“Water” is essential for every human being. It is vitally associated with our daily activities, and we all need to drink enough water to function properly. Water even makes up 70% of the human body. Nevertheless, for Thai people, “water” offers another deeper layer of significance.
Long before classifications of ‘country’ and ‘state’ could be applied, people living in the Suvarnabhumi region (Golden Land) of South East Asia, established their early civilisation through the growing of rice and other crops. Their lives, and therefore their society, was dependent on water. Without water from heaven above, their crops would die, and they would die too. They needed water for food, for cleaning, and for transportation and trade with neighbouring areas both near and far away.
Consequently, Thai people and many other ethnic groups in South East Asia perceive water as something which brings ‘life and cleanliness’, and water itself has ever since become the symbol of ‘life, purity and vitality’. Water has also been used to symbolise ‘giving and kindness’, so after Thai people make merit, they traditionally pour water on the earth.
Water is also important to adherents of Buddhism. In the story of Buddha’s life, on the night before he received enlightenment, he was threatened by an evil king claiming that Buddha didn’t have the right to his seat. The Buddha pointed down to the earth to claim his right, and the Goddess of Earth in response brought forth torrents of water until this evil king was finally carried away by flood. If we look carefully at the symbolism within this story, we can see that water represents all the kindness and goodness that Buddha had accumulated during his many lives, and because of this, he was able to defeat all the evil thoughts within himself.