Songkran in most cities around Thailand usually starts with a parade. This is always led by Nang Songkran which is a bit like Miss Songkran. Every year she sits on a different animal depending on the day of the week. Songkran starts on a Saturday this year and so she will sit on the back of a peacock! In my library, I have an interesting book called “Essays on Cultural Thailand” published by the Office of the National Culture Commission. This has a fascinating story which reveals the origin of this parade:
There was once a young man who was prodigious in learning. He understood even the language of the birds. This excited the jealousy of Kabil Maha Phrom, one of the gods of a higher heavenly realm. He came down to meet the young man and posed him three sphinx-like riddles with the wager that if the young man failed to give the right answers within seven days, he would lose his head but if he succeeded, the god himself would give his own. Like all folk tales the young man was at first at his wit’s end to answer such difficult riddles and he repaired to a certain place in order to kill himself rather than face defeat.
He stopped at the foot of a tall tree at the top of which was an aerie. By chance he heard the mother eagle comforting her eaglets who cried for more food, that they would be gratified soon by feasting on the body of the young man who would fail to solve the riddles. She then related the story of the wager between the god and the young man, and in answer to her children’s question the mother eagle satisfied them with the right answers to those three riddles. The young man availed himself of this information and on the appointed day he gave the god the three right answers.
The god, as was the case in such tales, lost the wager and himself cut off his own head. His head was a terrible one for if it touched the earth there would be a universal conflagration and if it fell into the sea, the sea would dry up through its intense heat. The god’s head therefore was deposited in a certain cave in the heavens. Every new year that is on Songkran Day one of the god’s seven daughters in turn will carry her father’s head in procession with millions of other gods and goddesses circumambulating like the sun round the Meru, the Buddhist Olympian Mount. After that there are feasts among the celestial beings who enjoyed themselves with drinks made from the juice of the chamunad creeper. The god’s head was taken back to the cave after the feast, to be taken out again on Songkran day the next year.
Each of the seven daughter’s are assigned a different day of the week. As this year Songkran falls on a Saturday, it will be the turn of Mahotorntevee. She wears a black dress with onyx ornament and has a discus in her right hand and a trident in the left. She rides on the back of a peacock.
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