This morning I went down to the City Hall in Samut Prakan to watch the Songkran Parade, though I must admit I was mainly going to take some pictures of Nang Songkran (which is a bit like Miss Songkran). Every year she sits on a different animal depending on the day of the week Songkran starts on. This year she sat on the back of a donkey! In my library, I have an interesting book called “Essays on Cultural Thailand” published by the Office of the National Culture Commission. This has a fascinating story which reveals the origin of this parade:
There was once a young man who was prodigious in learning. He understood even the language of the birds. This excited the jealousy of Kabil Maha Phrom, one of the gods of a higher heavenly realm. He came down to meet the young man and posed him three sphinx-like riddles with the wager that if the young man failed to give the right answers within seven days, he would lose his head but if he succeeded, the god himself would give his own. Like all folk tales the young man was at first at his wit’s end to answer such difficult riddles and he repaired to a certain place in order to kill himself rather than face defeat.
He stopped at the foot of a tall tree at the top of which was an aerie. By chance he heard the mother eagle comforting her eaglets who cried for more food, that they would be gratified soon by feasting on the body of the young man who would fail to solve the riddles. She then related the story of the wager between the god and the young man, and in answer to her children’s question the mother eagle satisfied them with the right answers to those three riddles. The young man availed himself of this information and on the appointed day he gave the god the three right answers.
The god, as was the case in such tales, lost the wager and himself cut off his own head. His head was a terrible one for if it touched the earth there would be a universal conflagration and if it fell into the sea, the sea would dry up through its intense heat. The god’s head therefore was deposited in a certain cave in the heavens. Every new year that is on Songkran Day one of the god’s seven daughters in turn will carry her father’s head in procession with millions of other gods and goddesses circumambulating like the sun round the Meru, the Buddhist Olympian Mount. After that there are feasts among the celestial beings who enjoyed themselves with drinks made from the juice of the chamunad creeper. The god’s head was taken back to the cave after the feast, to be taken out again on Songkran day the next year.
Each of the seven daughter’s are assigned a different day of the week. As this year Songkran falls on a Wednesday, it was the turn of Montatevee. She rides a donkey and has a walking stick in her left hand. If you ever see any pictures of a Songkran Parade, you should be able to work out which year they were taken by consulting this list:
Sunday: “ Tungsatevee ’’
red dress, preferred wild fruit, discus in the right hand, shell in the left hand,
garuda as vehicle.
Monday: “ Korakatevee ”
yellow dress with pearl ornament, preferred butter oil, dagger in the right hand, walking cane in the left hand, tiger as vehicle.
Tuesday: “ Ragsotevee”
light red dress with agate ornament, preferred blood, trident in the right hand, arrow in the left hand, pig as vehicle.
Wednesday: “ Montatevee”
emerald green dress with cat’s eye ornament, preferred milk and butter, sharp iron in the right hand and walking cane in the left hand, donkey as vehicle.
Thursday: “ Kirineetevee”
greenish yellow dress with emerald ornament, preferred nuts and sesame seeds, elephant hook in the right hand, gun in the left hand, elephant as vehicle.
Friday: “ Kimitatevee”
white dress with topaz ornament, preferred banana, dagger in the right hand, Indian vina in the left hand, buffalo as vehicle.
Saturday: “ Mahotorntevee”
black dress with onyx ornament, preferred hog deer, discus in the right hand, trident in the left hand, peacock as vehicle.
Nang Songkran Parade is a major event that happens in our city every year. I believe other cities have their own parade. Several hundred people took part in this colourful procession riding floats and walking too. This is a good opportunity to see the long drums and also a variety of different dancing styles.
Visit the Songkran Parade Album for hundreds of more pictures.