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A Thai culture shock! – Not what you think of

August 4, 2016.Mayur.0 Likes.1 Comment

Normally, culture shock refers to the feeling on being in a land with strange and unknown culture. You feel like all the research you did about the place was useless and that the culture is too different from your own to survive!

However, almost two months in Chiang Mai and I’ve seen a completely different cultural shock. One where I feel a strange belongingness with and similarity to India, when I didn’t expect much of it.

 The differences

Don’t get me wrong. The differences on the face are huge. Thailand is the party capital of the world with alcohol flowing all around. On the contrary, alcohol is not even sold in some Indian states. India is the biggest vegetarian country in the world while vegetarianism in Thailand is more of a novelty. The dressing style, religion, language, race….everything is different on the face!

Where does the belongingness and cultural similarities come from?

Ganesha

Our beloved god is everywhere! In Buddhist temples, in malls, in cafes, and in houses. It’s strange to see almost no other Hindu god getting any attention except Ganesha. Thai people worship Ganesha. Is it because Thailand is full of elephants just like India is? Why other Hindu gods don’t get attention? I will try to throw light on these aspects in my next trip here (or when I know enough Thai to have such discussions with locals, whichever is later :D)

The festivals

Being a strict Buddhist country, Thais celebrate different days significant to Buddhism, few times a year. I got an opportunity to attend one of those, called Asalha Bucha  (Ashadha Puja in Sanskrit). The legend says that this was the day when when Buddha gave his first teaching after enlightenment to five ascetics in a forest near Saranath. Incidentally, this is also a day hindus celebrate as गुरु पौर्णिमा (Guru Pournima- full moon festival dedicated to teachers and guides) in the honor of Ved Vyas, who believed to have segregated ancient wisdom into 4 Vedas. two festivals dedicated to guide/teacher in two different countries, falling on the same day? Mere coincidence? I don’t think so. The funny thing is, I have never heard of it back in India.

Similarly, Loi Krathong  is a festival of lights and shares some similarities with Diwali in India and falls around the same time (exactly 12 ays after Diwali as per Lunar calendar). Songkarn, the Thai new year day, shares similarities with Holi in India.

The names of places

This one is a plain-and-clear link to India. “Ayyuthya” seems to be derived from “Ayodhya”, “Kanchanaburi” from “Kanchanpuri” and so on. Bangkok even has a BTS station named “Asok”. No prize for guessing where it came from!

Asok

Thais are known as “Siamese” which comes from “Shyam”, which means dark skinned in Sanskrit. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the names Lord Krishna, who was dark skinned. You will find many such similarities with India and Indian culture as you spend more time in Thailand. I spent 2 months and this is what I could gather. Hope it makes an interesting read for you.

Categories: Thailand
Tags: #culture

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