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Pattaya Daily News

12 April 2007 :: 18:04:56 pm 25682

Sawatdee Pee Mai (Happy New Year) to all our devoted wet readers

Welcome to the Endless Festival! At least that’s what it seems like to some. Thailand, in common with its neighbours, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and by ethnic Dai in Yunnan, China and Sri Lanka, celebrates the coming of the New Year.
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            The new astrological year, that is. Originally, Songkran, (from the Sanskrit) meaning “a move or change”, marked the passage of the sun from Pisces to Aries at the vernal equinox on March 21st. But the Thais, ostensibly not being aware of the precession of the equinoxes, moved the New Year celebrations to April. 

            Starting in Sukhothai on the 11th and extending in Pattaya to the 18th, what’s meant to be three days (13th April to 15th April) has, essentially because of tourism’s influence and each town insisting on enjoying the water games to the full, become an eight-day-long, complete dislocation of the business sector in Thailand

            Mayhem, anti-social and criminal activities usually radically increase over the Songkran Festival. They’re even tightening security, sending in the Thai Navy, at Chonburi Central Prison in anticipation of a breakout of long-term inmates, desperate to return home to be with their families to celebrate the New Year. 

            The impression gained by most foreign visitors is one of deluges of water as they themselves and beautiful young women, in particular, are targeted for a drenching. What originated partially as the opportunity to pay respects to the Buddha and elders as plaster-daubing, water ritual, pouring a thimbleful of lustral rose-water on other people’s hands as a sign of respect, has now become total mayhem. Gone has the other original reason, namely, the sympathetic magical ritual to encourage the return of the rains after the hot season and in its place a hi tech water war has arisen. 

            The thimble has evolved into the super-soaker, the high powered water gun, complete with back-pack reservoirs, the “cylinder spray water” – the metre-long, PVC cylinder equipped with a plunger and the ultimate weapon, a water tanker armed with a hose. The walkers have turned into pick-up mobile drenching gangs, taking malicious delight in drenching song taaw passengers and any dry person

            In the worst case scenario, Songkran has almost become celebration of killing as motorcyclists and their passengers are swept off their bikes, or into the path of passing vehicles, impelled by water guns, hoses and the worst, freezing water. Likewise, it’s a fine time to OD on alcohol and wreak devastation on the roads, as nearly 1000 motorists commit hari-kari, during Songkran every year. 
See how the local enjoy Songkran
            But this is not the essential significance of Songkran. The Thai ancestors started this festival to inculcate in their descendants several important principles. Songkran originated as the opportunity to respect family, elders and ancestors. To: 

            1. return to the parental home, pay respects, bring presents and give thanks for parental care; 
            2. pay respect to the neighbourhood elders; 
            3. visit the wat (Buddhist temple) to honour the Buddha, pray and give food to monks. To also clean Buddha images with water and gentle Thai perfume to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year. In many cities, such as Chiang Mai, the Buddha statues from all the city wats are paraded through the streets for people to wash as they pass by. People also carry handfuls of sand to their temple to make up for the dirt that they carry away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then piled into large, tiered piles and decorated with colourful flags. 
            4. do community services at the wat. Doing community service teaches people to give, the fundamental way to happiness in Buddhism. 
            5. clean and renew the home, the Thai equivalent of Spring Cleaning. 
            Only the rural backwaters retain the original spirit of Songkran, in the cities, especially Chiang Mai, the war of water renders best friends enemies and even gives one the chance to soak the police; only the monk-hood is immune. It even causes murderous vendettas as ultra-pissed off, armed maniacs blow away water sprayers who dare to enflour their new Mercedes or soak their new clothes. 

            So, let’s stop the mayhem right now. Let’s return to the true spirit of the festival. The gentle paying of respect, not wreaking havoc. And while we’re about it, why not restore the original two days, instead of eight? Then, instead of phased urban celebration, each town vying for its share of the enjoyment and consequent dislocation of the Thai economy as devotees rush homeward, often a couple of days early, leaving the business sector high and dry. (The only place that is).
Let’s down load Video Clip and restore the original festival, not its modern caricature.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Tourism News

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