April festivals: Thailand’s Songkran festival

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By Karen Hart

Find out about a Thai water festival and conduct a simple water pressure experiment in your classroom.

Songkran

Traditionally, Songkran was a time for bathing images of the Buddha, and for participating in the ceremony, ‘rod nam dum hua‘, a ceremony for young Thais to seek the blessing of their elders by pouring scented water over their hands.

These days however, things are very different. These days the Songkran festival is a huge water fight – luckily, it’s held during Thailand’s hottest season! For three days everyone is fair game, with hoses, water-filled balloons and high-powered water guns all brought out for the battle.

Friends and families also get together to create conical sand mounds known as ‘stupas’ in the courtyards of monasteries. The stupa is covered with flour and decorated with hand-painted horoscope symbols and little balls of sand. It is a traditional belief that the stupa, with its round base, will provide a ‘year-round’ protection from sickness and a guarantee of wealth and prosperity.

Fish and birds are also set free during Songkran in the spirit of kindness. The most spectacular ceremony is held on the island of Phuket, where, at Phra Pradaeng, a colourful parade precedes the ceremonial releasing of the first of the fish by the winner of the Miss Songkran beauty contest.

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