Playing Saba at Songkran

Descendants of the Mon people who live in the Phra Pradaeng District of Samut Prakan celebrate Songkran the first weekend after the rest of the country. I crossed the river last night to go and watch the Nang Songkran Beauty Contest and also to enjoy some of the food they were selling along the river front. The Phra Pradaeng Songkran Festival is 18-20 April 2008, so there is still time for you to go and enjoy a late Songkran if you missed out on the water fights last week. Tomorrow there will also be a Songkran Parade through the city which I will hopefully go and watch. One of the activities that always takes place during Songkran is the ancient game of Saba.

Saba is a game that has been played in various forms by Mon people for many generations. It is a kind of a courting game where single young men and women can come together to get to know each other better. In the old days the different sexes weren’t allowed to mix like these days so the game of Saba gave youths an opportunity to get to know suitable marriage partners. Although the original intention of the game is no longer needed, the tradition is kept alive each year during the Songkran celebrations.

It is a bit difficult to follow the rules as each time I watch it they seem to be playing a slightly different version. But basically, there are two teams seated at each end of an arena. Each team takes turns in standing a small discus upright with the aid of plasticine in front of their seat. One of the members of the opposing team then has to try and knock this down with their own discus. The method of doing this varies. Either the discus is put between two toes and thrown or it may be flicked with the fingers. They are then asked questions or given challenges to do.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves including the watching audience. The principal of Ban Khun Samut School (the school surrounded by the sea that I visited) spotted me and came over to say hello. I asked him whether he understood the rules and he said no. He was just enjoying watching the players tease each other. I continued watching for a while and then went off to watch the Nang Songkran contest. You can see some of my pictures of the beautiful young ladies over at The winners will take part in the Songkran Parade on Sunday. If I don’t get caught up in a water fight tomorrow, I will hopefully bring you some pictures of the winners.

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