Travel journal

Songkran – Thai New Year.

Songkran Festival

Traditional Thai New Year

Songkran - what is this holiday?

Songkran Festival – one of the most beautiful holidays for every Thai person. Surely everyone has heard about it. However, for many Farangs (the Thai name for white tourists), these days are actually associated with fun and the festival of splashing water. But it is, in my opinion, complete primitivism and, moreover, vanity, and in addition, no desire to delve into the spiritual nature of the holiday. In other words, it is not a festival of dousing yourself with water, but a celebration of deeper religious significance, also traditional. I will briefly try to bring you closer to the story to make you aware of what Songkran Festival is for the indigenous people.

Songkran - when exactly?

Songkran is the period of the Thai New Year. In Thailand, the New Year is celebrated three times:

  • January

    the first - according to the Gregorian calendar;

  • between January and February

    the second - Chinese New Year - many Thai families have Chinese family roots;

  • April

    the third - according to the Buddhist calendar;

For this reason, in this text I will try to briefly outline the nature of this beautiful, symbolic and sublime holiday. In fact, this period is celebrated differently in different regions of Thailand.

Songkran this year begins on April 13. However, it is generally rooted in the culture and tradition of the country that people go to their hometowns already in the weekend preceding the holidays to celebrate them together with their families. The celebration of holidays usually lasts an equal week. First of all, the three days during this period are the most important. First day – Maha Songkran, second day – Wan Nao, third day – Wan Thaloeng Sok.

  • Maha Songkran

    the first day - while the sun moves from the sign of fish to the sign of aries - is the last day of the old year

  • Wan Nao

    second day - transition period between the old and the new year

  • Wan Thaloeng Sok

    third day - literally a day "to start a new era / year"

The legend


Let’s start with the legend of Songkran. It was written in Buddhist scriptures at Wat Pho temple. It is a mythological parable related to the story of the god Kabilla Phrom called Brahma (or “Red Brahma”). He is one of the three most important Hindu deities (including Vishnu and Shiva) who is the creator of all beings.

According to prophecy, a long time ago lived a very rich man, but he had a drunkard neighbor. This neighbor had two sons. With this in mind, he mocked and slandered the rich man because he was childless.

One day a drunk came to a millionaire and said vulgar words to him. The millionaire asked him, “Why did you say such vulgar words to a rich man like me?” The drunk replied, “You actually have this great treasure, although you don’t have a son. When you die, your great treasure will disappear, but I have two sons, so I’m better than you. “

The humiliated rich man asked the sun god and the moon god in hopes of offspring – but to no avail.

Birth of Thammabalia

Everything changed when the rich man gave cooked rice to the Tree god who lives in the banyan tree. The Tree God asked Indra – the god of Heaven (lightning, thunder, storms, rains, rivers and wars) to grant the man’s request. Soon there was actually a son born into the world who was given the name Thammabal (“one who will protect justice”). Consequently, his father built a seven-story tower for him under a banyan tree for the boy to live in.

It should be remembered that Thammabal was a very gifted and, moreover, a wise child who understood the three Vedas (Hindu holy books), learned the language of birds and taught people how not to sin.

The riddle

One day, then seven-year-old Thammabal met the god Kabill Brahm. God was famous for loving to bet.


In the hope that he would win once again, he descended from heaven to test the young man and ask him three riddles. If the boy solves them, Kabilla will give his head back to him, however, if the boy does not find an answer within seven days, then his head will belong to Kabilla.

The boy thought in vain, lying under a sugar tree for six days, buthe could not find a solution to the mysteries. Meanwhile, on the last day he heard a conversation of a pair of eagles (unaware that the boy knows their speech) rejoicing because they will soon have a feast from the head of a dead boy.


“What are we going to eat tomorrow?” asked the female eagle, “We will eat the corpse of Thammabala, for he cannot answer three riddles,” replied the male.

Then the female eagle asked her partner if he knew the answer to the riddle, and he of course gave her the answer. Of course, the boy remembered her and returned to his tower.

On the seventh day, god finally asked for an answer. The boy said:

The defeat of Kabilla

Surprised by the reply, the god, aware of the defeat, summoned his seven daughters and announced that he had to pay his head to the boy as a tribute because he had lost the bet.


Kabilla’s head, however, had special properties. If it touched the ground, the ground would be burst into flames. If placed in the air, it would cause there to be no rain. Also, if thrown into the sea, it would dry out. Therefore, in order to save the world from these cataclysms, the daughters of Kabilla took over the father’s head and after circling Mount Meru (mythical mountain, symbolizing the axis of the universe) in a procession, placed it in a cave along with other sacrifices on Mount Kailash.

Nang Songkran - Which Daughter?

In this way, each year as the Sun enters the sign of Aries, one of the daughters called “Nang Songkran” and the other sisters organize a procession. In his hands, Nang Songkran holds a phan (a tray with a pedestal) on which is his father’s head. Each of the seven daughters is assigned specific days of the week, properties and also various animals on which the procession takes place:


Symbolism and ceremonies

In short, this is how the Songkran festival was born. Today we celebrate the first day – Maha Songkran.

Thais migrate from the agglomeration to their native towns during the holidays, meeting as a family. On that day, they clean their farmyards. Interestingly, sand and dust from households is carried to the temples to make a sacrifice, but I will tell about it in the following days.

Of course, special dishes are baked and preparations for the new year are underway.

In addition, in large cities (where there are a large number of temples), processions with Buddha statues take place in the afternoons. During the ride, people pour eau de parfum with flower petals on the statues, asking for a blessing.

Additionally, in the northern part of Thailand (Chiang Mai), firearms or firecrackers are used today. They are designed to scare off bad luck, including evil spirits, from the households.

Each region also has its own traditions. Nevertheless, these days all Thai people dress in colorful national costumes.

In the south of Thailand, three Songkran principles are followed, namely:

first – work as little as possible and avoid spending money;

besides – do not hurt other people and animals;

in the end – don’t lie;

In addition, it is common throughout the country to release animals, fish and birds from captivity, but there are also cows and buffaloes.

source: TRT World and Agencies

Songkran is also a time of fun and pouring water on other people on the streets. Moreover, water is a symbol of cleansing, washing away what is bad in the old year. In the former capital of Ayutthaya, elephants also help in watering.

To sum up – in other words, it is a very family, especially joyful period in the Thai calendar, full of joy, magic and hope for the coming new year,

All the best to Thai friends – Happy Songkran !!!

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