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Saturday April 14, 2012

A day of wet revelry

FRIDAY the 13th may be a bad omen according to western superstition but not for the thousands of devotees and revellers in Penang as they celebrated the annual Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival in a splashing splendour.

Some 1,000 people mainly comprising Thai and Myanmar nationals, converged on Burma Lane which houses the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple (Reclining Buddha) and the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist temple to celebrate the festival.

They were drowning the street in an ocean of fun and joy while descending into an all out water chaos.

Merrymakers splashing water on pedestrians from a truck.

Many of the foreign workers were full of enthusiasm as they arrived in buses and company vehicles.

It was a day where one could splatter another person with a pail of water and pick on someone smaller than them, only to get away by uttering “Sawatdee pi mai” (Happy New Year).

Being the highlight of the celebration, the splashing of water signifies the act of cleansing and purifying.

With brightly coloured toy water guns, pails, plastic bottles, plastic cups, spray cans and hoses lining up their artillery, no one who crossed their path, be it young or old, was spared from getting soaked.

The young and old joining in the water fight.

Motorcyclists were also the targets since they did not have any means of counter attacking.

Around 20 giant clay jars, which were filled with water were placed at the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple serving water for the revellers to use.

Talcum powder, flour and chalk powder was also smeared on almost everyone’s faces.

It was believed to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits and to symbolise the washing away of sins from the previous year.

Merrymakers on trucks too took advantage of their added height, throwing water over pedestrians and any other vehicles on the road.

Seen having a jolly time were friends Anthony Peck, 24, and Nina Van der Auwera, 27, from Belgium.

“It is such a wonderful experience as this is our first time in Penang. It is also the first time of being involved in this type of celebration,” said Nina.

Toys dealer Wong King King, 29, who has been celebrating Songkran for the fifth year, said it was fun and he hoped his business would improve after being doused repeatedly.

Present were Royal Thai Consul-General Voradet Viravakin and Malaysia-Thai Association chairman Senator Datuk Boon Som Inong.

Datuk Prof Proom Promwichit, Viravakin and Boon Som Inong bathing the Buddha statue at the Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple.

They had earlier joined devotees for a Pali chanting and a prayer session with the monks.

They then officiated the festival after bathing a Buddha figurine with scented water.

Devotees were also seen making a beeline to pay obeisance by bathing the Buddha image with scented floral water, seeking for blessings.

At both temples, revellers were singing and dancing away to Thai folk music.

Songkran is a traditional festival to mark the Thai New Year and its summer season.

It is usually celebrated on April 13 of every year.

The word Songkran originated from the ancient Sanskrit language which means the “beginning of a new solar year”.

“The gentle sprinkling of water over family and friends has evolved into an excuse for a water party but we do try to advise the revellers not to overdo it,” said the temple advisor Wallapa Buranawijarn, who is also a Thai language lecturer at USM.

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