The Thai Spirit

It’s the festival of Songkran in Thailand today, the traditional Thai new year. It’s a water festival in which friends and family get together and celebrate by sprinkling water on each other, as a symbol of good luck. It’s a three-day festival which starts on April 13th every year and coincides with the new year of many asian cultures. So, Suk San Wan Songkran everyone – Happy Songkran Day! 🙂

It’s also friday, the thirteenth and for some superstitious people the combination could be unlucky. But most of my associations with the number 13 have been quite pleasant. My apartment’s number in Bombay was 13 and had a view of a cemetery & a church. It looked quite spooky at night, but far from being unlucky, it was one of the best times I’ve had in India with my friends. And I love Fridays!

Thais are quite superstitious and believe in ghosts and spirits (phi in Thai). Walking on a street in Thailand, I was intrigued by this colorful mini Thai temple-like ornate structure, which I saw almost everywhere in Thailand. It’s called a ‘spirit house’, which according to the Thai, spirits or celestial beings use as shelter.

Thai Spirit House

According to the Thai, the protective spirits who are all around us, need to kept happy and satisfied, so they decorate the places where the spirit resides with colorful bands of cloth, garlands and other offerings like fruits & drinks. There are various kinds of spirits, good ones and evil ones, like the guardian spirit of the house which watches over and protects the home.

Decorations in a Thai spirit house

A spirit house placed outside every home, business establishment and practically every place is carved & painted like a miniature Thai temple. There are flowers in vases, animal & people figurines, surrounded by offerings, candles and incense sticks, to make it appealing for the spirits. The house is constructed after consulting a priest and it’s site is important. The structure and decoration of the house depends on the kind of spirit and affordability. Some are simple wooden structures decorated with flowers, while some look extravagant painted in gold.

 Thais believe in some other superstitions too, like giving a new-born baby two names, one official and another a nick name, to confuse the unholy spirits. And the nickname could be anything, even an alphabet. A guy I met in Phuket, whose official name is Thanya and nickname is M!
Longtail boats decorated with colorful flowers
Long-tail boats are decorated with colorful flowers and bright ribbons of cloth and they’re beautiful and exciting to photograph. Taxis in Thailand are also decorated with garlands hanging from the mirror and sometimes with currency from all over the world. They even have colors for each day of the week and consider it auspicious to wear clothes according to the color of the day.
Taxi decorated with trinklets
Sometimes in gardens the trees are also decorated, as they believe the spirits live in old trees, and place offerings around it.
The spiritual tree

Even though I am not superstitious, I love the colorful and vibrant Thai culture. The stories behind their beliefs are so interesting that it takes me to a wonderland, with fairy tales and I feel fortunate to have experienced it.

P.S. : Please be respectful of the worship areas in Thailand and follow the given code in and around temples.
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. loca4motion says:

    I love this post! I lived in Thailand for 5 1/2 years and am returning there this year maybe to live again. It captured my heart. I’m off to read your other Thailand posts!

  2. ailsapm says:

    Such a lovely post, Ritu, and absolutely perfect for this week’s travel challenge on http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/07/20/travel-theme-tradition/ I’m surprised that taxi driver can see the road with the number of trinkets hanging in the window. I adore the Thai tradition of spirit houses too. So beautiful. Thanks for sharing these great shots. xxx Ailsa

    1. Thanks Ailsa 🙂 Thailand is quite interesting, intriguing and amazing! Glad you liked my entry!
      Cheers!
      Ritu

  3. Just beautiful – the colors are exquisite!

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