April celebrated one of Thailand’s biggest festivals – Songkran!
Songkran is the Thai new year and is also known as the water festival. I took a field trip with my language school just before the holiday to learn and experience this significant cultural event.
We started our trip with a visit to Wat Phra Singh, one of the more well-known Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. We entered the prayer hall, then circled around the golden stupa containing important relics.
Mounds of sand had been brought in and built into miniature “chedis” (or pagodas) around the temple. Removing sand from the temple is an unintentional sin that is often committed throughout the year (as it sticks to the bottom of shoes upon exiting the grounds), and so this is a way to make merit and right that wrong.
Perhaps the most significant ritual of Songkran is the pouring of perfumed water over the hands of elders and teachers as a way of paying respect and blessing them in the new year. After returning to the school, we took part in this and the water quickly went beyond just a little pouring over the hands.
Over the years, the festival’s theme of water and cleansing has become not only a way to acknowledge traditions but also to have one of the world’s biggest water fights!