I was in Khon Khaen with friends to join the annual Thai festival of middle April (the hottest month of the year) called Songkran.
Khon Kaen is located in the Khorat Plateau, in the central-northwestern area of Isaan The city is a regional center for education, financial institutions, government offices and transportation.
The city is also an industrial center, especially for the region’s silk trade, as well as an agricultural hub.
During this festival all the nation stop and the people spend time drinking beer, dancing, singing and playing with water.
People roam the streets with containers of water or water guns, or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passers by.
This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival.
Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends and neighbors. Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran may also go to a Buddhist monastery to pray and give food to monks.
They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. It is believed that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing household Buddha images, many Thais also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning.
The use of chalk is also very common having originated in the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.
The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder.
Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand.
This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun rather than on the festival’s spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists.
In recent years there have been calls to moderate the festival trying to avoid hundreds of deadly road accidents that every year repeats themselves.
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