Some of the most beautiful parades that I have photographed are ones organized by the Mon people of Phra Pradaeng. They originally came from Southern Burma where they were once rulers of their own kingdom. Due to persecution and wars, they have fled their homeland and can be found in neighbouring countries such as Thailand. It is estimated that 30 provinces around Thailand have Mon communities. Many of them seem to be in the Phra Phradaeng District of Samut Prakan, Pak Kret district in Nonthaburi and Samut Sakhon Province.
The Mon people have integrated into Thai society so much that you don’t really notice them much these days. However, this week, the Mons of Samut Prakan have a number of cultural activities. The first big one in Phra Pradaeng was on 13th April. This was the Swan and Centipede Parade Festival. I was over there yesterday and it was really good to see so many Mons wearing their traditional clothes. A rare sight these days. The next big event for them is Songkran on 22-24 April 2011 which they always celebrate the first weekend after the rest of the country.
The parade through Phra Pradaeng yesterday reminds the Mon people of their homeland. According to legend, Buddha once went to Burma where he saw two swans swimming next to an island. He named this land Hongsawadee. Over the years the island expanded and eventually the Mon people settled there. The word “hongsa” means swan. The Buddha also predicted that Buddhism would prosper here.The Centipede Flag represents that Buddha’s teaching. The claws of the centipede show that the Mon people will never be afraid of their enemies.
Attending the parade were hundreds of Mon people representing a number of local temples. Each of them carried an image of the “swan” as well as the centipede flag which was hoisted up the flag pole once they got back to their own temple. The parade first went along the waterfront before turning right at Phra Pradaeng District Offfice and then up as far as Wat Klang where it did a u-turn and then back to the start. On the return trip, people representing each of the temples broke away from the parade in order to go back to their respective temples.
I am always worried taking pictures during Songkran parades that I might get my camera equipment wet. Most people respect the fact that I am working. However, it is quite easy to get hit in the crossfire or someone to throw water on you from behind without seeing your camera. However, there was no real cause for concern. Not many people in Phra Pradaeng were playing water fights. This is because they play the week after the rest of the country. This year Songkran here takes place between 22 and 24 April 2011.