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Songkran - Thailand’s Traditional New Year Festival (In Thai)    
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Today’s Enlightening Entertainment will be presented in Thai and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Sawasdee (greetings) delightful viewers. Welcome to Enlightening Entertainment. Today, we are going to find out about the fun-filled holiday of Thailand, Songkran.

Even though Thai people now celebrate January 1 as their official New Year, Songkran, the old Thai New Year, is still the biggest holiday in the country. It really is a celebration of family and love. People visit their distant provincial homes to be with their friends and families, perform religious rites to bring good luck to their loved ones and themselves, and put aside their differences even politically to celebrate like true brothers and sisters.

April 13 of every year marks the beginning of Songkran which officially lasts three days until April 15. But, being the fun-loving people the Thai are, the holiday normally starts earlier and lasts longer! Unlike other holidays based on the lunar calendar, Songkran is fixed by astrological calculation. It marks the time when the sun’s specific movement also coincides with the changing of seasons from winter to summer in Thailand. Each area of the country has its own unique traditional dances, games, songs and clothes to celebrate the Songkran holiday.

However, Songkran isn’t only celebrated in Thailand, but also in the neighboring countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, and by the Dai people in Yunnan, China, where they have similar religious beliefs.

During Songkran, groups of people along the streets with water tanks or water hoses wait for motorcycles and cars to drive by to soak them with water and cover them with scented white paste. Pedestrians are rarely seen on the street unless they are well prepared to get wet! Pick-up trucks carry kids in the back with a big tank of water do a drive-by water splashing. These are images of what most people have of Songkran day. It is quite appropriate considering that mid-April is normally the hottest time of the year in Thailand!

The water is used on this occasion as a symbol of cleansing away all the bad. The white paste smeared on people’s faces isn’t just for looks. It is in fact one of Songkran’s oldest traditions and is believed to provide protection from evil. Associate Professor Napalai Suwanathada, the head of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, is an expert on Thai culture.

May you be happy on Songkran day.

When we would like to ask blessing from anyone, there will be water sprinkling like this, using water to bless, or sprinkling blessed water like this. This is what we believe. We use water as the medium for blessing. We put fragrant jasmine in the water. If it’s an elderly, we would pour the water on their hands when we go ask for their blessing. If it’s a child or an acquaintance, we would pour water onto each other, to bless each other.

Some even call Songkran the Water Festival. However, water splashing is only one of many activities that happen on this special Thai holiday.

This is considered a good tradition where young men and women who often don’t have chance to see each other will be able to see each other on Songkran day, make merits, and go to temples as well.

The Songkran holiday starts off on the night before April 13 when people start cleaning their houses, preparing it to receive the good luck that the New Year will bring. The next morning, they wear new clothes and head to the temple to offer food to the monks. This is followed by the bathing ceremony where they bathe Buddha images. The abbot of the temple will also add scented water. Buddha images are also paraded on the streets, so that people can toss water on them. In addition, Nang Songkran, or the Songkran Parade, takes place on this day and represents the history of this special day.

This is a legend. The main character of the legend named Dharmabal originally was a deity. Later he was born as a human in a merchant family. His human name was Dharmabankumarn. He was a smart student because he had been a deity before. When he was 7 years old, he’d already finished studying all the subjects. This was then heard by Lord Kabin Brahma. Lord Kabin Brahma was a celestial being, one of the Brahmas.

He wished to test Dharmabankumarn’s ability, so he asked him a riddle with three small parts: In the morning where does the glory of the humans lie? At noon, where? And in the evening, where does the glory of the humans lie? Dharmabal did not know the answer. But he was good at many subjects including animals’ languages. He understood animals’ languages. He did not know the answer so he went to sleep under a palm tree.

Because he had good merits, there were two eagles who were a couple, talking to each other. Basically, they wanted to help. So they were talking like this, “I feel sorry for him.” The wife said that she felt sorry for Dharmabal. “He’s going to get persecuted and die because he could not answer the question.” “What is the question?” The husband said. So the wife told the husband what the question was.

The husband then said, “It’s not so hard. In the morning the glory is at the face. Because when we wake up, we’ve got to wash our face, right? At noon, the glory is at the belly. When we feel hot, we have to take a bath. In the evening or at night, the glory is located at the feet. Therefore, before going to sleep we have to wash our feet.” “This is all the answer.” Dharmabal overheard the answer. On the day he had to give an answer to the Brahma’s riddle, he was able to answer them correctly. So the Brahma had to do as promised.

As promised, the Brahma gave up his life and allowed his head to be removed. But because Brahma is such a powerful being, should his head be removed and touch the ground, there would be fire and calamity upon the Earth. Thus, Brahma asked his seven daughters to take turns and place Brahma’s head on a tray so that it would not touch the ground. Thus, each year, one of the daughters, who is Nang Songkran, would do this, and take the tray and circle around the mystical Mount Sumeru, then place the tray in a safe place.

This legend is a solar myth. The head of Lord Kabin Brahma actually represents the sun. The seven daughters represent the seven days of the week. Each has a different name and a different animal as a mode of transport.

For example, Sunday belongs to Tungsatevee, who wears a red dress and rides a garuda, a mythical bird, as her vehicle. Monday belongs to Korakatevee, who wears a yellow dress and rides a tiger. Tuesday belongs to Ragsotevee, who wears a pink dress and rides a pig. Wednesday belongs to Montatevee, who wears an emerald green dress and rides a donkey. Thursday belongs to Kirinitevee, who wears a greenish yellow dress and rides an elephant. Friday belongs to Kimitatevee, who wears a white dress and rides a buffalo. Saturday belongs to Mahotorntevee who wears black dress and has a peacock as her vehicle.

The day of the week that Songkran falls on determines which daughter is in the Songkran Parade. In the old days, people associated Nang Songkran with the type of weather they would expect that year as well.

The posture of Nang Songkran also predicts about the year ahead. For example, if she reclines with eyes open, she’ll come in the evening signifying peace and happiness. Songkran day this year falls on April 14 in the afternoon. Nang Songkran is Kirinitevee riding on an elephant.

Another fun and meaningful activity on Songkran day is to build sand pagodas, which normally takes place in a monastery. There’s no size limit or rules on how the sand pagodas are to be built. The sand is mixed with water to make it stick together. A coin and a leaf of a fig tree are buried inside the pagoda. Once completed, it’s often decorated with lighted candles, colorful flags, and flowers, and sprinkled with scented water.

In the old days, people visiting the monastery would often get soil or sand stuck to their feet and took it out of the monastery inadvertently, taking away the monastery’s properties. This tradition was created for people to return the soil and sand they had taken from the monastery. It is also believed that it yields great merit to build a pagoda. Since it can be expensive to build a real one, making a sand pagoda allows everyone to earn merits without having much financial means. Most importantly, building a sand pagoda is a way for family, neighbors, and the community to spend time together.

During Songkran, family members visit one other after having been away working for a long time. Songkran brings family, friends, neighbors and even strangers together. It is truly a day for a new beginning, for washing away the bad and for welcoming the good.

On April 21, 1996, Supreme Master Ching Hai attended a Thai traditional New Year celebration in Bangkok, with our Association members. Dressed in an elegant Thai costume, she honored the Songkran Festival tradition of throwing fragrant water for blessings of good luck and prosperity.

A joyful time was had as the Thai attendees invited Supreme Master Ching Hai to dance together with them.

Thank you very much for a very nice evening.

After the celebration, Supreme Master Ching Hai shared some words in appreciation of Thailand’s graceful traditions and friendliness. She also spoke about the spiritual aspects of Songkran.

The Songkran Festival is to just remind us of the friendliness.

Like cooling people with water when the weather is hot.

Washing each other, cleanse of all impurity.

Reminding each other to purify ourselves every day.

And also to live a very clean life.

So at Songkran, we should remember all these principles.

Apart from enjoying the food, the drinks, and the water.

Apart from enjoy the reunion with our family members, we should remember that we have to try to be reunited with God, with Buddha.

Because that is our real family. Is that not so?

Because that’s where we’re from, and that’s where we will go back, that’s where we belong.

Because without our family members, without family, real family reunions, Songkran doesn’t always bring us happiness and new vigor for new life.

So I wish you a real reunion, a real Songkran every day.

We would like to wish the Thai people and everyone a wonderful, joyful and safe Songkran holiday. May the Thai New Year renew our outlook on life as we wish together for an elevated future of peace and harmony on Earth.

Loving viewers, thank you for joining us today on Enlightening Entertainment. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News, here on Supreme Master Television. May your life be happy and colorful.
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