THIS year’s Songkran festival is set to be a wet and wild three days of fun, festivities and religious ceremonies.
Songkran, or Thai New Year, will run from April 13 to 15, and is traditionally celebrated with lots of water throwing.
And although it is a Thai festival, foreigners are welcome to join in and enjoy the fun atmosphere.
Songkran is held in the hottest and driest month of the year when a bit of water can be both cooling and refreshing.
But be warned. You WILL get wet, so wear clothes that can withstand a soaking.
The festival has undergone major changes since the early days when it was seen as a time to cleanse Buddha images in temples and household shrines with perfumed water to bring prosperity and good luck.
It is still a time for cleansing, and renewal, and a time to celebrate the passing of another year and to usher in the new year.
Songkran will be celebrated throughout the Kingdom, and in Phuket, there will be a myriad of fun activities on offer.
The three days of Songkran are national public holidays and most business in Phuket, will be closed from April 12 until April 15.
Phuket will start celebrating on Sunday April 12 with a street parade and a beach party organised by the Patong Municipality, TAT Phuket and the Patong Hotels Association.
The celebrations begin at 5pm with a street parade along Rajaprajanugroh and Thaweewong Road, finishing up in Soi Bangla.
A stage will be set up in Soi Bangla, and there will be a traditional Thai dance show, a baby contest, and a Miss Songkran International beauty pageant which is open only to foreign ladies aged over 18.
On Monday, April 13, Thai people will gather at the Suwan Khiri Wong temple to pray and give food and clothing to the monks.
They will then bathe the Buddha images, monks and older people by gently pouring perfumed water over them to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
People will also splash water and sprinkle powder on each other.
Songkran also demonstrate the Thai people’s respect for water.
Water is seen as something that can wash away dirt and badness, and it also represents a cooling freshness during the hottest month of the year.
The word Songkran means ‘movement’ or ‘change’ and refers to the sun’s movement from Aries to Taurus.
Like other importance religious Thai traditions, Thai people will prepare food and take it to the temple during Songkran.
They also carry sand to temple which they will use to build small temples with their bare hands.
The monks and older people are also bathed in the same fragrant water, and new clothes are given to the monks as a mark of respect.
Songkran dates back to ancient Hindu mythology when the Brahmin in India believed that the sun finished its orbit round the earth on April 13.
Legend has it that there was a four-faced god named Kabilla Phrom who loved to bet.
Kabilla is believed to be the lord of Songkran, and his seven daughters became the symbols of the Songkran festival.
One day he heard about a seven-year-old boy who could recite scriptures in public.
He set out to test the boy, Thammabal Kumara’s knowledge, and posed a riddle.
He bet the boy that if he could solve the riddle, he would give him his head, but if the boy failed to come up with the right answer within seven days, he would have to cut off his own head.
“Where is a person’s aura in the morning, where is it at noon, and where is it at night?” he asked.
The boy thought hard for six days, but he still couldn’t figure out the answers.
But on the last day, while lying in despair under a palm tree, he overheard a pair of eagles laughing about how they would soon feast on the body of a boy who would not be able to solve a riddle, and during their conversation, the eagles disclosed the answers.
On the day of judgment, Thammabal Kumara repeated what he had heard.
“In the morning, a person’s aura appears on his face, so he washes it, at noon, it is at his chest, so he wears perfume there, and at night, his aura moves to his feet, so he bathes them,” he repeated.
Kabilla Phrom had lost the bet, and cut off his own head.
But the head of Kabilla Phrom had some strange qualities.
If it should touch the ground, the earth would catch fire, if it was left in the air, there would be no rain, and if it was dropped into the sea, the sea would dry up.
Kabilla Phrom’s seven daughters put their father’s head on a tray and carried it in a procession around Mount Sumeru before putting it into a Cave on Mount Krailat.
Every year, on Songkran Day, the seven daughters would bring out the god’s head and carry it in a procession around Mount Sumeru.
The seven Ladies of the Songkran festival are named after the seven days of the week.
Each year, Songkran Day will fall on one of those seven days.
According to the legend, these Songkran ladies are more hideous than gorgeous.
The Sunday lady, called ‘Tungsa Devi’, wears pomegranate flowers behind her ears, she holds a discus in her right hand and a conch in her left, and she rides on a garuda.
The Monday lady’s name is ‘Korakha Devi’, she wears flowers from the Indian cork tree behind her ears, and has a sword in her right hand and a staff in her left, and she eats oil and rides on a tiger.
The Tuesday lady, named ‘Raksot Devi’, carries a trident in her right hand and a bow in
She drinks blood and rides a pig.
The Wednesday lady is called ‘Montha Devi’, she drinks milk and rides a donkey.
The Thursday lady, called ‘Kirini Devi’, has a hook and a bow, and rides an elephant.
The Friday lady, called ‘Kimitha Devi’, wears water lilies behind her ears, she has a sword in her right hand and a lute in her left, and she rides a buffalo.
The Saturday lady is named ‘Mahothon Devi, and she has a discuss and trident and she rides a peacock.
This year’s Songkran falls on a Monday, which is Korakha Dev’s day.