Songkran (Thai: เทศกาลสงกรานต์, pronounced [tʰêːt.sā.kāːn sǒŋ.krāːn]) is the Thai New Year's national holiday. Songkran is 13 April every year, but the holiday period extends from 14–15 April. In 2018 the Thai cabinet extended the festival nationwide to five days, 12–16 April, to enable citizens to travel home for the holiday. The word "Songkran" comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti (Devanāgarī: संक्रांति), literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.
New Year celebration, Rot Nam Dam Hua, a traditional way to celebrate with elders. Most Thai people go back to their hometowns to meet their elders.
|Official name||Songkran Festival|
|Observed by||Thai and Malaysian Siamese|
|Significance||Marks the Thai New Year|
|2017 date||13 April, Rooster|
|2018 date||13 April, Dog|
|2019 date||13 April, Pig|
|2020 date||13 April, Rat|
|Related to||South and Southeast Asian New Years|
In Thailand, New Year is now officially celebrated on January 1, Songkran was the official New Year until 1888, when it was switched to a fixed date of April 1. Then in 1940, this date was shifted to 1 January. The traditional Thai New Year Songkran was transformed into a national holiday.
In 1989, the Thai cabinet fixed Songkran at 13–15 April, despite the correct starting date (13 April at 20:57).[n 1] Songkran, however, was traditionally computed according to method described in Suriyayart (Thai: สุริยยาตร์), the Thai version of Surya Siddhanta. The celebration starts when the sun enters Aries according to sidereal zodiac system. This is called Maha Songkran day (Thai: วันมหาสงกรานต์). The final day marks the new solar year and is called Wan Thaloengsok (Thai: วันเถลิงศก). The astrologers, local or royal, then make predictions about the economy, agriculture, rainfall, and political affairs according to observations between both days. The king, or chief royal astrologer on his behalf, issued an official notification on the new year to the public. The announcement, called Prakat Songkran (Thai: ประกาศสงกรานต์, Songkran notification), contained the information on Maha Songkran, Thaloengsok, lunisolar calendar, and religious and royal ceremonies. The government strictly adhered to the announcement and arranged some ceremonies according to the computation made by royal astrologer.[n 2]
According to the scripture, 800 years equals 292,207 days.[n 3] In other words, each solar year lasts 292,207 kammaja (Thai: กัมมัช, lit. one produced by karma), where 1 kammaja equals 108 seconds and 800 kammaja corresponds to 1 day. Timekeeping began as Kali Yuga started in 3102 BCE (–3101 CE). At the start of each year, it is possible to compute the number of days since Kali Yuga commenced using following formula
where , , denote Kaliyuga, common and Buddhist era respectively. is Suriyayart day number, which can vary according to the calendar era being used. The integer result is the count of days at New Year's Day, while the remainder (in kammaja) suggests when the new year will start, which can be other time than midnight.
Owing to huge number of kammajas in calculation, new calendar eras were devised to solve this problem, including Minor Era (ME). 0 ME corresponds to 1181 BE, 638 CE or 3739 KE. Following equation above, it follows that there were 1,365,702 days since the start of Kali Yuga. The remainder of the division suggests that the new year started at 373 kammaja after midnight. This corresponds to 373/800 day or 11 hours 11 minutes and 24 seconds. In other words, 0 ME started at 11:11:24 of Sunday, 25 March 638 CE in proleptic Gregorian calendar. To compute Julian day at new year, following formula is computed,
then the number is converted back into date using Julian day algorithm (see Julian day). Maha Songkran day is computed either by lengthy process or by subtracting by 2.165 days (2 days 3 hours 57 minutes 36 seconds). This can be rewritten as
Solar year lasts 292,207 kammajas or 365.25875 days every year. However, Gregorian year lasts, on average, 292194 kammajas respectively.[n 4] The difference of 13 kammajas (23 minutes 24 seconds) accumulates every year, causing the shift of Songkran towards the end of calendar year. In 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2000, Maha Songkran was on 7 April, 9 April, 10 April, 12 April and 13 April respectively.
Nowadays royal palace ceased to issue Songkran notification; they replaced it with a small calendar booklet given to the public on New Year's Day. Government Savings Bank still prints a one-page lunisolar calendar, which is different from multiple-page solar calendar commonly seen. The calendar features the image is Songkran goddess with her vehicle and subordinates, led by Chinese zodiac animal holding flag with Thai script for that zodiac. It also contains comprehensive information on the correct Songkran day and religious days. Some astrologers, especially in northern Thailand, still issue their own Songkran notification containing predictions and other information. In 2013, Chiang Mai provincial council decided to defy the government-set holiday by rescheduling the ceremony according to the correct calculation.
Following table lists start and end dates of Songkran festival obtained from the formulae discussed above. Chinese zodiac for each year is also given since it is also used in Thai astrology. However, Chinese zodiac in Chinese astrology changes on Lichun, just before Chinese New Year, in February, while Thai astrology uses first day of fifth lunar month (roughly new moon in late–March to early–April). Before the cut off date, astrologer uses zodiac of the last year.
|Year||Chinese zodiac||Maha Songkran
|2013||Snake||14 April 2013
|16 April 2013
|2014||Horse||14 April 2014
|16 April 2014
|2015||Goat||14 April 2015
|16 April 2015
|2016||Monkey||13 April 2016
|16 April 2016
|2017||Rooster||14 April 2017
|16 April 2017
|2018||Dog||14 April 2018
|16 April 2018
|2019||Pig||14 April 2019
|16 April 2019
|2020||Rat||13 April 2020
|16 April 2020
|2021||Ox||14 April 2021
|16 April 2021
|2022||Tiger||14 April 2022
|16 April 2022
|2023||Rabbit||14 April 2023
|16 April 2023
New year traditionsEdit
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begin with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues and the young and elderly is a traditional ritual on this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one's sins and bad luck. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. Paying reverence to ancestors is an important part of Songkran tradition.
The holiday is known for its water festival. Major streets are closed to traffic, and are used as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young and old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. Traditional parades are held and in some venues "Miss Songkran" is crowned. where contestants are clothed in traditional Thai dress.
People in a tuk-tuk getting soaked during Songkran, Chiang Mai
Songkran in ThailandEdit
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Central Region People in this region clean their houses when Songkran approaches. All dress up in colorful clothing or Thai dress. After offering food to the monks, people will offer a requiem to their ancestors. People make merit offerings such as giving sand to the temple for construction or repair. Other forms of merit include releasing birds and fish. Nowadays, people also release other kinds of animals such as buffaloes and cows.
South Southerners have three Songkran rules: Work as little as possible and avoid spending money; do not hurt other persons or animals; do not tell lies.
North In northern Thailand 13 April is celebrated with gunfire or firecrackers to repel bad luck. On the next day, people prepare food and useful things to offer to the monks at the temple. People have to go to temple to make merit and bathe Buddha's statue and after that they pour water on the hands of elders and ask for their blessings.
East The eastern region has activities similar to the other part of Thailand, but people in the east always make merit at the temple throughout all the days of the Songkran Festival and create the sand pagoda. Some people, after making merit at the temple, prepare food to be given to the elderly members of their family.
The festival is celebrated as Sangken in northeastern areas of India and as Bizu, Boisuk, Shangrai, and Boisabi in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, which is the traditional New Year's Day by the indigenous people and Buddhist community. The Sangken festival is celebrated by the people of the Khampti tribe. The festival is also celebrated by Singpho, Khamyang, Tikhaks (Tangsa) and Phakyal community of Arunachal Pradesh, and Tai Phake community of Assam. Sangken generally falls in the month of 'Naun Ha', the fifth month of the year of the Khampti Lunar calendar coinciding with the month of April. It is celebrated in the last days of the old year and the lunar new year begins on the day just after the end of the festival.
In some villages in south India, especially Karnataka, a festival called "Okhali" or "Okhli" is celebrated in which every household keeps a barrel of water mixed with chalk and turmeric to throw on passers-by. The date of Okhali coincides with that of Songkran in Thailand and Thingyan in Myanmar, not with the dates of Holi, which is a north Indian festival.
In other calendarsEdit
Songkran occurs at the same time as that given by Bede for festivals of Eostre—and Easter weekend occasionally coincides with Songkran (most recently 1979, 1990, and 2001, but not again until 2085.)
"Thai people should think about what we want and how we want to promote the image of our country. Do we want to be known as the hub of the water party with booze and a high death toll? Or do we want to be known for having a beautiful culture that no one else has?" —Prommin Kantiya, director of the Accident Prevention Network (APN) 
Police statistics show that the death toll from road accidents doubles during the annual Songkran holiday. Between 2009 and 2013 there were about 27 road deaths per day during non-holiday periods and an average of 52 road deaths per day during Songkran. Thailand has the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world, with 44 deaths per 100,000 residents. Approximately 70–80 percent of the accidents that occur during the long holiday period are motorcycle accidents. About 10,000 people per year die in motorcycle accidents.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) says a total of 110,909 people were arrested and 5,772 vehicles impounded at road safety checkpoints across the country between 9–16 April 2016. In 2018 the number of offenders arrested at 2,029 checkpoints had risen to 146,589. Of these, 39,572 had failed to wear crash helmets and 37,779 carried no driving licence. Reacting to the numbers, the prime minister "ordered stricter enforcement of the law"; the interior minister said he would "propose greater efforts in raising awareness as an additional measure, insisting that traffic laws were [already] strictly enforced"; and deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he would "work harder to ensure motorcyclists wore helmets."
|11–17 Apr 2018||3,724||418||3,987|||
|11–17 Apr 2016||3,447||442||3,656|||
|11–17 Apr 2014||2,992||322||3,225|||
- Police arrested a British tourist in Chiang Mai on the first day of the 2016 Songkran holiday, 13 April, for violating the junta's ban on indecent dress. In a water fight the culprit was topless, wearing only short pants, but no shirt. He was taken into custody, fined 100 baht, then released. Temperatures in Chiang Mai reached 41 °C that day.
- A man was arrested during Songkran 2016 for posting a video of a topless woman dancing during the 2015 Songkran festival. Police said Jakkrapatsorn Akkarapokanan, 29, was charged under the Computer Crime Act for posting the year-old video of a woman rolling up her wet shirt to let revelers touch her breasts. Jakkrapatsorn was released on a 100,000 baht bond. Police said they attempted to find the topless woman in the video to fine her 500 baht for indecency, but the one year statute of limitations had expired.
In 2014 "Celebrate Singapore," a large two-day Songkran-style water festival, was planned for Singapore and the event was promoted as the "largest water festival party in Singapore". However, controversy emerged when the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for Tourism Products, Vilaiwan Twichasri, claimed that Thailand holds exclusive rights to celebrate Songkran and planned to consult with officials at the Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Culture to discuss a potential lawsuit. The Deputy Governor's view was supported by numerous Thai citizens on social media websites. Chai Nakhonchai, Cultural Promotion Department chief, pointed out that Songkran is a traditional festival shared by many countries throughout Southeast Asia, while historian Charnvit Kasetsiri stated that no single nation can claim ownership of a tradition. On 25 March 2014, the Bangkok Post reported that the Singaporean government had intervened in the festival's content and there would be no water-throwing, no water pistols and no public drinking. The festival was also reduced to a one-day event.
Dates in Thai lunar calendarEdit
|Gregorian||Date||Animal||Day of the week||Gregorian||Date||Animal||Day of the week|
|2001||13 April||Snake (มะเส็ง)||Friday||2026||13 April||Horse (มะเมีย)||Monday|
|2002||13 April||Horse (มะเมีย)||Saturday||2027||13 April||Goat (มะแม)||Tuesday|
|2003||13 April||Goat (มะแม)||Sunday||2028||13 April||Monkey (วอก)||Thursday|
|2004||13 April||Monkey (วอก)||Tuesday||2029||13 April||Rooster (ระกา)||Friday|
|2005||13 April||Rooster (ระกา)||Wednesday||2030||13 April||Dog (จอ)||Saturday|
|2006||13 April||Dog (จอ)||Thursday||2031||13 April||Pig (กุน)||Sunday|
|2007||13 April||Pig (กุน)||Friday||2032||13 April||Rat (ชวด)||Tuesday|
|2008||13 April||Rat (ชวด)||Sunday||2033||13 April||Ox (ฉลู)||Wednesday|
|2009||13 April||Ox (ฉลู)||Monday||2034||13 April||Tiger (ขาล)||Thursday|
|2010||13 April||Tiger (ขาล)||Tuesday||2035||13 April||Rabbit (เถาะ)||Friday|
|2011||13 April||Rabbit (เถาะ)||Wednesday||2036||13 April||Dragon (มะโรง)||Sunday|
|2012||13 April||Dragon (มะโรง)||Friday||2037||13 April||Snake (มะเส็ง)||Monday|
|2013||13 April||Snake (มะเส็ง)||Saturday||2038||13 April||Horse (มะเมีย)||Tuesday|
|2014||13 April||Horse (มะเมีย)||Sunday||2039||13 April||Goat (มะแม)||Wednesday|
|2015||13 April||Goat (มะแม)||Monday||2040||13 April||Monkey (วอก)||Friday|
|2016||13 April||Monkey (วอก)||Wednesday||2041||13 April||Rooster (ระกา)||Saturday|
|2017||13 April||Rooster (ระกา)||Thursday||2042||13 April||Dog (จอ)||Sunday|
|2018||13 April||Dog (จอ)||Friday||2043||13 April||Pig (กุน)||Monday|
|2019||13 April||Pig (กุน)||Saturday||2044||13 April||Rat (ชวด)||Wednesday|
|2020||13 April||Rat (ชวด)||Monday||2045||13 April||Ox (ฉลู)||Thursday|
|2021||13 April||Ox (ฉลู)||Tuesday||2046||13 April||Tiger (ขาล)||Friday|
|2022||13 April||Tiger (ขาล)||Wednesday||2047||13 April||Rabbit (เถาะ)||Saturday|
|2023||13 April||Rabbit (เถาะ)||Thursday||2048||13 April||Dragon (มะโรง)||Monday|
|2024||13 April||Dragon (มะโรง)||Saturday||2049||13 April||Snake (มะเส็ง)||Tuesday|
|2025||13 April||Snake (มะเส็ง)||Sunday||2050||13 April||Horse (มะเมีย)||Wednesday|
The mythical origins behind the celebration of Songkran revolve around the Nang Songkran or the Seven Ladies of Songkran. Kabilla Phrom also known as Brahmā enjoyed betting and met a seven-year-old boy named, Thammapala Kumara who was able to recite scriptures in public. Kabilla Phrom wanted to test the child's knowledge so he descended to earth and presented three riddles to the boy and in return if he knew the answer Kabilla Phrom would offer him his head to the boy. However, if the boy failed to come up with seven answers within seven days he would lose his head to Kabilla Phrom. The three riddles were, "where did a person's aura exist in the morning, where was it at noon, and where did it appear at night?" For six days the boy pondered over the riddles and could still not find an answer. However, the boy who was laying under palm trees heard a male and female eagle joyfully talking about how they would soon be able to feast on a boy's dead body. The two eagles then revealed the answers to the riddles which the boy overheard and he immediately went to Kabilla Phrom. The boy recited the answers, "In the morning, a person's aura appeared on his face, so he washed it. At noon, it was at his chest; so, he wore perfume there. And at night, his aura moved to his feet; that was why he bathed them", Kabilla Phrom had lost the bet and so had to cut off his own head. Kabilla Phrom's head however held special powers, if it should touch the ground, the earth would catch fire; if it should be left in the air, there would be no rain and if it should be dropped into the sea, the sea would dry up. In order to save the world from these possible disasters, the god's seven daughters or Nang Songkran placed their father's on a phan and carried it around in procession around Mount Meru before placing it in a cave on Mount Kailash with many offerings. Thus, at the beginning of each year Kabilla Phrom's daughters would take turns to bring out the god's head and carry it in procession around Mount Meru, this celebration is known as Songkran.
|Day||Name||Flower||Stone||Food||Right hand||Left hand||Vehicle|
|Sunday||Thungsa Thewi||Pomegranate flowers||Ruby||Fig||Discus||Conch||Garuda|
|Monday||Khorakha Thewi||Cork tree flowers||Moonstone||Oil||Sword||Staff||Tiger|
|Tuesday||Raksot Thewi||Lotus flower||Agate||Blood||Trident||Bow||Pig|
|Wednesday||Mantha Thewi||Champak flowers||Cat's eye||Butter||Stylus||Staff||Donkey|
|Thursday||Kirini Thewi||Magnolia||Emerald||Nuts and sesame seeds||Hook||Bow||Elephant|
|Friday||Kimitha Thewi||Water lilies||Topaz||Banana||Sword||Lute||Buffalo|
|Saturday||Mahothon Thewi||Water hyacinth flowers||Blue sapphire||Hog deer meat||Discus||Trident||Peacock|
- The cabinet later fixed this issue by shifting the holiday by one day to 13–15 April, which is still in use today.
- In 1896, for example, the ceremony started on 12 April. According to Suriyayart, the sun entered Aries at 19:30 on 12 April. The main ceremony started one day later, possibly due to difficulties organising the ceremony at the exact time. In 1949, Maha Songkran was on 13 April at 12:35 and the ceremony started that day.
- According to Deva Sastri, Bapu (1861). "Translation of the Surya Siddhanta" (PDF). C B Lewis and the Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta. Sloka 37, there are 1,577,917,828 solar (or terrestrial, as the translator chose) day within one great Yuga, or eon. There are four Yugas, or periods, within the eon. All of them spans 4,320,000 solar years (Sloka 15–16). It follows that 800 solar years correspond to 292,207 days.
- Julian year lasts 292,200 kammajas on average
- "'Songkran Festival' extended to five-day holiday". The Nation. 2018-02-27. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- Monier-Williams, Monier (1899). "Saṃkrānti". A Sanskrit-English dictionary : etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to cognate Indo-European languages. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
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- For example, ราชกิจจานุเบกษา, ประกาศสงกรานต์ ร.ศ. ๑๑๐ พ.ศ.๒๔๓๔, เล่ม ๘, ๑๒ เมษายน ๒๔๓๔ (1891 Notification on Songkran)
- ราชกิจจานุเบกษา, [พระราชพิธีเผด็จศกสงกรานต์], เล่มที่ ๑๓, ๑๙ เมษายน ๒๔๓๙, หน้า ๓๕ (Songkran and cutting off the year ceremony in 1896)
- ราชกิจจานุเบกษา, กำหนดการพระราชพิธีสงกรานต์ พ.ศ.๒๔๙๒, ตอนที่ ๒๒, เล่ม ๖๖, ๑๒ เมษายน ๒๔๙๒ (Songkran royal ceremony schedule, 1949)
- Burgess, James. "ART.XVIII. Notes on Hindu Astronomy and the History of our Knowledge of it". Cambridge University.
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- สุริยาอารักษ์, สิงห์โต. เรื่องฤกษ์และการให้ฤกษ์ ดวงพิชัยสงคราม. เขษมบรรณกิจ. (Singto Suriya-arak's How to and how not to set ceremonial time and how to compute detailed Suriyayart natal chart, in Thai)
- Chunpongtong, Loy (October 2012). "Discrepancies in Songkran Days: A Mathematical Research (ความคลาดเคลื่อนของวันสงกรานต์: ผลวิจัยเชิงคณิตศาสตร์)". 37 (4).
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- Lee, Edmund (13 April 2017). "Five million Malaysians celebrate Songkran and Good Friday". The Sun Daily. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
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List of Easter Sunday Dates 2000–2099
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- Sattaburuth, Aekarach; Nanuam, Wassana (18 April 2018). "Prayut vows to overcome traffic accident scourge". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
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- "Tết té nước tại thái lan".[dead link]
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- Media related to Songkran in Thailand at Wikimedia Commons