Apr 11 2011

Songkran: What happens at the wat?

Published by at 8:38 am under Songkran 2011


Brazenly spraying small children with water guns and getting attacked by old people with garden hoses is all fun and games, but what’s really going on here? It’s time to head to the wat for some answers.

At the wat, you are going to find tons of people making merit. Making merit is the concept of doing something selfless for one’s community and receiving a celestial point for doing it. Merit is a counterpoint to sins that are committed against the teachings of Buddha.

Fertile recruitment grounds for merit makers

Fertile recruitment grounds for merit makers

Technically, Buddhists aren’t supposed to eat meat or get drunk, so Thais line up in droves to will away all the ghosts of grilled pork washed down with bottles of Singha. The New Year is one of the most auspicious times of the year to make merit.

Merit can be acquired in many ways. Helping old people earns merit, as does showing your appreciation by honouring them (there are several different ceremonies available for today’s busy merit maker, including pouring water over their hands and bodies). Merit can also be earned by venerating the Buddha with flowers, incense, scented water, and candles.

During Songkran, the Buddha statues at the wat are scrubbed clean by the monks, and then the religious can make merit by pouring scented water over the Buddha (not his head — that’s considered rude). This water is considered blessed, and is used to honour older relatives.

Middle one needs a bit of a scrub

Middle one needs a bit of a scrub

Everyone is welcome to make merit at the wat: food can be donated to the monks, the Buddha can be venerated with water, flowers and incense, or money can be donated to the wat. Unlike the grumpy Catholics, Buddhists believe that everyone (even non-believers) benefit from participating and making merit, so don’t be shy.

Many famous wats around Bangkok have special events happening during Songkran, so take a break from blessing your fellow man with a water gun and make some merit at the wat.

Tomorrow, Songkran’s lesser known traditions.

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2 Responses to “Songkran: What happens at the wat?” ...

  1. [...] Tomorrow: Songkran: What happens at the wat? Tags: chalk, songkran, water [...]

  2. [...] written a lot about what to expect during this infamous Songkran holiday. The water and chalk, the washing of the Buddha, the nationwide merriment. But there are a few lesser publicized traditions that happen over these [...]

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