Taking a break from the hectic Songkran celebrations, I went this afternoon to one of my local temples here in Paknam. It was like an oasis in the middle of a war zone. In the surrounding area, roaming pickup trucks, packed with people armed to the teeth, were patrolling the streets looking for people to squirt with their guns. However, here in the temple grounds, families were taking part in a more traditional part of Songkran. That is, the building of sand pagodas, or gor phra chedi sai in Thai.
This tradition apparently started as a way for local people to make merit. It was reckoned that over the cause of a year, a lot of sand would accidently be taken away from the temple on the bottom of people’s shoes. So, once a year, local lay people would be invited to bring back some sand and build a stupa. Well, these days things are a bit more organized. When I visited this temple yesterday a truck was just delivering the sand and the monks were busy making large piles for each team.
There was a good atmosphere at the temple today. There was a lot of other things going on as well and plenty of food stalls to keep people fed. I could see that an outdoor screen had been set up so I guess that there would be a free movie to watch tonight. There were a lot of families there. Each family was working on their own stupa. The shape and sizes did vary quite a bit and also the decorations put on them. But most of them had little flags and sticks with money attached to them.
This event happens all over the country during Songkran though the actual date is up to each temple. Down in Chonburi today they were having a competition on the beach to build sand pagodas and other objects of worship. I will be going down there tomorrow to see the results and I will be sharing the pictures with you as soon as I get back.