The word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit language and it means to pass or to move into. It pertains to the movement of the sun, moon and other planets to one of the orbits of the zodiac. It is actually a celebration of the vernal equinox akin to India’s Holi Festival, China’s Qing Ming, and Easter, which is celebrated by the rest of the Christian world.
In the past, this traditional Thai New Year celebration coincides with the spring in India and is used to herald the start of the planting season. This is the time of year when flowers bloom and nature blossoms. Undoubtedly an influence from the Indian culture, the Songkran Festival became popular in Thailand because it is relevant to the agricultural way of life of the ancient Thais. Every year, Thai farmers take a break from their work to celebrate the Songkran Festival and pay homage to their ancestors. Modern Thailand continues to celebrate the Songkran festival and it has become the grandest festival in the country today.
Origin of the Songkran Festival
The annual Songkran Festival will soon be celebrated again this coming April 12 to 16, as the Thais pay homage to their ancient tradition and culture. It was during the Sukhothai period, from 1238 to 1438, when the festival was introduced in Thailand, and celebrated at the royal court palace and among ordinary Thais. At that time, government officials paid homage to the king by taking their oath of allegiance to his rule. In the Ayutthaya (1350 to 1767) and Rattanakosin (1782-1932) period, the celebration of the festival expanded to include the bathing of Buddha’s image and forming sand pagodas.
One of the highlights of the festival then as now, is a ceremony where young people sprinkle scented water on the hands of their elders as a sign of respect. Celebrations also include various forms of entertainment that aims to unite members of the family, society and nature. Neighboring countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos also celebrate the Songkran Festival. In Thailand, however, the festival has become very popular that in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai, festivities could last for six days and more. Today, the Songkran Festival also includes colorful parades, boisterous water fights and other festivities and it is attracting people from al over the world who want to experience the Thai culture.
Capturing Moments at Songkran
The Songkran Festival is full of exciting moments that it has become a mecca for photographers and videographers who want to capture the festival’s moments. On the 12th of April, 2013, the opening of the Songkran Festival in Bangkok will commence as the image of the Buddha will be moved from the Putthai Sawan Pavilion at the National Museum. In a colorful parade and floral procession, the Phra Buddha Sihing will be brought to the City Hall. Starting at eight in the morning, the parade will wind around the city, making stops at; Wongwian Ya in Thonburi, Santichaiprakarn Park on Phra Arthit Road, Chana Songkram Police Station on Samsen Road, and ending at the City Hall Plaza. Film artists who want to make footage of this event can inspect these places before the event to know where they can get the best close, medium and long shots of the people and the spectacle as it unravels.
At the Wat Bangnanggreng in the central province of Samut Prakan, people making sand pagodas also become interesting subjects. Each year, more than a hundred Thais converge, and spend a couple of hours in this sea port town, to form the best sand pagodas. A lot of details go into these works of art that is done by groups of friends or family members. Grand pagodas with walkways, decorations, incense sticks and inscriptions will be judged by a monk at the end of the day. Watching this event may not be as enjoyable as the other Songkran festivities but it sure is a great opportunity for film artists to take a close up shot of a little boy’s face as he toils on his sand pagoda.
The tradition of pouring water from a bowl on family members, friends and neighbours has taken a more festive form as the fun loving Thais celebrate the Songkran festival in the present time. This practice is also done to symbolically wash off the misfortunes of the past year. As people who has experienced the Songkran water fight has learned, the bowl has transformed into a bucket, a garden hose or a water gun. In line with the spirit of fun, all town residents and tourists can participate in what is now popularly known as the Songkran water fights. This is the time to use your video camera to film people from different parts of the globe imbibing Thai culture and the spirit of fun of the festival. Indeed, be ready to capture this moment and the many faces of the grandeur of the Songkran Festival.