This year Maetang Elephant Park celebrated its 19th Rod Nam Dam Hua (SongKran) in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Sanguan Chailert SR. With a very special appearance of Saleepingjai dance troupe. The ceremony was presented by Dr. Boontha Chailert with acknowledgements to all the seniors and guest.

Mr. Sakuan Chailert SR

Honored guest Mr. Sanguan Chailert SR started off the ceremony with a traditional blessing followed by a traditional offering of scented water as marked by Rod Dam Hua. The Blessing of the scented water is a symbol of washing away all bad luck. Over a hundred elders from the area attended to bless locals as they lined up with their scented water bowls.

Honored Guests included staff Mothers, Fathers and elders of Maetaeng elephant park, Police superintendent and a Senior Captain from Maetaeng police department. The president of tourism for the Maetaeng District and the head man of Faham sansaitonkok district were also in attendance.

The Chailert family would like to humbly express our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended.

Songkran (“Rod Nam Dam Hua” ) at the Maetaeng Elephant Park

Songkran this year, was celebrated on Tuesday 22nd April 2014. It was marked in the traditional method of WAN PARK BPEE, in which respect of ancestors, elders and other people worthy of respect are blessed.

Before the ceremony, in front of invited guests and village elders from Maetaeng village and surrounding area, the female staff of Maetaeng Elephant Camp gave a display of traditional Thai dancing. This included a group from the Lisu Village and a very young “budding” dancer who followed the steps of her mother. Also a musical troupe from a San Sai School who gave an energetic performance of dance and drum music, accompanied by some vigorous sword wielding! One young lady performed a traditional Sword Dance inspired by an ancient martial art that requires tremendous courage and strength, and excellent reflexes. The dancers balance a number of swords on different parts of their bodies while fighting off their rival with a sword sheath. King-Ka-La Dance The hand movements and steps of the female dancers, who wear spectacular fan-shaped costumes, evoke the movements of a bird. The Sounds of the Mountains. The music that accompanies this dance is played on wind instruments characteristic of three tribes in the North of Thailand: the pi hom (a gourd pipe) of the Tai Lue, the pi joom of the Tay Yuan and the kan nam tao (a gourd flute) of the Li Saw. After the ceremony of Wan Park Bpee was completed a dinner was held for over one thousand guests from the park staff, the village and surrounding area. A “group” performed energetically on the stage throughout the evening and the very young were not forgotten with the many side-show attractions.

Respecting the elders at Songkran
showing respect at the Maetaeng Elephant Park Songkran festival
Local Elder

Songkran (“Rod Nam Dam Hua” )

The Songkran festival; from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, or literally “astrological passage”, is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia..

The festival stretches over four days with Songkran day officially set on April 13th each year. Each day has its different focus and activities.

April 13th Wan Sangkhan Lohng. People clean their houses and prepare for the New Year festival on this day. The Chiangmai Songkran parade traditionally takes place on this day involving revered Buddha images from the city’s temples, floats, and representative groups from the various districts of Chiangmai province, musicians, and traditionally costumed beauties all of whom are liberally drenched all along the parade route by the spectators.

April 14th Wan Nao. On Wan Nao people prepare cooked and preserved food to be used in Buddhist merit making on the next day. On this day people also go down to the Ping River to collect buckets of sand, which is used to construct moulded sand Chedis, decorated with cut paper streamers and flowers, in the temple compound. When demolished, the sand from the Chedis raises the level of the temple courtyard.

April 15th Wan Payawan. On this, the first day of the New Year, people gathered at the Wat in the early morning to offer the food prepared the previous day, fruit, new robes, and other goods to the monks. Traditionally, this was the day when subdued water play started, but this has devolved to the exuberant water throwing that stretches over the four days of the festival.

April 16th Wan Park Bpee. On this day, people pay respect to their ancestors, elders, or people worthy of respect due to advanced age or position. Scented water is poured over the hands of the individuals to whom respect in being paid ,who in turn bless the participants in the ceremony.

Traditional Songkran Festival
Maetaeng Elephant Park - Songkran
Songkran Blessing Ceremony

The over enthusiastic water play in which visitors to Chiangmai vigorously participate on their first experience in Chiang Mai represents a development of customs relating to the celebration of the Thai lunar new year. In some people’s viewpoint, it has become excessive and many prefer to remain at home with a good book or a video rather than expose themselves to a daily drenching.

In the past people might sprinkle a bit of scented water on your shoulder to wish you a happy new year, but this has deteriorated to getting dowsed with a bucket of ice water by an individual on the back of a moving pickup truck. One of the important customs of the festival was to pay respect to elders and persons worthy of respect by pouring lustral water over their hands in the ceremony called rod nam dam hua.

Family members and subordinates will approach those who are to be honoured during the ceremony with a vessel called a Kuhn Oh containing water that has been scented with dried flowers, cumin, and other ingredients. Participants in the ceremony then pour a small amount of this lustral water over the hands of those being paid respect into a large red lacquered bowl while saying formal words of respect. Those receiving respect were also presented with an indigo dyed traditional Mor-hom shirt, the multipurpose length of plaid cotton call a Pakamah, and other items.

A representative of the participants in the ceremony would then address the elders receiving respect asking them to excuse any disrespectful attitudes or misbehaviour by the participants in the ceremony during the previous year. The elder would then dip his or her hands in the lustral water and rub them along the sides of his or her head while blessing the assembled participants in the ceremony. Finally, the entire group goes to the temple for a seub chadta, or ‘life prolonging’ ceremony.

Later, there emerged the habit of gently sprinkling scented water on the shoulder or back of friends as you wished them Sawasdee Pee Mai (Happy New Year!). From these humble beginnings has now evolved the current practice of the liberal and vigorous throwing of water; drenching, soaking and dowsing any and all who venture forth during the four days of the Songgran Festival, from morning until sundown. No one is immune, not even the participants in the traditional Songgran parade, which ends at the official residence of the Governor of Chiangmai, nor the governor himself, who gets drenched when he and his wife address the assembled sopping-wet marchers at the conclusion of the parade.

Elephant Clinic

Caring for the elephants

The Chailert family looks forward with even more dedication this new year to continuing to improve the care and safety of the Asian Thai Elephant. Our focus will remain to fund our clinic which offers free treatment to all elephants in the area.
Elephant Clinic