New Year galore with prayers, community service and some fun

Whale of a time: The crowd splashing water at one another with water guns during the Songkran festival at Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist temple at Burma Lane in George Town. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: For driver Lee Chun Khai, the Songkran festival is a time for prayers, offerings and some fun.

“We take part in the prayers as well and offer flowers, but most of the time, it is about enjoying ourselves,” said Lee, 19.

Lee, whose mother is of Thai descent, said he would always celebrate the festival at the Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist temple here.

Songkran, the Thai traditional new year which is also known as the water festival, is celebrated on April 13 each year. The festivities extend through the weekend.

“We would pray and usually eat som tam (Thai papaya salad). It is something we eat on special occasions,” he said.

Lee said Songkran came timely with the hot weather recently.

“It is nice as today (yesterday) is a hot day and we are all having fun cooling off,” said Lee, who splashed water on his friends from a tub.

Myanmar national Aye Aye Htike, 37, who was dressed in her traditional attire comprising a blouse called “eingyi” and skirt known as “htamein”, said it was their new year as well.

“It is called Thingyan Festival which is the Myanmar new year.

“We bring flowers to the temple as offerings and then celebrate at home together,” said the factory worker.

Wat Chayamangkalaram and Dhammikarama Burmese Temple are opposite each other along Burma Lane and the street was packed with Thais and Myanmar nationals who came in their traditional costumes.

Stalls selling traditional dishes and finger food lined the street.

Devotees come to bathe the Buddha statue and offer alms to monks. Most took part in water play, splashing each other and having a fun time.

Over at the Bayan Baru Gurdwara Sahib, the Sikh community gathered to perform “seva” (selfless service).

They cooked and served food to celebrate Vaisakhi.Sikhs will celebrate Vaisakhi today, which marks the establishment of the Khalsa order by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru in 1699.

Housewife Sonia Kaur, 38, and her husband David Sathasivan, 51, a factory worker, were at the gurdwara yesterday with their children to join in on the festivities.

“We would come over every day for three days. There will be no cooking at home as we will all come here for our meals,” said Sonia.

Housewife Pritam Kaur, 67, who was seen dicing fruits and vegetables, said it was good to catch up with her friends while she carried out voluntary work.

“We perform seva by working together to cook and clean up,” she said. “This is special for us as we have a special prayer every year for the establishment of the Khalsa.”

Gurdwara deputy president Manjeet Singh, who was seen cooking dishes, said they started the prayers on Friday evening and this would go on till 4pm today.“The prayers will go on for 48 hours as they recite the 1,430-page Sikh holy scriptures. It is a continuous process with people taking turns to read it, ” he said.

In the meantime, Manjeet said they would be preparing to serve the meals.

“We do our community service, where some will cook and others will clean. Everything is donated by the devotees,” he said.

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Songkran festival , Vaisakhi


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