The Water ThroWing พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Phya Anuman Rajathon   

ANUMAM RAJATHON, PHYA. THE WATER THROWING.  JSS. VOL.42 (pt.1) 1954. p.23-30.

 

                                                                 The Water ThroWing

                                                                                By

                                                                Phya Anuman Rajathon

 

            Daring    the   three   hot    summer   days   of   Songkran,   it   was   the
custom   in    the   past   for   devout  people   to  place   a  pot   or  two  of  drin-
king   water   in   front   of   their   houses    for   the   benefit    of   passers - by.
In   those  days   there  was   neither    icewater   nor   aerated   water,   not  to
speak   of   iced   coffee   and   other   modern  refreshments.  Some  people,
including   the   the   monks,   drank   plain   hot   tea,   like   the   Chinese.

           Now,    instead    of    drinking   tea,    the     younger   generation   drink
iced   water,   whisky   and   soda   and  various  kinds  of  spirituous   liquors.
With   a    few   exceptions   among   the   older   generation   and  monks  the
cult   of   tea   drinking   with   its    costly   small   tea   pots   and   other   para-
phernalia   is   gone.   Who   can    say   that   the   refrigerator   may   not  one
day   invade  the  wat ?  Also  seldom  to  be  seem  nowadays   is  the  betel
nut    tray   which   the   lady   of   the   house   used   t  place  before  her   visi-
tors.    Generous   people   in  the  old  days   sometimes  provided  free   hot
tea   and   sweatmeats   to   passers - by    during   the   hot   Songkran  days.
These   I   mention   to   remind   you   that   our  traditional  ways  of  life  and
old   customs   are  passing  away   rapidly  to   make  room   for  new   ones,
bad  ones  as  well  as  good  ones.

            It   has   been   the   custom   in   some   wats   to   hold  a   festival   of
building    "phrasai."    "Phrasai"    is   an   abbreviated   form   of   "phrachedi
sai" (พระเจดีย์ทราย)  (Sand pagodas).  "Phrachedi"  means  pagoda and  "sai"
sand.   This   festival   takes   place   on  an   open   space  in   the  wat.   The
sand   to   be   used   for   the  occasion   is  provided  by  the  wat  and  piled
up  nearby.    The   pagoda   builders,    mostly   women   and   children,   will
come  to  the   wat   in   their   best   clothes.  They   will   buy   candles,   joss
sticks,   flowers   and   banners   from   the   wat   stalls   set  up  in  the  com-
pound.  Buying   these  articles   from   the   wat   is   regarded  as  "thambun"
( ทำบุญ )  (  "merit  making"  ).     Some   will   bring   along   these   requisites,
but   nevertheless,   they   will   contribute   money   to   "tham  bun"   as   well.

           The   merit    makers    will    then    fetch    sand   in   the   silver   bowls
which    they   have   brought    along    with   them   and   carry   them   to   the
ceremonial   ground   and   start   building    a    sand   pagoda  –  something

like   a   pyramid.    The   size   of   the   pagoda   is   optional.    The   sand   is

 

24                                     Phya Anuman  Rajathon

mixed   with   water   to   make   it   lump  together   when   used  to  build  the
pagoda.    A   coin   and   a   leaf   of   the   religious  fig  tree   will   be   buried
inside  the  sand  pagoda.   When  finished  the  pagoda   is   sprinkled   with
scented   water   and   decorated   with   flags   and   banners.   The  base  of
the    pagoda    is   then   covered   with   a   small   piece   of   yellow   or   red
cloth.   Lighted   candles  and   joss   sticks   and  flowers  are  stuck  around
the  sand  pagoda  as  an  offering.   Some  of  these  pagodas,   usually  the
big    ones,    are    beautifully    decorated    with   miniature   ceremonial   lat-
ticed  fences  surrounding  them.

           Sometimes  people  vie  with  each  other  in  building  such   pagodas.
The   ceremonial  ground    itself   is   decorated    with   ceremonial   latticed
fences   called   "rachawat"    and   banners.   There   is   a   theatrical   perfor-
mance  in  the  wat  on  that  day  for  the   merit  maker  to  enjoy  themselves.
It  is  a  one - day   festival   and   the  wat  benefits   by   the  sand  which   the
devotees   bring.   For   it   serves   to   raise   the  level  of  the  ground  which
normally   is   too   low  during  the  flood  season.    As  the  open  ground  in
the   wat   also  serves   as  a   meeting   place    for   the  community   during
religious  and  festive  occasions,    it  is  ultimately   the   public   in   general
who  benefit  by  this  religious  custom.

           The   sand   pagodas  do  not  last  long.  Unless   they   are   jealously
guarded,     mischievous   children    will    take   pleasure    in   prying   them
open   and   thus   ruining   them  in   order   to   get   the   coins   inside.  The
bigger  ones  are  usually  the  selected  targets.

           The   origin    of    this    pagoda    building    custom    is    now    nearly
forgotten.      Here  it  is.     Once   upon   a   time   when   Lord   Buddha   was
travelling  on  a  pontoon  boat,  some  people  were  building sand pagodas
along   the   sand   banks   of   the   stream   as   an   offering   to   him   while
others   were   building   them   on   rafts.  This  is  a  folk  story  which  needs
no  comment.    In   some   districts   people   who   live   near  the  river  bank
still    follow    this    tradition    during    Songkran.      They   invite   monks   to
the  sand  banks  where  the   pagodas  are  to  be  built.   The  monks  chant
chapters    from    Buddhist    scripture,     after   which   there    are    offerings
of   food   to   the   monks.   Balls   of  boiled  rice  are  sometimes  offered  to
the   sand  pagodas.

 

                                              THE  WATER TROWING                                                25

            Pagodas   built   under   such   conditions   either  on  rafts  or  on  the
sandy   banks   of   the   rivers  are  called   " Phra  chedi  sai  nam  lai "  (พระ
เจดีย์ทรายน้ำไหล) 
or  the   "sand  pagodas  of  the  running  stream."  There is
a   belief  among   people   that   the  performance  of  such  a  ceremony  is
an  act   of  floating  away   or   washing  away  of  the   sins  of  the  old  year.
They   believe   that   the   sins   will    be   transferred   to   the   sand   to   be
washed   away   by    the   tide  or   float   away   on   the   rafts   with  the  run-
ning   stream.

            This   explanation   is   a  plausible  one,  but  I  am  not  in  a  position
to  give  a  reasonable  answer  to   the  question   as    to  the  origin  of  this
cult   and   whether   neighboring    races   also   have   such   customs.    In
Bangkok,    the  building  of    "Phracedi  of  the  running  stream  has  never
been    performed.  H.M.  King  Chulalongkorn   gave   a   short   description
of   this  ceremony   in  his  famous  book  "   The  Royal  State  Ceremonies
of    the   Twelve   Months   of   the   Year   "   in   which    invaluable   informa-
tion  on  state  ceremonies  and  traditions  may  be  gleaned.

           The  building of  sand  pagodas  in  the  open  spaces  of  wats  as in
Bangkok   requires   another  interpretation.   It  is  a  belief  among   devout
Buddhists   tha t  whoever  builds  a  wat,   casts  a  Buddha  image,  erects
a   Phra  chedi,    or  makes   copies   of   the   Scriptures  or  does  anything
pertaining  to  the  upholding  of  the  Holy  Faith  gains  great  merit.

           I   have  said  elsewhere  that   a   Phracedi  originally  was  a  funeral
mound.    Later   on,    the   Phracedi   has   been  transformed  into  a  term
to   denote   any   structural   building   of   such   shap  which  is  sacred  to
the    Lord   Buddha.    There    are   four   kinds  of   Phracedi   whose   clas-
sification   is   made   according   to   the   kind   of  acred  things  each  one
contains.   These  may  be  the  Lord's   relics,    especially   his   calcinated
bones,   a  tooth  or  a  hair,   or   his   personal   effects,   actual  or  counter-
part,   such  as  his   alms  bowl,  staff,  robes,   or  his  Dharma  or  Law  as
it  appears  in   the  scriptures,  or  his  image  or  any  sacred  things  about
the  Lord   Buddha   which   remain  in  memory  as   a   source   of   inspira-
tion.

 

26                                             Phya Anuman Rajathon

            You   will   note   that   in   building   a   sand   pagoda   a   leaf  of  the
sacred  fig  tree  is  inserted  within.  If  so,  such  a  pagoda  belong  to  the
fourth  category  of  the  four  kinds  described.

           In   building   an   ordinary   pagoda   gold  or  silver  ornaments  and
other  such  valuable  things  are  sometimes  put  in.   In  a  sand  pagoda
a  coin  is  inserted.   A   Buddha   image   has   a   piece  of  red   or  yellow
cloth   to   cover   its   body;    so  also  with  the  sand  pagoda.   With  such
parallels,  I   venture   to  think  that  the  building  of  sand  pagodas  which
even  people  of  small  means  can  afford  to  do  has  the  same merit as
building  a  real  one  or  the  building  of  a  Buddha  image.  It  is  believed
that   great   merit   is   earned   by  such  an  act  even  if  the  pagodas  are
built   only    temporarily   with   sand.

           There   is   another   possible   explanation.  In   the   past   and  to  a
certain   extent   in   the   present   a   devout   person   before  entering  the
precincts   of   a  wat   will  bring   with   him   a   handful   of  earth  or  sand
which   he  throws  upon   the  ground  upon   his  entry  into   the  wat  com-
pound.  It  is  believed  that,  when  a  person  leaves  the  wat, some  earth
or  sand   in   the  sacred  compound   sticking   to  his  feet  may  be  taken
out  of  the  wat,   thus  depriving  the  wat  of   its  property,    which  quantity
though  small   is   nevertheless  sacred   and  no  one  should  ever  cons-
ciously   or  unconsciously   take   property   out  of   a   wat   compound.   It
is   a   sin   to  do  so.   To  make  reparation   for  such   a   possibly  sinful
deed   a   good   Buddhist   brings  with  him  a  handful  of  earth  or  sand
every  time   he  calls  at  the  sacred  ground.    The  building  of  the  sand
pagodas  is  perhaps  an  atonement  in  a  way.

           H.M.  King  Chulalongkorn   said   in   his   book   mentioned   above
that  Bangkok   was   built   on   low   land   most   of   which   was  flooded
during   high   tides.   The  annua l  ceremony  of  building  sand  pagodas
in   a   wat   built   on  low   land   is   an   indirect  way  of  raising  the  level
of   the  ground   by   religions   means.  The   sand  used   in  building  the
pagodas  may  also  be  utilized  by  the  wat  for  building  purposes.

           In   the   past   there   were    often   theatrical  performances  in  cele-
bration  of   the   sand   pagoda  building  ceremony.   Elder   folks  usually

left   the  place  at   the  ent   of  the performance  un  the  afternoon  when

                                     

                                          THE WATER TROWING                                              27 

 groups   of  children   out   to  make  mischief  were  waiting  for  them   at
the   wat's   entrance.    Children   usually   preferred  young  girls  as   the
victims   of  their   jovial  pranks,    to   throw   water  at   them  as  the   first
bath  of  Songkran. They  did  not  like  to  select  a  man  or a  woman  as
their   target   if  they  could  help  it  unless  they  were  sure  to  run  away
in  time  before  getting  a  blow  or  a  hit  on  the  head  from  their  intend-
ed  victims.

           On   their  way  back  home  from  the  wat  groups  of  mischievous
children   would  be   still  lurking  here  and  there  and  waiting  to   throw
water  at   them.

           As  far  as  I  know,   the   throwing  of  water   as  done   by  the  chil-
dren   was   done   with  a  bowl  or  whatever  kind  of  container  the  chil-
dren  could  get  hold  of.  Later  some  one  used  a water squirter made
of  small  bamboo  trees.   The   water   squirter  was  superior  in  that  it
could   shoot   the   water   farther   and   more   accurately.    Chinese  tin
smiths,   taking  advantage  of  this  development,  produced  such water
squirters  from  tin  plate  and  sold  them  on  a  commercial scale to the
children  who  soon   improved  their  technique  of  squirting  water  and
made  the  new  weapon  more  effective.

           "Shway  Yoe"     (Sir   George   Scott)    in  his   "The  Burman,   His
Life   and   Nations,   "  has   depicted   the   water   throwing   festival   of
Burmese  children, which   was  similar  to  the  Thai  one  which  I  have
just   described.   What   he   said   about  the  water  throwing  in  Burma
was  also  true   for  this  country   in   the  past.   But  the  water  throwing
in  Bangkok  is  now  in  a  sense  a  fading  tradition  while  in  Rangoon
it  is  still  going  strong   in  the  same  fashion  as  still  carried  on  only
in  Chiengmai  in  the  north  of  Thailand.

           Let   me   go   on   with   the   story   before   I  draw  conclusions  in
respect   of   the   water   throwing   festival.

           Apart   from  the  children, grown-ups  also  took  part  in  the  water
throwing   which   went   on   throughout   the  day  during  Songkran.   For
as  was  their  custom,   all  the passers- by,  young and old alike, submit-
ted  to  the  traditional  douse.  Sometimes  a  person  wishing  to  attend

to   certain   business  did  not  want  to  be  soaked:  under such cricum


28                                             Phya Anuman Rajathon

stance  he  might  beg  indulgence,  if  he  was  acquainted  with  the water
throwers.   In   order   to   be   exempted   he   usually    promised   to  bring
the   merry - maker  a  bottle  of  spirituous   liquor   or  pay  him  a  sum  of
money    with   which    to   buy    a   bottle   of   drink.    However,   exception
was  not  common  as  everybody  accepted  the  bath  with  resignation.

            A   young  man  going  out  of  his  house  during  the  season  must
be   on   guard.     A   young   girl   would   be    urking   behind   the   corner
somewhere   waiting   for   him   to   pass  by,  then  suddenly  and without
warning  she  would   give   him   a   showerful.   Before   he   knew   it   the
girl   would   have   disappeared   with   a   giggle.   He  had  to  accept  the
inevitable   bath.

            The  water   throwing   later   degenerated   into  vicious  forms.  Chil-
dren,   unrestrained  and  not   satisfied  with  throwing  clear  water,  used
colored   or   even  muddy   water  instead.  Their  elde r brethren  followed
their    example.     Thus   water   throwing    wen t   beyond    bounds    and
gradually    became   unpopular.

            With   the   adoption   of   a   new   style   of   clothing   and   with   the
growth   of   the  community   especially   in   and  around  Bangkok  where
there   are  foreigners  who  enjoy  no  such  fun,   such  a  custom  seems
to  be   out   of  place   and  might  lead  to  a  quarrel;   water   throwing   in
Bangkok   has   therefore   been   forbidden   to   a   certain   extent   by  the
authorities.

In  the  past  few  years  water  throwing  seems  to  have been
revived   and  it  is  practiced  occasionally  in  some  places.   It  has
gradually  become  so  prevalent  in  later  years  that it has interfered
with  the  city  traffic.   Not   wishing   to  suppress  this  old  tradition
in   its   entirety,   the   city  authorities  issued  a  warning  only  that
this  good custom  should  not  be  practised in such a manner that it
might  interfere  with  the  normal  flow  of  the city traffic. Water throw-
ing  is  now  seldom  seen  in  the  main  streets where there is heavy
traffic, but  in  the  outlying  districts  this  tradition  still  survives.

          Late  in  the  afternoon  of  Songkran  days  somewhere  in the
village   young   people   would  gather  forming  themselves  into  two

 

                                 THE WATER TROWING                                      29

other  of  men.   Each  party  would  try  to  kidnap  members  of  the
other  party,  one  at  a  time.  Then  they  would  try  to  blacken the
face of the kidnapped  person  and  a  ransom would be asked for his
or  her  release.

       Woe to a young man who happened to pass by: for he would be
caught  by  members  of  the  girl  party.  Like  a mouse among cats,
the  young  man's  upper  garment  would  be torn into shreds by the
girls.  Perhaps  this  is  something of a psychological gratification for
the sex.  No doubt such an amusement or game, though crude, is a
sort  of  sublimation of the sexual impulse as a modern psychologist
might  say.

        As  I have already pointed out elsewhere,  water  throwing may
have  some  connection  with  magic  for  inducing  abundant rain for
the  coming  cultivation season. If after Songkran the weather is still
hot  and  dry  for  a  stretch of more than a fortnight.  and there is no
sign  of  the  usual southwest  monsoon or the rainy season, people
become very anxious about their livelihood and welfare. They cannot
begin  to  cultivate  their  land.  Unable  to  do otherwise, they resort
to  imitative   magic.   In  some  districts  where  there  are  Buddha
images  with  mysterious  powers,  they  will bring out their " Luang
Phaw "  from  his  shrine  on  a  special  cart and pull him in proces-
sion  to  a  certain place usually in a open space where people may
then   play  water   throwing  on  each  other.  By  such  persuasive
demonstration the  rain  will  not be long in sending its first showers,
they  believe.

        I have  said  elsewhere  ( Chapter II ) that  there  is often a tug-
of-war  between  the two  parties when a monk is borne in a cart  for
the  bathing  ceremony.  The  Burmese  believe  that  the  rain gods,
"Thain ,"  hold  a  mimic  battle,  the thunder and lightning being the
results of their clash of arms.  When  there  is  a  dearth of rain, the
villagers  will  hold  a tug-of-war to arouse the rain gods to fight their
battle.

        Another  common  magical  way to make rain fall is the " Hae
Nang  Maew" (
แห่นางแมว )  or  the  displaying  of  a  female  cat in a
procession.

 

30                              Phya Anuman Rajathon

     A female cat is put in a special cage and carried in procession
through  the  village, and the villagers will  come out to throw water
at her.

      It  is  a  curious  coincidence  that  in some parts of Indonesia,
particularly  in  Java  and  Sumatra the cat plays the role of
rain-
maker by being wetted (See Frazer
's "The Golden Bough").

      Of all  domestic animals  the cat is hater of water and highly
antagonistic to such treatment. Perhaps the cat is the personifica-
tion of dryness;
so it might be considered to induce a sympathetic
effect  on  
a  wet  day  if a cat is wetted thoroughly. In this connec-
tion  too,  
a  female cat may also have been thought to have some-
thing  to do with  the s
ymbol  of  fertility and abundance.

 

               

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