What Does Songkran Symbolize: Exploring the Significance of Thailand’s Water Festival

“Happy Songkran!” As the blistering heat of summer approaches, Thailand prepares for one of its most celebrated festivals of the year. Better known as the water festival, Songkran represents a time for renewal, purification, and rejuvenation. From the north to the south of the country, people gather in the streets to splash water on each other, enjoy food, music, and honor their elders in festivities stretching several days.

Underneath the fun, Songkran is steeped in traditions and ancient customs. Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘astrological passage,’ Songkran marks the beginning of Thailand’s solar New Year. It is a time when Thai people clean their homes of negative energy, pay respects to ancestors, and seek blessings from their elders. The splashing of water signifies the purification of the mind, body, and spirit, where water is seen as a symbol of cleansing, washing away fears and negative emotions, and inviting good fortune in the coming year.

As important as Songkran is for the Thais, it is also a major attraction for tourists from around the world. Many come to experience the joy of the festival and the food, the music, the culture. For a few days, the hustle and bustle of Bangkok takes a back seat to the sights and sounds of people enjoying themselves to the fullest. Busy marketplaces, decorated houses, endless street food, and happy faces line the roads during this remarkable time of year. So, let’s join in the festivities, splash some water, spread joy and happiness and wish everyone a Happy Songkran!”

Origins of Songkran festival

Songkran is a centuries-old festival which marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year. It usually falls between the 13th and 15th of April, and it is celebrated with a variety of activities that symbolizes renewal, cleansing, and the start of the wet season. Unlike many western New Year celebrations, Songkran lasts for several days, and it is a time when many Thai people take a break from their work and spend time with their families. The festivities involve water fights, paying respects to elders, and visiting temples to make merit and receive blessings.

  • Historical origins
  • Religious significance
  • Rituals and traditions

The origins of Songkran can be traced back to ancient Siam, which is the former name of Thailand. The word “Songkran” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Sankranti,” which means “astrological passage.” According to the lunisolar calendar, Songkran marked the end of one year and the beginning of another, and it was a time for farmers to prepare for the new planting season. The festival was also influenced by Buddhist traditions, and it was a time for people to make offerings to monks and seek their blessings.

The religious significance of Songkran is still prominent today, and it is a time for Thais to purify themselves spiritually and physically. People often perform the “Rod Nam Dum Hua” ritual, which involves the pouring of water onto the hands of elders as a sign of respect and to seek their blessings. The water is also symbolic of the cleansing of sins and the washing away of bad luck from the past year. In some regions, people also release captive animals such as fish or birds as a way of making merit and to bring good luck.

Songkran is a time of many rituals and traditions that are unique to Thailand. One of the most popular activities is the “Songkran Siege,” which involves water guns and buckets of water being thrown around in the streets. This fun-filled activity symbolizes the coming of the wet season and is also believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the year ahead. Other traditions include the building of sand pagodas, the lighting of candles and incense, and the cooking of special dishes to share with family and friends.

Significance of water in Songkran celebrations

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is one of the most iconic festivals celebrated in Thailand. One of the most prominent features of this festival is the massive water fights that take place on the streets of Thailand. But what does water symbolize in Songkran celebrations? Let’s explore this in-depth.

  • Washing away the bad luck: One of the primary reasons why water is used during Songkran is to wash away bad luck from the previous year. According to tradition, water is believed to cleanse the body and soul. Hence, the act of pouring water on someone or splashing water during Songkran symbolizes the literal washing away of the past year’s misfortunes.
  • Renewal and rejuvenation: Apart from washing away bad luck, water is also used to purify oneself in preparation for the new year. It is a symbolic act of starting anew, leaving behind old habits, and embracing new opportunities. In a way, Songkran water fights represent a collective ritual of renewal and rejuvenation for the entire community.
  • A sign of respect: In addition to its spiritual significance, water is also used to show respect to elders and loved ones during Songkran celebrations. The gesture of pouring water over someone’s hands or gently sprinkling water on them is a symbol of gratitude and respect.

But it’s not just traditional beliefs that link water to Songkran. The festival falls on a time of the year when Thailand swelters in the heat of the summer. Splashing water during the festival is also a much-needed relief from the hot and humid climate in the country.

In conclusion, water is a vital element in Songkran celebrations, both for its spiritual and practical significance. It symbolizes renewal, purification, and respect for loved ones. So, the next time you find yourself in Thailand during Songkran, do not miss the opportunity to indulge in the festivities, and don’t forget to stock up on water guns and waterproof bags!

Traditional rituals practiced during Songkran

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is a festival that is celebrated from 13th to 15th April every year. It is the most anticipated event in Thailand that symbolizes the purification and cleansing of the soul, mind, and body. The festival is a time for Thais to honor their traditions and heritage, and there are a number of rituals that are practiced during the celebration.

  • Bathing the Buddha Image: This ritual is performed at temples and homes, where water is poured onto the Buddha statue to symbolize purification and cleansing of bad luck and sins. It is believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
  • Sprinkling Water: This is a fun-filled ritual where people splash and sprinkle water on each other, symbolizing washing away of bad luck and sins. It is also a way to express respect for elders and blessings for friends and family.
  • Sand Pagodas: Sand pagodas are built on temples using sand and decorated with colorful flags and flowers. This is a form of merit-making, and it is believed that the higher the sand pagoda, the higher will be the blessings and merit.

Day-to-Day Activities during Songkran

Songkran is not limited to traditional rituals alone. People engage in a wide range of activities during the festival.

The most popular activity is the water fight, where people of all ages splash and spray water on each other with buckets, water guns, and hoses. The streets of Thailand turn into a giant water park, and it’s a great way to cool off from the scorching heat of the summer.

People also dress up in their finest clothes and take part in processions, parades, and cultural performances. It’s a time for Thais to showcase their cultural heritage and traditions to the world.

Food and Drinks during Songkran

Thailand is known for its delicious street food, and Songkran is no exception. During the festival, people indulge in a variety of street foods like grilled meats, noodle dishes, spicy salads, and desserts. It’s a time for families and friends to get together and feast on their favorite Thai dishes.

One popular drink during Songkran is the nam ob, which is a sweet and refreshing drink made from tamarind, sugar, and salt that helps to combat the heat and refresh the body.

Thai Word English Translation
Chiang Mai Rose of the North
Sawatdee Hello
Kao San Road Famous backpacker area in Bangkok

Overall, Songkran is a time for Thais to come together and celebrate their heritage, enjoy delicious food and drinks, and wash away bad luck and sins. It’s a festival that is unique to Thailand and one that should not be missed.

Buddhist teachings and beliefs surrounding Songkran

Songkran is not just a time of revelry and water fights for Thai people, it is also deeply rooted in Buddhist teachings and beliefs. The festival marks the beginning of the Thai New Year and is a time for spiritual renewal, cleansing, and merit-making.

  • The Four Noble Truths: Songkran is an opportunity to reflect on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism which are the foundation of Buddhist beliefs. These Four Noble Truths state that suffering exists, suffering arises from craving and attachment, cessation of suffering is possible, and the path to the cessation of suffering is the Eightfold Path.
  • Bathing Buddha images: One of the most important rituals during Songkran is the bathing of Buddha images. This ritual is believed to bring good luck and wash away bad luck for the coming year. It also serves as a reminder to purify one’s mind and body.
  • Giving alms: During Songkran, people also give alms to monks as a way to accrue merit and demonstrate generosity. In Buddhist teachings, giving is considered a virtuous act that helps one accumulate positive karma.

In addition to these teachings, Songkran is also a time for families to gather, pray at temples, and engage in acts of kindness towards others. The festival is a celebration of community and the importance of connecting with others.

Overall, Songkran symbolizes the importance of spiritual renewal, purification, generosity, and community building. These are core tenets of Buddhist beliefs and are at the heart of what makes Songkran such a special and meaningful festival in Thailand.

But while the festival holds deep meaning for Thai people, it is also a time for visitors to experience the richness of Thai culture and to revel in the joy and fun of water fights and festive celebrations. It truly is a unique and unforgettable experience.

Regional variations in Songkran celebrations across Thailand

Songkran is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Thailand, marking the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The festival, which generally spans over three days, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy in almost every part of the country. However, the way it is celebrated differs from region to region in Thailand. Here are some of the regional variations in Songkran celebrations across Thailand.

  • Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is considered the epicenter of Songkran celebrations in Thailand. Here, Songkran is celebrated for six days, and the celebrations are more cultural and traditional as compared to other regions. The highlight of the celebrations is the parade of the Phra Buddha Sihing image, which is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the people of the region.
  • Bangkok: Bangkok is known for its vibrant and lively Songkran celebrations. Here, the focus is more on having fun and enjoying the festivities. Water guns, pistols, and buckets are used to splash water on each other, and people dance to loud music on the streets.
  • Phuket: In Phuket, Songkran is celebrated with a unique twist. The celebrations center around the beach, and people come out to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand. Instead of using water guns and pistols, people pour water over each other, and sand is used to create small sand stupas, which are believed to bring good luck.
  • Chiang Rai: Chiang Rai is known for its beautiful scenery and unique culture. Songkran celebrations here are more sedate, and people prefer to celebrate the festival in a more traditional way. Here, the focus is on visiting local temples and participating in merit-making activities.
  • Isan: Isan is one of the most culturally diverse regions in Thailand, and its Songkran celebrations reflect this diversity. People in Isan prefer to celebrate the festival in a more traditional way, with a focus on merit-making activities, such as giving alms to the monks, paying respects to their ancestors, and making offerings to the spirit houses.


In conclusion, Songkran is a festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy across Thailand. However, the way it is celebrated differs from region to region, with each region having its unique customs and traditions. Whether you prefer the vibrant and lively celebrations of Bangkok or the traditional and sedate celebrations of Chiang Rai, there is something for everyone during the Songkran festival in Thailand.

Influence of Indian and Chinese cultures on Songkran traditions

Songkran, also known as the Thai New Year, is deeply rooted in Buddhist beliefs and practices. It is celebrated every year from 13 to 15 April, marking the end of the dry season during which people rejoice with water splashing all over the country. However, the festival is not an indigenous tradition as it bears influences from Indian and Chinese cultures. Here are some significant contributions:

  • Indian astrology: The Thai New Year is based on the Indian solar calendar, which marks the beginning of a new year in mid-April when the sun enters the Aries zodiac sign. This is also why the festival is called Songkran, which means ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’, indicating the transition of the sun from one zodiac sign to another.
  • Hindu mythology: The festival’s water element is derived from Hindu mythology, specifically the story of Prahlada, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, who was saved from his father’s deadly fire by the god’s supernatural powers. Prahlada’s salvation is celebrated on Holi, a Hindu festival that involves throwing coloured powder and water. The Thai people adopted the water element, which symbolises purification, blessing, and good luck.
  • Chinese customs: Songkran also reflects the Chinese lunar New Year celebrations, which involve sweeping the house to expel bad luck and buying new clothes to welcome good fortune. This is similar to the Thai tradition of cleaning the house before the festival and wearing brightly coloured clothes for merit-making activities.

Moreover, Songkran shares some similarities with other New Year celebrations in Southeast Asia, such as the Cambodian Chaul Chnam Thmey and the Lao Pi Mai. They all have roots in Theravada Buddhism and incorporate water pouring ceremonies to wash away sins and bring happiness for the coming year.

Overall, Songkran is a manifestation of the rich cultural fusion in Thailand, combining Indian and Chinese influences with the local beliefs and customs. It represents the harmony and diversity of the Thai people and their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage.

Here is a table summarising the Indian and Chinese elements in Songkran:

Elements Origins
Solar calendar India
Hindu mythology India
New clothes China
Sweeping the house China
Water pouring India, Southeast Asia

Modern Commercialization of Songkran Festival

The Songkran festival is an annual event that is celebrated in Thailand and in parts of neighboring countries. Known as the “Water Festival,” it commemorates the Thai New Year by pouring water over Buddha statues and one another as a symbol of cleansing and renewal. However, in recent years, the festival has become more commercialized, and many people are starting to question its true meaning.

One of the main drivers of the commercialization of the Songkran festival is the tourism industry. With millions of tourists flocking to Thailand every year to participate in the festival, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses are cashing in on the event. The celebration has now become more of an opportunity to sell products and services, rather than a spiritual event marked by traditional ceremonies.

  • The use of water guns and other water-related accessories in the festival has become widespread, with many vendors selling them at inflated prices.
  • Some bars and clubs advertise special promotions during the festival, such as unlimited alcohol and all-you-can-eat buffets.
  • Street vendors also sell food, souvenirs, and other trinkets to tourists during the event, often at exorbitant prices.

While commercialization is not necessarily a bad thing, it can detract from the true meaning of the festival. Many people are concerned that the event is losing its historical and cultural significance as it becomes increasingly focused on selling products and services.

In addition, the festival has become more dangerous in recent years due to the use of water guns and the consumption of alcohol. Despite efforts by the Thai government to regulate the celebration, accidents and injuries are still common during the event, with many people ending up in the hospital.

Year Accidents Deaths
2015 3,373 43
2016 3,447 52
2017 3,690 69
2018 3,724 50

The commercialization of the Songkran festival has both positive and negative effects. While it generates income for businesses and promotes tourism, it also dilutes the true meaning of the festival and detracts from its historical and cultural significance. It’s important for the organizers and participants to strike a balance between enjoying the festivities and preserving the traditional customs and values that the festival represents.

Impacts of Songkran on tourism in Thailand

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated annually from 13 to 15 April. It is one of the liveliest festivals in Thailand, marked with water-throwing, religious observances, and colorful parades. The festival has a tremendous impact on the tourism industry in Thailand. Here are some of the ways that Songkran influences tourism in the country:

  • Increased number of visitors: Songkran is a major draw for tourists from all over the world. During this period, Thailand sees a significant increase in the number of visitors. In 2019, over 3 million tourists visited Thailand during the Songkran festival, with a 10% increase from the previous year.
  • Boost to the economy: With the influx of tourists, the Songkran festival has a significant impact on the economy of Thailand. A report by the Thailand National Economic and Social Development Council estimated the economic impact of Songkran to be THB 13.44 billion (approximately USD 418 million) in 2019, with the number expected to rise in the coming years.
  • Opportunities for the local businesses: Songkran presents many opportunities for local businesses such as restaurants, bars, street food vendors, hotels, and retail shops. With the increase in the number of tourists during the festival, these businesses see a significant rise in their sales.

Moreover, Songkran provides an opportunity for the people of Thailand to showcase their rich culture and traditions. The festival also gives tourists a chance to learn about Thailand’s unique customs and experience the traditional way of life in the country.

The impact of COVID-19 on Songkran

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the tourism industry in Thailand, and the Songkran festival was no exception. In 2020, the Thai government canceled all public events and celebrations, including Songkran, to slow the spread of the virus.

The cancellation of the festival had a significant impact on Thailand’s economy, as the tourism industry was hit hard. However, the government’s decision was necessary to ensure the safety of the people and prevent the spread of the virus.

Songkran festival symbols and significance

Songkran has a rich history and a unique cultural significance in Thailand. The festival is rooted in ancient traditions, and it symbolizes the beginning of a new year. During the festival, people clean their houses, dress in new clothes, and visit temples to offer prayers and make merit.

Symbolism Significance
Water Symbolizes purification and the washing away of sins and bad luck. It also represents the start of the rainy season in Thailand.
Flowers Represents the beauty of life and nature, and a reminder to appreciate the small things in life.
Food Signifies the importance of family, community, and sharing.

Songkran is a festival that celebrates family, community, and the start of a new year. It is a time for people to come together, share their blessings, and appreciate the beauty of life. The festival’s cultural significance and its impact on tourism are just some of the reasons why it is considered one of the most important festivals in Thailand.

Songkran-themed events and activities in popular destinations

Songkran, also known as the Thai New Year, is celebrated every year from April 13 to 15. It is a time for new beginnings and paying respect to elders and ancestors. Water is also an important part of the celebration as it symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck. Here are some popular Songkran-themed events and activities in different destinations:

9. Chiang Mai, Thailand – Merit-making and street partying

Chiang Mai is arguably the best place to experience Songkran as it has the largest celebrations in all of Thailand. The city is known for its traditional merit-making ceremonies at various temples. Locals and tourists alike typically participate in the ritual of pouring scented water on Buddha images. If you’re looking to get rowdy, head to the Old City where the streets turn into a massive water-fight zone. It’s a fun and chaotic experience where everyone is armed with water guns and buckets.

Aside from that, Chiang Mai also hosts cultural events such as traditional dance performances, concerts, and beauty pageants. At night, the city transforms into a vibrant party scene with various food and drink vendors, live music, and DJs.

Date Event
April 13 Merit-making ceremonies at various temples
April 13-15 Water-fight zone at the Old City
April 13-15 Cultural events such as dance performances, concerts, and beauty pageants
April 13-15 Nighttime party scene with food/drink vendors, live music, and DJs

If you’re planning to visit Chiang Mai for Songkran, be prepared to get soaking wet as the festivities can get pretty wild. It’s also important to respect the traditional aspect of the celebration by dressing appropriately and participating in the merit-making ceremonies. Overall, Songkran in Chiang Mai is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t forget.

Impact of COVID-19 on Songkran celebrations in Thailand

Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, is widely celebrated in Thailand with elaborate water fights and religious ceremonies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of most Songkran events across the country. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Thailand’s government has advised people to avoid large gatherings, including Songkran events, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Some traditional Songkran ceremonies still take place, but without the usual crowds of tourists and locals.
  • Many businesses that depend on Songkran tourism, such as hotels and restaurants, have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

The table below shows the number of COVID-19 cases in Thailand during the 2020 and 2021 Songkran holidays:

Year Number of COVID-19 Cases
2020 2,854
2021 985

Despite the decrease in the number of cases during the 2021 Songkran holiday compared to the previous year, the government has urged the public to remain cautious and vigilant. Traditional Songkran celebrations are expected to resume in 2022, pending the control of the pandemic.

FAQs: What Does Songkran Symbolize?

1. What is Songkran?

Songkran is a festival celebrated in Southeast Asian countries, particularly in Thailand, to commemorate the Thai New Year. It is a festival of water that usually lasts for three days.

2. What does the water represent in Songkran?

The water is an important symbol in Songkran. It represents purification and the washing away of sins and bad luck. As people splash water on each other during the festival, they are also cleansing their bodies and souls.

3. What are the traditional activities during Songkran?

The traditional activities during Songkran include visiting temples, pouring water on Buddha statues, and sprinkling water on elders as a sign of respect. Water fights and throwing of powder are also common, especially among young people.

4. What do the colorful powders mean in Songkran?

The colorful powders used in Songkran represent the diversity of life and the colors of nature. They are also a fun way to celebrate the festival and add to the festive atmosphere.

5. What is the significance of Songkran for Thai people?

For Thai people, Songkran is not just a festival, but a time for family reunions, paying respects to elders, and seeking blessings for the new year. It is a time to reflect on the past year and make wishes for the year ahead.

6. How do people prepare for Songkran?

People prepare for Songkran by cleaning their homes, getting new clothes, and stocking up on water guns and powders. They also prepare traditional food and offerings for the temples.

7. What is the message behind Songkran?

The message of Songkran is one of renewal and new beginnings. It encourages people to let go of the past and start afresh with a clean slate. It is a message of hope and positivity that resonates with everyone.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Joining the Songkran Celebration!

Now that you know what Songkran symbolizes, you can join in the fun and festivities with a deeper appreciation of its meaning. So, gather your friends and family, stock up on water guns and powders, and get ready to celebrate the Thai New Year in style! Thanks for reading and come back soon for more cultural insights and fun facts. Sawasdee Pee Mai – Happy Songkran!