Thailand is elevating the profile of the annual Songkran Festival to ensure local and international travellers enjoy a more ‘authentic experience’ and get the chance to ‘discover more amazing stories of Thainess while joining the celebrations for Thai New Year in the kingdom. This year’s festivities began with the “Songkran Splendours: The Procession of Three Kingdoms” grand opening ceremony, which took place yesterday (10 April, 2016).
Deputy Prime Minister General Thanasak Patimaprakorn said, “Songkran is the holiday that unites the nation in a spirit of fun and devotion to the family. The New Year rituals are observed differently in all parts of the nation, and this variety is something that should be celebrated and showcased. The Royal Thai Government is dedicated to preserving all aspects of the nation’s culture in every region, as it is the source of our strength, character and national pride. While we are enjoying the fun of the festivities, we should remember that this is a vital part of our heritage and deserves our pride and protection so that future generations can enjoy it in the same spirit.”
Songkran or the Thai New Year has been celebrated in the kingdom for hundreds of years. Traditionally this was the time when agricultural work could come to a halt for a few days, so that the Thai people could pay respect to their ancestors and senior members of the family by sprinkling their hands with scented water. It is also a time to enter the temples and bathe the sacred Buddha images. As Songkran is a time when families come together and the country is unified for several days of fun and togetherness, the Royal Thai Government wants to ensure these traditions are preserved. One way of doing this is by promoting the festival internationally, so that other countries can enjoy this unique time of year and come to join the celebrations.
H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports said, “The Songkran Splendours: The Procession of Three Kingdoms” is aimed at giving visitors a taste of Songkran and show how important it has been to the culture and the unity of the nation over the centuries. We want to show how the festival differs in how it is observed nationwide and celebrate these unique elements of our culture. Above all, we want to show that for all Thais, Songkran is about family and a time to be with loved ones – this is the true spirit of Songkran.”
Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor said, “Songkran is the most important festival in the Thai calendar and is celebrated in different ways up and down the country. We want travellers to discover more about this unique Thai event and to get a taste of the huge range of distinct local festivals. So we are getting Songkran off to a great start with our Grand Songkran Celebrations that will help people learn about Songkran’s long history and special traditions.
“The grand Songkran procession in Bangkok is aimed at setting the tone for the 2016 Thai New Year celebrations nationwide, including special festivities in 8 key locations supported by TAT. Furthermore, TAT is following the government’s water-saving policy which encourages people to use water more conservatively when celebrating Songkran,” Mr Yuthasak added.
The main stage for the 2016 grand Songkran celebrations was at the Maha Jesadabordin Royal Pavilion in Bangkok’s old quarter or Rattanakosin Island. This was the setting for the grand opening ceremony on Sunday, 10 April. Throughout the Songkran period, other activities have been scheduled to be held in areas around the historic parts of the Thai capital, including around the Bangkok Metropolitan Office, the Banglamphu community, Khao San Road, Suan Santi Chaiprakan, Wisutkasat, Nagaraphirom Park, and other surrounding temples.
People joining this grand event had the chance to witness the grand city parades themed Songkran Splendours: The Procession of Three Kingdoms, which was aimed at telling some of the stories, legends and history behind the Songkran festival in Thailand by looking at how it has evolved through the reigns of three of Thailand’s most important kings.
The first procession ‘The Kingdom of King Rama III represented the Songkran celebration during the reign of King Rama III, with displays from Thai mythology as depicted on the walls of Wat Pho. The second procession ‘The Kingdom of King Rama V the Great’ focused on 13 April, known as Songkran Day in Thailand. The final procession ‘The Kingdom of King Rama VII looked at how the Songkran celebrations have spread around the world.
The Procession of Three Kingdoms was followed by a parade that showed how the five distinctive regions of Thailand celebrate Songkran. Representing the North was Lampang’s Salung Luang known for its ritual of parading sacred Buddha images around the streets to bring blessings to the people. From the Northeast was the procession of ‘Dok Mai’ trees from Loei. From the Central Region was a Thai-Mon cultural procession, as seen in the Ratchaburi region. The Eastern region was represented by a parade of Si Maharaja Rice Stacks from Chon Buri province. Finally representing the South was a Nang Dan procession from Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The parade culminated in a cultural procession aimed at strengthening the relationship between Thailand and Lao PDR., as the two nations both celebrate Songkran and share common beliefs. In this spirit, there were representatives from the Lao-style Phra That Phanom in Nakhon Phanom province and Phra That Sri Kotabong in Lao PDR.
In addition, there are many other activities to enjoy including an ancient market, Thai traditional plays including a Lakhon Nok show and a Royal puppet show at Wat Pho from 10-12 April, 10.30-20.30 Hrs.
For Songkran celebrations in other areas of Thailand, please see details at: www.tatnews.org/events/songkran-festival-2016/