioned yesterday, Songkran is a very important time for Thai families. Songkran is when everyone goes back to where their family originated (or more modernly, wherever the oldest generation is currently living), and spends the holiday celebrating together. On the first morning of Songkran (April 13), families traditionally will wake early and go to the temple as a group. They will dress in their best clothing, prepare their best foods, and collect an amount of sand to take along on the trip. Upon arriving at the temple, each family will present their offerings of food (as well as money or daily items like soap and toothpaste) to the monks in residence as means of making merit to cover any wrongdoings or sins in the past year. As you can see in the photo above (from a Northern city in Thailand), a large amount of sand is also collected at the temples on this day as well. Families traditionally bring a bucket, bag, or even just handfuls of sand along and dump it on temple grounds as a way of replacing the sand that they have carried away on their feet from visits during the previous year. As the amount of sand being returned is quite large all in one day, the mounds are typically gathered together and formed into small pagodas that can then be decorated and honored as well.
As with most people around the world, Songkran – the Thai New Year – comes along with all kinds of new resolutions and pledges for good in the coming year. People will do all they can to start the next year right. Making merit, cleaning out the home, making promises of good will, and enjoying one another’s company in celebration are how they do this.
Now you know just a little bit more about Songkran…. but, still not everything! Come back again tomorrow for what I know you’ve all been waiting for….
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