Festivals in Myanmar
Kachin Manaw Festival
Location: Myitkyina, Kachin State.
When: 10th January 2014
This festival was celebrating a sacrificing-cum dancing best known as Manaw to propitiate or exercise numerous Nat (spirits) the spectacular carnival held in every 10th of January is the festival to celebrate a victory or achievement where the young and old, the great and simple gather in true community spirit.
Ananda Pagoda Festival
Location: Ananda, Bagan.
When: 8th waxing day of Pyatho and ending of full moon day of Tabodwe 23 days festival. Bowls of alms filled with donated items are offered to monks who all wait in a long line. People who live villages near and far come with bullock carts outings come and enjoy.
Mahamuni Pagoda Festival
Location: Mahamuni precinct, Mandalay.
When: 14th waxing day of Tabodwe and full moon day of Tabodwe Glutinous rice delicacy contests are held late on 14th waxing day of Tabodwe. In the morning of 15th waxing day, offer it to the Buddha. Thousand of people from all over the country make the pilgrimage to the Pagoda. The evening entertainment includes a variety of dances, songs, short and long play, open air movies and many stalls selling up various traditional snacks and other utilities.
Naga New Year festival
Locations: Chamti, Lahe, Lashi (Sagaing Division)
In the hill of northwestern Sagaing Division near the India-Myanmar border lives an interesting national race called the Naga. Of Tibeto-Myanmar descent, the Naga physically resembles the Myanmar peoples, with women who are as powerfully built as the men. The Naga are traditionally animists and in the past some clans are known to have used human heads as offerings to the spirits.
The Naga New Year falls in January. Originally held as a series of separate community-wide celebrations and family reunions, the New Year festival later became a bigger township – wide event as some elders envisaged that it should be an occasion for amity. Since 1990 it has been promoted on an even bigger regional scale, celebrated on January 15 in rotating venues, alternating among the Naga town of Hkamti, leshi, Namyung and Lahe, all in Sagaing Division.
On January 14 the New Year Festival Pole is erected around which the Naga people assemble for the opening ceremony. On the following day locals, invited guests and tourists celebrate the New Year. Gifts are exchanged while traditional music and dances are performed. Partygoers enjoy sipping traditional Naga rice wine while feasting on bison and wild boar meat. The festival is meant to celebrate the successful completion of the harvest, with participants sharing their experiences from the previous year and planning for the next one. Participants wish for good health, wealth, happiness, good climate and good crops for the coming year.
One of the most striking aspects of the Naga festival is the colourful dress, with traditional costumes set with feathers and plumes of hornbills elephant tusks; canines and paws of tigers, bears and boars; horns of buffalos; and tails of horses and goats. Silver and bronze beads, bangles, bracelets, pendants and eardrops are also worn. Youth- holding shields and spears as if they were warriors- wear head-dresses framed with horns of wild boars and set with fur and feathers. One interesting thing is that every Naga man wears a special palm leaf on each of heir feet during the festival. Most of their clothing is coloured red, black, green and white to symbolize courage and dexterity.
Mawtinsun Pagoda Festival
Location: Pagoda point, Pathein
When: 15 days festival. Pilgrimage and recreation go together at this seashore. Long and secluded beach stretch between pagoda point and cape Negrais is haven both for beach lovers and beach bums alike.
Indawgyi Pagoda Festival
Location: Moe Nyin, Kachin State
When: 8 days ceremony.
The ceremony is sponsored by Kachin Buddhists. In summer, a footpath leading to the pagoda surfaces enabling pilgrims to walk to the pagoda. Except summer, the pagoda is surrounded by a large volume of water, in the Indawgyi Lake.
Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival
When: 8th waxing day of Tagu to 5th waning day of Tagu
13 days ceremony. Vendors come from far and near and build temporary shops made of bamboo to sell their local products as is the usual case of a pagoda festival in Myanmar. Dancing troupes perform onstage for a whole night. Theatrical artists perform on stage with full force to show, their competitive edge over their counterparts and to win future performance.
Thingyan Water Festival
Location: through out the country
When: 12th to 17th April 2014
The festival is held prior to Myanmar New year to clean away evil deeds of the past year with water. Youths go out for enjoyment while elders take retreat in monasteries and pagoda precincts to perform meritorious deeds. People build temporary pavilions and from there throw water at passer by and revelers going around in open cars and trucks. Traditional foods are offered as donation to whoever passing by. In the evening dancing troupes go round in decorated floats to compete in dancing and rap style satirical singing contests held through out the city.
Myanmar New Year’s Day
Location: throughout the country.
When: 17th April 2014
Buddhists young and old alike, spend the day performing meritorious deeds such as releasing animals, offering to monks, paying homage to elder, etc.
Popa Nats or Spirit Festival
Location: Mt. Popa
When: 3rd waning day of Kasone
Pilgrim from all over the country pay respect to Mt. Popa Nat Shrines, (a spirit – the black smith Maung Tint Te, Min Maha Giri) ) who killed by King of Tagaung for his strength. Bagan King made a place as shrine for him and effectively starting the official worshop of Nat in Myanmar, Nat believes from all over the country to come and pay respect to Mt.Popa and the Nat shrines.
Kason Fullmoon festival or watering of the sacred Bo Tree Festival
Location: throughout the country
When: Full moon day of Kasone
This day is not only the Buddha birthday but also attained Buddha hood while sitting in meditation under a Bo Tree and attained Nirvana at the aged of 80 years. Full moon day of Kasone is one of the holiest day of the year of Buddhist. And this month is hottest month in Myanmar. That’s the reason for puring the water on the Bo Tree. Women carry small water pots on the heads and go to Bo Tree in processing to pour water. Men accompany eith them playing traditional musical instruments.
June & July
Dhama Sakya Day (Shwedagon and other famous pagodas)
Location: throughout the country
When: Full moon day of Waso
This day commemorates the Lord Buddha’s first sermon (Dhama Sakya) to his five disciples. It is also first day pf Buddhist Lent during which the monks are prohibited to travel and sleep outside of their monasteries. The holy day’s religious activities can be found at the precincts of the famous pagodas and monasteries featuring; delivering sermons by Buddhist monks, reciting Pali verses praising Lord Buddha, offering meals to the monks.
Waso Robe Offering (Nation Wide)
Location: throughout the country
When: During the month on Waso
The month of Waso in Myanmar calendar is associated with the offering of Waso Robe to the Buddhist monks viewed precursor to the Buddhist lent, not later than the full-moon day of Waso. After this day, the Buddhist monks are forbidden to travel and are required to spend lent in their monasteries. The robes are offered to use during the period of retreat.
Taungbyone Nats or Spirits Festival
Location: Taung byone, Mandalay
When: 8th waxing day of Wagaung to the full moon day of Wagaung 6 days ceremony. The most famous of the Nat festival in Myanmar. Held for worshipping two Taung Byone spiritral figures. Major gathering spot for spiritual medium. Spiritual dances are rampant. This event is visited by all over the country who worship Nat, especially the traders and merchants who want help for more profits.
Yadana Gu Nat Festival
Location: Ratanagu Pagoda, Amarapura Township, Mandalay.
When: 8th waning day of Wagaung to 15th waning day of Wagaung
This is a festival to honor the mother of two Nat brothers of Taungbyone. Known as mother of Taungbyone festival. Most enjoyable because of the rowing boat trip to the site. The festival is held annually in honor of Popa Maedaw, Me Wanna who came back from Taungbyoune Festival, on her way back to Mt. Popa, she held halted at the Yadana Gu as her transit-camp.
Thadingyut Festival or Festival of light
Location: Throughout the country
When: 14th waxing day to 1st waning day of Thadingyut
3 days festival. To make the day Lord Buddha came down from the celestial Abode after spending 3 months of the Buddhist Lord there. Buddha’s return is remembered and commemorated throughout the country with colorful illuminations. It is the end of the Buddhist Lent and is also one of the most prominent festival of the year. Pagodas, houses, public buildings, parks, and monuments are all illuminated and there is various kind of everyone to enjoy. Thidingyut is not only for joyous but also thanksgiving and paying homage to Buddhist monks, parents, teachers and elders and asking pardon for whatever misdeeds might have committed during the year.
Shwezigon Pagoda Festival
Location: Nyaung U (Bagan)
When: 23 day festival. Candle lights and fireworks are carried in procession before offering to the pagoda.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
Location: Inle Lake, Shan State
When: 1st waxing day to 2nd waning day of Thadingyut In Nyaung Shwe township in southern Shan State sits Inle, the country’s second biggest lake after Indawgyi in Kachin State. Rimmed by high hills, the lake-referred to as the “Venice of the East” by some visitors-bears 17 villages that are built on patches of silt known as floating islands.
What makes Inle one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions are the 70,000 Intha people who propel flat-bottomed boats by standing on one leg and rowing by wrapping the other leg around the oar. They say that this leg-rowing technique helps relieve stress on their arms as they travel from one side of the lake to the other, and it is also said to help rowers gain a better perspective for spotting floating water hyacinths and fish as they paddle.
Closer linguistically and culturally to the Myanmar than to the Myanmar than to the Shan, the Intha are believed to have migrated to the region from Dawei on the Tanintharyi peninsula in far southern Myanmar sometime during the 12th century. The shan often refer to the Intha as the “Myanmar on the lake”. They are known for their industrious and persistent mindset, which has helped them survive by growing a wide variety of flowers, vegetables and fruits on the water on floating islands that are attached to the lake bed with long bamboo poles.
The Buddhist Intha boast of having about 100 monasteries and many stupas around the lake Paung Daw Oo Pagoda is regarded as one of the state’s holiest sites and holds five images covered in gold leaf. According to legend the images – three of whichare said to be Buddha statues and the other two arahats (those who have attained Nirvana) – date back to the time of the Bagan King Alaung Sithu (1112-1167AD).
Every year, from the frist waxing day to the third waning day of the full moon of the lunar month of Thadingyut, which usually falls in October, the biggest event in the region takes place at Inle lake. During the 20 day festival, the images from Paung Daw Oo Pagoda are carried on a royal barge from village to village to bless the people. Food stalls, souvenir shops, magic shows, puppet shows and dramas add to the festive atmosphere. The festival also features traditional boat races where men and woman show off their unique leg-rowing skills.
Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival
Location: Kuaukse, 26 mile, south of Mandalay, Mandalay Division
When: 14th waxing day of thadingyut
Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival is a yearly cultural highlight of Kyaukse; located 26 miles to the south of Mandalay. A huge elephant figure is made from bamboo and paper. 2 men take their places inside the figure and imitate and coordinate the movements of the dancers, assisted by a small number of musicians. The festival is celebrated on the day before the full moon of Thadingyut (October). As the day progresses, it is getting more and more crowded because people from nearby villages and as far as Mandalay come to Kyaukse and join in the festivities.
Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock) Festival
Location: Kyaikhto, Mon State
When: Starting from the full moon day of Thadinkyut(October).
A small stupa placed atop the Golden rock a massive granite boulder totally covered in gold which is precariously balanced on the very edge of the cliff. This rocking boulder has mysteriously remained in its position through centuries. The festival period to visit Kyaikhtiyoe Pagoda begins on the fullmoon day of Thidinkyut(October) and ends of the fullmoon day of Kasone(May). But even in peak monsoon(raining season),pilgrims and visitors do go to pay homage to this Pagoda.
Taunggyi Balloon Festival
In November in Tanggyi, the capital of Shan State, the Pa-O people hold a special Tazaungdine festival that features a spectacular hot-air ballon competition. Participant spend the days, weeks and months leading up to the festival trying to make the most attractive balloons-17 to 20 feet high and 16 to 8 feet in diameter-out of local Shan paper.
A single competing group might be made up of as many 400 people who work in smaller teams to make different elements of the balloon separately and only get together just before the festival to combine their pieces into a unified form, which might take the shape of anything from a traditional hot-air balloon to a giant animal, fruit or house. The sides of the balloon are often decorated with the name of the competing group, a religious logo or a floral pattern.
The wicks, which can weigh more than 30 pounds, are made by soaking pieces of cloth in oil dregs, crude oil, turpentine, wax and camphor oil for a number of days before being wrapped up on an iron frame. When the flame is lit, the balloon takes to the sky as if ready to ascend all the way to the moon.
Kayin New Year Celebration
The kayin people are one of the earliest settlers in the Myanmar region. Their New Year celebrations, which usually fall in December, are held in many towns and villages around the country where Kayin have settled. However, the biggest one takes place in Yangon’s Maha Sewingaba monastery compound in Insein township, where large number of Kayin live.
The celebration begins on the eve of the New Year with cultural shows that include the popular and very active Kayin Donyein dance, bamboo dances and traditional music and song. At dawn on New Year’s Day the Kayin national flag is hoisted, followed by performances of the Donyein dance. Guests are also served with sticky rice and elders deliver formal speeches that focus on the importance of preserving the Kayin culture.
Location: Among Christian community in Yangon and others.
Christianity is the second largest religion in Myanmar after Buddhism.