As Myanmar is known as happy-go-lucky peoples, we are fond of festivals or ceremonies, which are usually based on the culture or religion. All of them are celebrated traditionally and each festival has its special feature. Since there are twelve months in a year, almost every month has the festival or ceremony. Most of them are worth seeing and we can observe the real ways of lives of Myanmar peoples, their culture and Customs. In order to participate, in those special events and occasions, we here expose the places and the reasons of……
KachinManaw Festival (Myitkyina)
This colorful festival is traditionally celebrated by Kachin tribesmen. Literally, the sacrificial to Kachin traditional home gods concerned, feasts to everyone who joins the occasions, sipping Khaung Yay traditional intoxicating brew and the group dances in their ethnic costume on the sacrificial ground all night long. Other festival activities like food stalls, meals and entertainments can be seen at the celebration. It usually celebrates on and around 10th January.
Naga New Year Festival (Naga Land)The authentic Naga hill tribes (approximately 68 different groups) wear their respective traditional costumes to participate this emotional festival. They worship to their Lords by scarifying the animals. Their unique traditional dance, martial music and cults of animism are eventually interesting. The festival usually falls on 14th and 15th of every January at Leshi in Naga Land.
Bon Fire Ceremony (Pyay)
Full moon day Tabodwe of NyanYoe Plants which emit no smoke when lit, are burnt at four cardinal points on the platform of the pagoda in the early morning of 15th waning day. Worshippers than proceed to Pho U mountain top resort where Lord Buddha is said to have visited and made preordination of events. The festival usually falls on the first week of every February. Full moon day of Tabodwe falls on 3rd February in 2015.
Mawtinsun Festival (Cape Negrais, Pathein)
Pilgrimage and recreation go together at this seashore location. The festival usually falls at the end of February or the first or second week of March and lasts about two weeks. It falls on 18th February to 4th March in 2015.
Pyidaw-Byan Image Festival (Zalun, Ayeyarwady Division)
First taken to Mumbai, India, by colonialists but later regained. It is famous as returnee pagoda. Robe-weaving contest and alms-bowl offering are major highlights.
The festival usually falls at the end of February or the first or second week of March and lasts about one week.It falls on 26th February to 5th March in 2015.
InndawGyi Festival (Moe-Nyin, Kachin State)
The ceremony is sponsored by Kachin Buddhists. In summer, a footpath leading to the mid-water- pagoda surfaceenabling pilgrims to walk to the pagoda. Usually the pagoda is surrounded by a large volume of water. The festival usually falls at the end of February or the first or second week of March and lasts about one week.The Festival falls on 25th February to 4th March in 2015.
Bawgyo Image Festival (Thibaw, Shan State)
A large volume of Shan and Bamar merchandise is traded. There are boat-races on Dotehtawaddy River.The festival usually falls on the first or second week of every March and lasts about five days.The Festival falls on 27th February to 4th March in 2015.
KoGyiKyaw Festival (Pa-Khan, Bagan)
Ko GyiKyaw is a nat (spirit) who is known as a drunkard and gambler. He is one of 37 nats, which are famous all around Myanmar. The peoples believe that by worshipping Ko GyiKyaw, bring up prosperity and will take over all the enemies and good luck will come true. During the festival, the nat is coaxed to ascend the throne; nat figures are cleansed with water and re-gilded.The drum-thumping for the natand cock-fighting, etc. can be seen. The festival usually falls on the first or second week of every March and lasts about six days.The Festival falls on 25th February until4thMarch in 2015.
Pindaya Cave Festival (Pindaya, Shan State)
Typical Taung-yo Pagoda festival. Different ethnic minority races can be seen. The festival usually falls on the first or second week of every March and lasts about one week.27 February until 4 March in 2015.
Water Festival (Throughout the country)
Being a happy-go-lucky people, Myanmars hold several festivals in a year. In the days of Myanmar Kings, there was a major festival in every month of year even though some of them have ceased to be celebrated, there must be dozens of them left, various pagoda festivals and other regional ones which are held all over the country. Thus, our country is a veritable land of festivals being the land of Pagodas. The merriest among them is Thingyan, the Water Festival. The Thingyan Festival marks the changing of the old year to the new. In other words, Thingyan is the Myanmar New Year Festival. It is usually falls on 13th April and last for three or four days. Customarily, children usher it in a day advance. The main feature of the festival is water-throwing or pouring water. Anyone can throw water at or pour water on anyone else with impunity during the festival.
However, throwing water at elderly people, pregnant women and Sabbath-keepers is taboo in rural areas. Public servants on duty such as policeman and postmen are also exempted from being doused. As a rule, people take no offense when they are doused because water throwing is a deep-rooted custom. The only thing is water throwers are expected to use clean pure water. There are three reasons for pouring or throwing water during Thingyan. Firstly, it is done as a symbol of washingaway the impurities or sins of the old year; the second reason is that; water throwing relieves the intense heat of April which is the hottest month of the year. No wonder most people welcome it on one seems to mind it. The third reason is simply to have fun. In the village, children throw water squirts made of bamboo, tin or plastic. Some people even use buckets for a hearty dousing. In towns, water-throwing hoses are used. The use of the fire-hoses and water balls made of plastic are banned as being dangerous. During Thingyan Festival water-throwers use to make fun by teasing one another to their hearts content. But no one seems to mind and peace and friendliness prevail throughout the festival. Some people erect water-throwing pedals at the road-side and throwing water at the passing cars and passerby. Some go round the town in cars receive water-throwing. Special interest of Thingyan is beautiful decorated cars featuring big boats go round the city entertainingthe people, singing dancing and Thangyat chanting. Thingyan is not only a time of fun but also a reason of good will and good deeds. Elderly people spend the days observing Sabbath, listening to sermons at monasteries; and it is the time for washing the Buddha’s image in the family shrine room with scented water.
Some young men are receiving into the holy older of the yellow Robe to become temporary monks around the time of the festival. Some young women earn merit by attending to the needs of the elder ones, such as feeding, washing the hair and nail clipping. Thingyan is also a time for communal feeding, the most popular seasonal food being jaggery-center-dough-ball that floats on water (Mon-Lon-Ye-Paw in Myanmar term). As a rule, it is communally made and distributed in the neighborhood and fed to all passersby. Thingyan is also a time for novice ceremonies. Many young people are busy with their songs, music, dancing and thangyat for the festival when nearing the time of Thingyan, there is the flowering at the gumkino-trees (Padaut trees) that occurs only three times in a year, lasting for only one day each time. Water-throwing and prize-giving pandals mushrooming overnight everywhere just before the festival begins. In Yangon, Thingyan Festival is held by erecting a big pandal just in front of the Town Hall sponsored by Yangon YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) and there are also traditional dancer and music playing merrily on the stage every year. It is also one of the highlights in Yangon during Thingyan Period. The festival falls on 13th to 16th April annually.
Thanakha Grinding Event (Sittwe, Rakhine State)
In the late evening on the eve of the Water Festival, young women grind thanakha bark to a fine cream using water on rounded stone slabs; they are accompanied by music played by young men. The festival falls on 13th April annually.
New Year Day & Animal freeing Ceremony (Throughout the country)
Buddhists, young and old alike, spend the day performing meritorious deeds like releasing live animals, offering food to monks, paying homage to elders etc. The festival falls on 17th of April annually.
Sand Stupa Event (Twante, Yangon Division)
Stupa of sand built on the compound of Shwesandaw on the receding day of Thingyan. Sponsored by descendants of Shans, who migrated over a century ago. Buffalo dance included. The festival falls on 17th of April annually.
Popa Ceremony (Mt. Popa, Bagan)
A large number of pilgrims pay respect to Nat shrines on top of Mt. Popa. We can observe the cults of spiritualism. During Thingyan water festival, pilgrims from the country pay respect to Popa Nat shrines.The festival falls on 17thof April in 2015.
Shwe-kyet-yet Event (Mandalay)
Full-dress, large-scale procession followed by water-pouring on the sacred Bo-tree, significantly, on the waxing day of Kason, a day before normal watering day. The festival falls in the first week of May and takes place one day only. Full moon day of Kason falls on the 2nd May in 2015.
Shit-thaung Festival (MraukOo, Rakhine)
Dummy boat races on land, real boat contests and water splashing in MraukOo canal on full-moon day. Traditional wrestling at the foot of the pagoda; finals held on full-moon day. The festival usually falls in the first or second week of May.Festival starts from 29th April until2nd May in 2015.
Kason Day (Throughout country)
Buddha’s birthday is commemorated by pouring water onto the sacred Bo tree. The festival usually falls on the full moon day of May.Full moon day of Kason falls on the 2nd May in 2015.
TaungYo Festival (PindayaCave,Shan State)
Torchlight procession by TaungYo tribe in the early part of the night to pay homage to the numerous Buddha statues in the cave. The festival usually falls in the first or second week of May. Full moon day of Kason falls on the 2nd May in 2015.
Pa-Oh Rocket Festival (Water Hole, Taunggyi and elsewhere)
Locally made rockets stuffed with powerful gunpowder are ceremoniously carried and launched in competition. Observed mostly by ethnic Pa-Oh people to predict the weather and crop. Young men and women use small mirrors to tease one another. The festival usually takes place one month.
Buddhist Recitations (Kaba Aye Hillock, Yangon)
Recitation of five parts of Nikaya held at Kaya Aye Hillock. Similar recitations are also held township wise throughout the country by both monks and nuns. The festival usually falls on first or second week of June. Full moon day of Nayon falls on the 1st June in 2015.
Full Moon Day of Waso - Beginning of Buddhist Lent (Throughout the country)
Special occasions and recitations are held in all pagodas elsewhere. The festivalusually takes place in the first or second week of July. Full moon day of Waso falls on 31st of July in 2015.
Guardian Spirit Ceremony (Sittwe, Rakhine State)
Women of Sittwe annually gather at the cliff where they believe the Guardian Spirit dwells. They stick yellow papers onto the boulder with banana paste. The festival usually takes place in the first or second week of July.
ShweKyun Bin Ceremony (Mingun, Mandalay)
Native marine vessels, big and small, gather to pay homage to the Nats whilst plying around on the Ayeyarwady River. Spirit dances included. The festival usuallytakes place at the end of July or beginning of August annually. Festival falls from 16th August to 18th August in 2015.
Taung-Byone Ceremony (Taungbyone, Mandalay)
For eight days before the last full-moon every August, the village of Taungbyon, 20 Kilometers (13 miles) north of Mandalay, becomes the focus of the Taungbyon Spirit Festival. Tens of thousands of Myanmar people attend this annual celebration, held in honor of the Taungbyon Brother Lords. The rites for these two brothers,honored as “Nats”, originated during King Anawrahta’s 11th Century reign.
Wooden figures, representing the brothers are ceremonially washed and paraded through the crowds as everyone present strains to touch each of the figures at least once. The brothers are in fact historical figures.
Perhaps nowhere else is there such an open display of Myanmar Buddhism’s animistic essences as at the brother’s festival in this small village. There are ritual offerings, ceremonial dances, dozens of pwes(entertainments), consultations with shamans, an enormous bazaar and lots of eating, gambling and general carousing. In words of anthropologist “Melford Spiro”, it is “a combination Burmese style, and an American state fair and medieval miracle play”.
Washing ceremony of the Two Brothers is the most crowded and busiest day of the festival. On that very day, the two Lords, after putting them on the palanquin, surrounded by four Queens including the Royal King’s attendants and a great number of people, carried two figures of Lords to the spirit-tree near the Ayeyarwaddy river beach where washing ceremony is taken place.
The tree spirit of washing the figures is to have nice clean with dear friends and some people wash with Shampoo water and spray wilk scented water on two Lords playing Myanmar orchestra and long drum and so forth.
Regarding Taungbyon spirit festival, people who believe in spiritual being (Nats) participate in great number at washing ceremony of Taungbyon Brothers Lords every year at Taungbyon village. It is also our traditional Burmese way of life to wash and clean the figure of Nats and images of gods as meritorious deeds. Moreover it is believed that, one who cleans the figure of Mingyi&Minlay may have purification of one’s mind and also be prosperous throughout his life by gettingthe blessing of two Lords.
The advantages of Taungbyon Spirit Festival, one might know about Nats and in the Buddhist way of thinking, they are indeed the spirit of all levels and how they are taking parts Myanmar ways of life. Furthermore, everybody who happens to attend to the spirit festival may see all the teasing, playing & joking go with the spirit of Taungbyon Festival with sure be rejoiced to everyone.The festival usually takes place within first or second week of August and lasts for one week.TaungByone Nat Festival starts from 25th to 30th August in 2015.
Yadanagu Ceremony (Amarapura, Mandalay)
It is of much glories and distinguished spirit festival occurs annually on August, just one week after the end of Taungbyon spirit festival. It takes 8 days to complete the occasion of the Yadanagu Spirit festival.
The festival is held annually in honor of PopaMédaw, Méwanna (mother of the two Lords) who came back from Taunbyon Festival, on her way back to Mt. Popa, she halted at the Yadanagu as her Transit-Camp. It is also believed that the festival is held in the commemoration of PopaMédaw who has been sent to Mt. Popa by her Sons, Mingyi and Minlay.
There are two pantheons or Spirit Shrines at Yadanagu, the people held the festivals annually at two places at the same time in comparatively. When visiting Yadanagu Pagoda Spirit Festival one might see the Kinship between Nats and humans. Some group of people could be seen holding a ceremony to propitiate Nats everywhere around Yadanagu area. Some are dancing as if he is possessed by a Nat. But you could see some people though he is not possessed by Nats would be dancing like anything. The music playing in this ceremony could stimulate the people more than any other type of music and hence everybody wants to get into the ceremony. Advantages of visiting the Yadanagu Spirit festival as locker he may know about Nats. They are celestials or Devas of different levels and how they are involved in Myanmar way of life. Moreover, Pagodas play a memorable part in the life of a Myanmar Buddhist. The festival usually starts on the first or second week of September. Festival starts from 9th September until 13th September in 2015.
Rice-Donating Ceremony (Padamya Pagoda, Sagaing)
Sacks of white rice donated from around the country are given away in large volume to residing monks and nuns of Mandalay and Sagaing Hill. Nuns are presented on the 14th waxing day and monks on full-moon day. Children’s play of wood apples, 3 days before the ceremony, is also growing interest. The festival usually takes place between second and third week of September. It falls on 27th and 28th September in 2015.
Thadingyut-Light Festival (Throughout the country)
Thadingyut, the seventh month of the Myanmar calendars marks the end of lent, monsoon is on the way out and the skies becoming clear. There is a great festival of Thadingyut, celebrated on a full moon day and marked by illuminations, the three day lights festival, namely the day before the full moon, the full moon day and the day and the day after will be those of music, dances and fun. Illuminations are there to celebrate the anniversary of the Buddha’s return from the celestial abode where had spent the lent teaching the gods his law.
It was on the full moon day the Thadingyut month that the Buddha descended to the abode of human. Human on earth illuminated the homes, streets and buildings with colored electric bulbs to welcome the Buddha and his disciples. The Thadingyut is not only a season of festival and rejoicing, but also a time for remembering those to whom we owe respect and gratitude. According to the Buddhist teaching, there are five Revered ones, namely the Buddha, his law, his order of Monks, Parents and Teacher. During the Thadingyut season Burmese Buddhists go round paying respects to Parents, teachers, elderly relatives and friends.
It is one of the Myanmar traditions for the senior or elderly persons in the streets or residential quarter to receive gifts and respects from the younger people of the community. In this way it is more intimate and pleasant and so this is the spirit of Thadingyut season. The festival usually falls in the second or third week of October and lasts for three days. Full moon day of Thadingyut falls on the 28th of October in 2015.
Dummy Elephant Festival (Kyaukse-Mandalay)
From 14th waxing day until the full-moon day, numerous life-size dummy elephants sing and dance to the accompaniment of music. The dances are very cheerful and you will discover Myanmar people can preserve their traditions hand by hand from many hundreds of years. The festival usually takes place between second and third week of October. Festival days :27th& 28th of September in 2015.
PhaungDawOo Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake)
The festival of PhaungDawOo Pagoda in Inle Lake in Shan State held in October is the biggest occasion of the Lake. The festival is held with great magnificence and pageantry fun fairs and dances are also held. The holy images of the Buddha from PhaungdawOo Pagoda are placed on a decorated royal barge called Karaweik (Mythical Bird) and towed by leg-rowers around the Lake, stopping at each village to let people pay homage. The pagoda festivals are held for each pagoda and there festivals could be viewed as the Myanmar equivalent of western fun fairs. In a pagoda festival, one can find food stalls, toy shops selling sundry consumer goods, magic show, puppet shows and dramas. People young and old simply love to have a stroll around the place where there is pagoda festival. PhaungdawOo Pagoda festival begins on 1st Waning of Thadingyut every year in Myanmar month but closing day may be different according to the decision of the members of the Pagoda Associations. The unique and most interesting event of the festival is, of course, the Shan traditional boat races participated by leg-rowers of both men and women dressed in their national costumes. By visiting PhaungdawOo Pagoda festival one has chance of seeing the different races of Myanmar Nationalities, such as, Danu, Inntha, Pa-O, Shan, Palaung, Kachin, TaungYoe and son on. Among them especially Shan people are very generous and so pious in Buddhism. They are so keen to religious that their names are quite similar to that of novice or a Buddhist monk. Secondly, one may have chance of viewing the very scenic beauty of Inle Lake and its environments and their traditions and customs which on can hardly be found anywhere else. Moreover one could have chance to see the Shan people traditional dances and their peculiar type of music drums, flutes, bras and bronze and such is their physical grace and personal charm.
As for a stranger in a strange land, this glimpse of significant loveliness and this excitement of a people’s native culture will always remain in the heart forever.
The festival usually takes place between the first and second week of October and lasts 18 days to complete. Festival starts from 14th October until 31st October in 2015.
Shwe-zi-gon Festival (Bagan)
Candle lights and fireworks are carried in procession before offering to the pagoda. The festival usually starts in the first or second week of October and takes 15 days to complete.The festival starts from 26th November to 11th December, 2015.
Kyaikhtiyo Festival (Golden Rock Festival)
The boulder, standing on the edge of a peak in the highest mountain range, is said to be freely hanging over the cliff;famous as pilgrimage and holiday outing spot. The festival takes place on the full moon day of Thadingyut, usually falls on the second or third week of October. Full moon day of Thadingyut falls on 28th October in 2015.
Kyauk-taw-gyi Festival (Mandalay)
The image was cast out of a single piece of alabaster in 1854 under the guidance of King Mindon. The festival usually takes place in the first or second week of October and lasts about five days. The festival days: from 27th October to 30th October in 2015.
Hot-Air Balloons Festival (Taunggyi)
In the month of Tazaungmon, we have lighting festival which is known as Tazaungdaing festival. This festival is not only lighting festival but also celebrates religious activities. During this festival Myanmar Buddhist people celebrates
offering ceremony of robes to the monks and paying a greater attention to the needs of the monks. At night, there are variety pattern of lights on houses and pagoda platforms. In every parts of the country, youths set off flying Lanterns (Balloons protecting a light against wind). In Myanmar, it is called “Mee-Bone-Byan”. It is a huge balloon made of way paper, Marajin Cloths and plastic sheets. In olden days Waso paper are widely used while in modern days plastic sheets are used. We filled the balloons with smoke from grease-soaked rag let at an opening the bottom. After getting enough smoke, the balloon slowly rises as everyone cheers, then floats upwards until only a flowing round flub of light is seen. More creative villager make balloons in the form of tigers, elephants and birds. The people make the balloons and set them off flying for offering the light to the Sulamani Pagoda in Tawadaintha Heaven, built by the King of Celestials Beings, and enshrined relic of the Buddha’s hair. Since the olden days; and people usually make different size of balloons with decorated patterns, in the form of birds, tigers and other desired forms.When we make the Balloons, first of all, take iron rim which 5.56 mm in thickness and 1½ feet in diameter for the upper part of the Balloon and the two rod of irons interest on the rim. At the centre of intersection on rod of iron is erected, so as to use as a balloon-hanger with strong rope. Later, put though the wooden pole or iron pole into the ring of strong rope which fix at centre of rim of upper part. Make again the same design of circular rim but smaller in size 12 mm thick to fix for the lower part of the balloon. At the centre of intersection an iron rod about 1½ feet is erected vertically. The rim must be small and stronger. This iron rod is covered with a grease-soaked rope to get the fire burning. After having arranged the upper rim and lower rim, take the wax paper is stick it to the iron of upper top, after making sure that it must be airtight. Similarly, the wax paper is struck tightly to the lower iron rim, leaving an opening at the bottom to let the smoke in. Take a good care to let the rod of iron with grease-soaked rap make the smoke inside the balloons. Then,filling with the smoke from a grease-soaked rag using fix or eight rod with the grease-soaked rag, let at an opening in the bottom. After getting a sufficient amount of smoke, the balloon started the floats and shake. Then only, it is time to filling smoke and set fire to rod of iron which is covered with grease-soaked rag. At that time, we have to pay a greater care to the balloon from damaging b the heat of the fire. After that, take off the wooden pole from the ring of the upper part of the rim. At that moment, lower part of the rim is held firmly by the 6 or 7 men and check the flame. After making sure that the stable condition of the flame is safe, people set off the Balloon-slowly. Finally, the balloon is found fill with clouds of smoke and floats upwards so high and drifted in the blue sky. The festival falls between first to third week of November and lasts for five days. Festival starts from 21st November until 27th November in 2015.
Robe Weaving Contest (Shwedagon, Botahtaung, Kyaikkasan and elsewhere)
On the 14th Waxing day of Tazaungmon, groups of young women take part in competitions held on the platforms of the pagodas. The robe is to be finished flawlessly overnight and offered at dawn to the images of Lord Buddha around the Pagoda. The festival usually takes place between second and third week of November. Waxing day of Tazaungmon falls on 25th November in 2015.
Candle Light Event (KoeHtatKyi Pagoda, Yangon)
On Full moon day, 9999 candles are ceremoniously lit. At midnight, visitors are served with mixed salad with maezali buds, believed to possess powerful magical and medicinal properties if eaten at this time. The festival usually takes place between second and third week of November.
Kaung-Mu-Daw Festival (Sagaing, Mandalay)
Pilgrimage and holiday outings on country oxcarts can be seen. The festival usually takes place between second and third week of November. Festival starts from 26th November until 1st December 2015.
Powintaung Caves Festival (Monywa)
The 6 days ceremony of festival is held at the pagoda of Po Win Taung Cave in Monywa. Most of the devotees and revelers of Myanmar are coming with more than 500 bullock carts carrying clay pot in each cart to this festival. On the ceremony day, they drop this clay pot from the front part of bullock’s cart, it’s called HlaeOo Cha [it means paying homage to the sprits of the cave with their bullock carts]. Normally there’re a lot of monkeys along the way to the cave, how wondering is no monkeys during the festival and all the natives believed that the guardian spirits keep them from harm of people who’ll intend to kill them and not to disturb the devotees and any others who come to participate this event. The festival usually takes place in the first or second week of December. Festival days in 2015:25th,26th 27th November,2015.