Festivals

Thingyan, the Water Festival

Thingyan, the Water Festival is the unique and colorful with the merriest occasion in Myanmar. During Thingyan days, the people throw water each other since the Myanmar people believe that Thingyan water has the power to cleanse the evil and sins of the old year. Thingyan falls on the last four days before Myanmar New Year day, which is in the second week of April roughly on the twelfth or thirteenth, according to the Gregorian calendar.

Almost the whole population is in the most joyous mood; roam around the city in cars or on foot to throwing and splashing water each other. Elaborately decorated pavilions and pandals called Mandats are built beside of almost every street in front of government offices and private business establishments. The young women gather dressed in their best. It is the time when Thingyan sprit is in the air and Thingyan fever grips the heart. To every people, no matter what religious belief, Thingyan brings joy, happiness, relief and hope. For the young and the young-at-heart, it is the merriest time of the year when they literally let themselves go splashing and pouring water on friends and strangers, wait to throw water with water pipes. Special Thingyan songs play all the time. Some pavilions have raised platform for traditional dance performance.

While Thingyan is a time for fun, it is also a time for religious reflection. People go to Pagodas and Monasteries to do merit and offer food to monks, pay homage to elders and bathe Buddha images. Snacks and refreshments are prepared and served to everyone.

Hot Air Balloon festival

November is the best time to travel as there is no more rain and the environs are still green, no muddy and not yet dusty everywhere in the region. At that time of the year, the Hot Air Balloon Festival is usually celebrated on a grandeur scale. The festival has now become a proud tradition of the Shan people and is a major tourist attraction.

InTaunggyi, the capital of the southern Shan State, the festival is celebrated annually on a grand scale for 6 days. Lu Ping festival commonly known as hot balloon festival is said to have been the origin of Pa-O minority, one of the many ethnic groups in the region. There, the word Lu Ping generally means eliminating all evil by giving alms and offertories to Buddhist monks. On the occasion, people also enjoy fun and merriment by holding firework and hot air balloon launching competitions, competing over their beauty, lasting hours in the air and attitude they can gain. Day balloons are usually in the form of Pagodas and animals such as elephant, dragon or duck while the night balloons are usually in the shape of rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with small-lighted multicolored paper lanterns hung around their sides.

Every balloon is hand-made using bamboo frames and locally produced paper, made from the mulberry plant.
Night balloons are larger and more elaborate, equipped with firecrackers and fireworks. The pyrotechnic display starts at a pre-determined height. All the fireworks are traditionally made, using gunpowder, charcoal and a little bit of magnesium.

On this great occasion, over 350 balloons are released throughout the festival every year. It is a great opportunity to observe this marvelous festival held once a year in Myanmar.

(The exact dates of the festival vary from year to year according to the Myanmar lunar calendar.)

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

The greatest event of the Phaung Daw Oo Buddha images is held on a grand scale in the month of October (sometimes in September). It is the time of transition from the rainy to the cold season. The monsoon is gone and the whole country everywhere looks pleasant. It can be regarded as pagoda festival season as famous pagoda festivals are held and Phung Daw Oo pagoda festival is the most colorful and spectacular festival in Myanmar. It is the biggest occasion at the Inle Lake because it is not only held at the place where the pagoda is situated. Four Buddha images out of five from Phaung Daw Oo pagoda are taken on a gilded Karaweik royal barge and conveyed around 14 villages on the lake during 18 –festival days. The barge is towed by decorated canoes paddled by leg-rowers and hundreds of boats follow the procession. The large crowds of people gather on the lakeshores to celebrate the occasion. The pagoda festival is held in every village, where the barge makes stopover. People pay homage and offer flowers, alms, water and a variety of fruits to the Buddha images.

The most interesting event of the festival, especially for foreigners is their boat race due to their unique leg rowing. Boat races are held during the festival and on the last day. Usually a race is taken place with three long boats, containing one hundred people each, standing upright and rowing with their legs in the traditional Inle style. It is the one and only place in the world where one can see such marvelous act.

Even when it is not festival time, it is very interesting to observe the Intha's lifestyle on the lake, floating farms and the most famous floating market which being held at Ywama village every five days.

Taung Pyone Nat Festival

Majority of Myanmar people are Buddhists. However, some of them have any other traits of believe such as worshipping some deities for devotion or for consolation. Most of the people generally consider that it is not a peculiar thing to revere a Nat (Spirit).

About 20 km north of Mandalay lays a small village called Taung Pyone, resting quietly among the green fields. This place becomes the focus of the Taung Pyone Spirit Festival held every year in the Myanmar month of Wagaung (August) to honour the Nats at that place. This area had been awarded to the Nats as a special province of their own by Myanmar Kings since Bagan dynasty in 11 century. According to tradition, Nats are spirits that must be appeased or they will wreak havoc in people’s lives.

The homage-paying festival is now held annually to appease the spirits as it is believed that the Nat Brothers can fulfill one's wishes, protect one from ill fate and danger, and bring good luck, prosperity and progress. It is one of much glories and distinguish spirit festival occurs annually on August.

Nowadays, Taung Pyone is the most famous one among the Nat festivals countrywide. All the Nat medians and those who believe and worship Nat gather at that village. Thousand of people are attending at the hundreds of Nat Pavilions to discuss the median for their future plans and prosperities. Series of 37 Nat statues on the stands are offered food and flowers, cash, alcohol, and the medians amuse Nat with dance and the traditional Nat music day and night. As Nat song and music is very fantastic, whoever heard this song want to participate in their dance.Thousands of people are coming in and out everyday until the end of the festival. The Taung Pyone Nat Festival is a place of must for those who want to observe the spirit-worship in Myanmar and it is a sort of merry making trip.Pavilions to discuss the median for their future plans and prosperities. Series of 37 Nat statues on the stands are offered food and flowers, cash, alcohol, and the medians amuse Nat with dance and the traditional Nat music day and night. As Nat song and music is very fantastic, whoever heard this song want to participate in their dance. Thousands of people are coming in and out everyday until the end of the festival.

The Taung Pyone Nat Festival is a place of must for those who want to observe the spirit-worship in Myanmar and it is a sort of merry making trip.

Poppa Nat Festival (Mt.Popa)

Popa Nat (Spirit) festival is held on full moon day of Tagu, the first month in Myanmar calendar during summer (April). Large numbers of worshippers, who believe in spirits pay respect to the Nats at their shrines on the top of Mt. Popa. Visitors will have a chance to witness the Nat (Spirit) dances, which are very crowded with the audience. In addition to this main festival, there are also festivals held on full moon day of Warkhaung, the fifth month of Myanmar calendar (July-August) and full moon day of Nadaw, the ninth month in Myanmar calendar (November-December).


 

Ananda Pagoda festival

Ananda Pagoda festival in Bagan takes place a few days before the full moon day of Pyatho, which falls on December/January. Pagoda festivals give farmers the chance not only to worship at a famous pagoda but also make a little extra cash selling handicrafts.

Entire villages near and far arrive in caravans of bullock carts and camp around the temple. People bring bedding, cooking pots, dry rations and even their pet dogs, which trot beside the oxen with a look of importance on their faces. Pottery rafts come down stream from the famous pottery town of Kyaukmyaung, some kilometers upriver from Mandalay during the Ananda festival. The riverside at Bagan is lined with rafts and boats bringing these jars and smaller unglazed pottery. They are piled high on the sandy banks, while near the temple they squat in row upon glistening row, like fat beetles in the sun.

At dawn on the day of the full moon, alms bowls filled with rice are offered to monks who all wait in a long line, and special offerings at the Buddha with rice, fruit, cakes, flowers, candles and scent sticks.

At all Pagoda festivals in Myanmar, local people have a great chance to watch the performing arts of Zat Pwe (traditional dance and drama) and movies in open theatre from dusk to dawn every night through out the festival days.


Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival

This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Thadingyut (October) and a yearly cultural highlight of Kyaukse, 26 miles south of Mandalay. The life-size elephants are made of bamboo frames and paper. Two men get inside of the hollow elephant and dance like lively elephants, followed by some traditional musical troupes is very exiting and amusing. The whole inhabitants compete, not only for the best elephant dance performance, but also for the most beautifully decorated elephant. The festival is crowded with people from surrounding villages of Kyaukse and also from Mandalay. Visitors will have an opportunity to witness the Myanmar Art of Papier Mache Toy.

 

Mathoe Robe Weaving Contest

Mathoe robes weaving ceremonies are held at various prominent pagodas in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay. Mathoe robes weaving contests on the Massive Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon are the most significant in Myanmar.

Mathoe robe means the weaving of the robe must be completed within same night and must be offered to the Buddha before dawn. Preparation for Mathoe Robes weaving contests is taken place on the platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda in the evening of the eve of the full moon day of Tazaungmone. Nine teams of 60 Religious Associations of the Shwedagon Pagoda take part in the contests. The weavers are from various parts of the country. The weaving women are kept ready for weaving prior to the contest. The Mathoe Robes weaving contests open at 5pm. A contesting team has six members including the team leader. Weavers are selected based on stamina, energy and thoroughness and the other members stand by for assistance. Visitors can witness the communal work in this contest and contestants make great endeavour in weaving the robes. Enthusiasts encouraging the contestants include foreign tourists as well.

After the contest, gluing, sewing, patterning with golden papers and gluing golden lilies respectively are prepared in Mathoe robes. At the dawn of full moon day of Tazaungmone, prize-winning team lead a procession of offering the Mathoe Robes to four Buddha Images at four archways of the Shwedagon Pagoda and other prominent pagodas.

Naga New Year Festival

The Naga are a tribe living in the mountains, valleys and plains of one of the most remote places on earth. Naga hill lies in the northwest corner of Myanmar, close to the Indian border. The snow-capped Mt. Saramati on Naga hill is 3,828m high. Khamti is the most famous town of Naga land. The traditional customs and religious beliefs of the Naga tribes have not died out till today. The main Naga tribes have different costumes with fantastic headdresses of colorful plumes, beads, bone, horn and tusks as priceless items, which they treasure above gold. Their robes are closely woven from thick cotton or wool, dyed in bright colors, and embroidered with cowry shells. Each pattern has a story that the weaver wanted to record. They wear everything in every color. The females wear tattoos on their foreheads and chins. In addition, there are some small differences in customs, but they are still of one main race. There are 49 sub-tribes differentiated by their spoken languages. They are a proud people living in an isolated land, preferring to be left alone in their own region. They live as strictly according to old customs as their ancestors did. Insignias of leaders are apparent: bands of woven armlets made of cane, or special spears and extra necklaces. Their finery is not merely for decorative purposes as each piece has its own meaning, each piece marks an event or status of their people. Rice wine is always ready in pots at homes. Shared with others, it is a drink of friendship, of sealing goodwill between friends and strangers. Naga's biggest festival is New Year festival, which annually celebrated on 14, & 15 January, called Kaing Bi There is a great feasting and joy and tribes gather to join the revelries. On this occasion, endless cups of rice wine are drunk, bison and wild boar meat roasted and eaten, tribal dances performed with loud beating of drums. Visitors are welcomed, for they are curious about strangers although they prefer to stay home. The visitors on their part have a chance to see events and people living in old ways. If strangers join in their celebrations, they are welcomed; it is good to share the happiness.

It takes place on February 20 every year in Haka (Northern Chin State) and Mindat (Southern Chin State). It is a popular holidays for Chins, one of main races of the country. Visitors can witness the ethnic dances performed by different Chin groups at both venues. For our visitors, we would like to recommend a trip to Mindat as one could visit Natma Taung National Park after (or) before Mindat. Natmataung also known as Mt. Victoria was given as a present to Queen Victoria of England in commemoration of conquest on Myanmar. 10200 ft above the sea level, Matmataung is the highest in Chin State. It is regarded as the best bird-watching spot among birding enthusiasts. Natma Taung National Park is centered around the Mt. Victoria, now known as Kong Nu Peak in chin language.This park is situated in Kanpetlet Township, south of Mindat in Southern Chin State. On the way to the park, there are numerous ethnic Chin villages and some other villages belonging to the Taung Tha people who are said to be ancestors of Bamar people. This area was once described as "the World's biggest botanical garden" by the renowned British-naturalist-FrankKingdon-Ward.

The route to Mindat is quite simple. It starts from Bagan and cross the Ayerwaddy River over the Chauk Bridge, then about 10hrs. drive along the winding road to Mindat by 4 WD car.