Myanmar Culture and pagoda Festivals

Culture and pagoda festivals are usually held by lunar calendar and of festival’s dates are determined by this. Lunar calendar begins the month Tagu (meet in April) followed Kasone, Nayon, Waso, Wagaung, Tawthalin, Thidingyut, Tazaung mone, Nadaw, Pyatho, Tabodwe and ending Tabaung . Every year, Myanmar new year day always meet in mid of April( 16-18).  The regular lunar year has 12 months while in the leap year the month Waso is split into two periods “first” and “second”. The lunar month begins (the waxing phase) the day after the dark moon day until peaks on the full moon day and then tails off (the waning phase) to the next dark moon. The order of lunar days and months can be varied from Gregorian calendar one year to another. 

Hundreds of festivals take place up and down the country each year and some are big occasion, some are nation-wide. As an example, the Manau Festival in Myitkyina boasts dances performed by as many as of 2,000 revellers at one time. “Thingyan” water festival is sprung across country.

Manau festival, Naga New Year festival, Chin national day and Akah, a big Shan ethnic festival are fixed according to Gregorian calendar. Some national or ethnic people festivals are held by their own calendar or by means of the decision of their heads, astrologist – e.g Thingyan water festival, Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival, Karen new year festival.

A festival offers opportunity to gain an insight into Myanmar’s life, traditions, culture, beliefs and same time to interact with local people.

Kachin Manau festival

Kachin State day is on 10 Jan. The festival will be held one day ahead of State day. Traditionally, the Jinghpaw are animists who recognize a spirit world presided over by Karai Kasang, a supreme deity who requires animal sacrifice. Duwa (hereditary chieftains) maintains ceremonial and cultural leadership, especially with regard to the manao (also spelt manau or Manaw) important festival held periodically to placate or pay homage to the Jinghpaw nats. On 10th January-Kachin State Day-a major manao in Myitkyina draws Kachin groups from all over the state.

Narga tribe new year's festival

The authentic Naga Hill Tribes (about 68 different groups) wear their respective traditional costumes to participate this important festival. They worship to their deities by scarifying the animals. Their traditional dance, martial music and cults of animism are unique and interesting. The festival is held at Khamti, Lahe, Lashi in Sagaing. The festival days are 14th to 15th of January. On 14th, an opening ceremony is held in the morning and in the evening there is traditional dance with bonfires. On New Year day they have a competition of traditional sports, and gathering of sub tribes of Narga, once fierce warriors in their bright and exotic dresses, celebrate with rice wine roasted meat and tribal dances performed with loud beating of drums.

Thingyan Water and New Year Festival

Thingyan Water and New Year festival consists of five days of celebration every April. Thingyan is Myanmar’s most popular festival and includes song and dance at decorated pavilions across the country. Pouring water over one another is also customary, as it is believed to cleanse the heart and physical being of the past year’s negativity. Celebrators also make offerings to the gods and pay their respects to loved ones to represent the start of a new year.

Paungdaw Oo Pagoda Festival

September and October (when the rain is ding off, but the river level is still high) are the months when boats races are held on rivers and lakes throughout Myanmar. The most spectacular festival takes place at the Phaungdaw-Oo Pagoda on Inle Lake. Four of the five Buddha images covered so thickly by gold leaf are placed on the Royal Barge (the fifth is left to take care of the monastery). The barge, shape of Karaweik (a mythical bird with a sweet voice) and a procession takes place around the lake, stopping at each large monastery and village to spend the night before moving on the following morning to the next.  Hundreds of other vessels travel in the entourage in a general festive atmosphere. At Nyaung Shwe they spend three nights and then they return to the Pagoda via the right- hand side of the river. On the last day of the festival there is a boat race. This consists of long boats each containing around 100 people who row with their legs on both sides. Thousands of people from around the Shan State attend this most holy of all Shan celebrations.There are about 3 heydays – arrival day to Nyaung Shwe with boat race, longest distance while leaving from Kyaing Kham to Mine Pyoe and closing day.

Dummy elephant festival

This unique and exotic elephant dance held at Kyaukse, a small town not far from Mandalay. A huge but light elephant figure is made with bamboo and paper. Men take their places inside the figure and dance around the town to the accompaniment of Dobat and Drums. The elephant dancers circle three times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shwethalyaung Pagoda. It is a dance that requires precise rhythm and timing in order for the elephant dancers to maintain uniformity inside the elephant figure. Numerous life-size paper dummy elephants sing and dance to the accompaniment of music.

Thidingyut (festival of lights)

To mark the end of the Buddhist Lent, and is also one of the prominent festivals of the year. Pagodas, houses, public buildings, parks, and monuments are all illuminated and there are various kinds of activities for everyone to enjoy. Thadingyut is not only for joyous but also thanksgiving and paying homage to Buddhist monks, teachers, parents and elders, and asking pardon for whatever misdeeds might have committed. Today in Yangon, at Sanchaung township area still prevails for best performance. Candle lights are illuminated at Koe Htat gyi pagoda.

Hot Air Balloon Festival

The Hot Air Balloon Festival is an annual celebration held during three days every November in Taungyi, in southern Shan State.  The fireworks are in the form of rockets. There is always hot balloons competition day and night. Day balloons are usually in the form of Pagodas, and animals such as elephant, dragon or ducks while the night balloons usually in the shape of rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with small lighted multicolored paper lanterns hung around their sides and balloons would sting along fireworks and fire sticks which are set off mid-air fireworks. Arguably the most stunning event of the year, this festival invites thousands of tourists and pilgrims to revel in the amateur and expert balloon competitions and stare up at the brilliant paper balloons floating up into the dark sky.