There are many ceremonies and customs associated with Songkran, Thailand’s traditional New Year Festival. Although the festival is most well-known for the water-throwing that goes on in the streets, visitors to Thailand during Songkran may also notice mounds of sand within temple grounds. These are sometimes formed into chedis or pagodas and some temples in Thailand hold competitions which result in elaborate and beautifully decorated creations made from sand.
The tradition for Thai Buddhists to take sand to their local temple at Songkran is a form of making merit. The act is a symbolic way of replacing any soil or sand that may have been removed unwittingly on the shoes of temple visitors as they have left the temple grounds on their previous trips during the year. These sand pagodas are often topped with colourful pennants or flags which may depict the animals of the Thai zodiac (horse, dog, monkey, snake etc.). Parades and sand-building competitions also take place in some locations in Thailand and it’s a colourful side to the Songkran festival that is often overlooked by overseas visitors.