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The Water Splashing Festival of Dai Ethnic Minority

2016-04-12 11:16:33Share:

  The Water Splashing Festival, Also known as the festival of bathing the Buddha, is the most important festival observed by the Dai ethnic people which Celebrated from 13 to 15 April and marked their own New Year for the Dai ethnic minority.


  The festival lasts for three days. The first two days’ activities are concentrated on the banks of the Lancang River. On the first day, they hold a grand celebration to mark the beginning of the festival. An out-door market is set up, where locals go for new year shopping, such as local souvenirs, food and snacks etc. Artists create sand carvings on open space close to the market. A dragon boat race is held on the Lancang River to ring out the old year in the afternoon. At night, the banks of the river are colorfully lit, and locals float river lanterns on the river. The practice is thought to drive bad luck away and bring good luck.


  The third day comes the climax of the festival, which is reserved for water splashing. Firstly, the Dai put on their newest and best clothes and go to the local Buddhist temple, where the monks chant Buddhist scriptures. There, they wash the statues of Buddha with water, a practice known as "Bathing the Buddha".Afterwards, people flock to the streets with pots, pans, bottles, or whatever, where they uninhibitedly splash, spray and douse each other with water.


The Water Splashing Festival of Dai Ethnic Minority


  This activity is more than just fun as it contains a religious element: water is regarded by the Dai as a symbol of religious purification and goodwill among people. Therefore, whether splashing to a close neighbor or a fellow villager, even a stranger, with water during the Water Splashing Festival, is an expression of the desire for good luck and prosperity to that person.


  Originally, the now-blessed water would then be collected and poured on family members as a symbolic way of washing away the past year’s dirt and sorrows and to ensure good luck in the coming year. But, like Songkran in Thailand, the third day of the festival has now become a free-for-all, where water is hurled from apartment blocks and out of shops and restaurants, or sprayed from passing cars, at anyone in range. The wetter you get, the luckier you will be.


  The water-splashing festival is perhaps the prime example of the trans-cultural nature of Xishuangbanna. Closely related ethnically, culturally and linguistically to the Thais, as well as to the Tai Lue people of northern Laos and eastern Myanmar, this festival is the Dai version of Songkran, the Thai New Year that takes place at the same time.


  Despite an influx of Han Chinese, the Dai have managed to maintain their cultural identity and traditions. The water-splashing festival is when the Dai assert their difference from the Han, who celebrate New Year in late January or early February. Nevertheless, the festival has become enormously popular with Han Chinese tourists, who flock into Jinghong to get soaked alongside the locals and foreigners.

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