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I have arrived in Myanmar on a very auspicious date, the Burmese new year, or Thingyan, the most celebrated festival in the country. Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival, takes place toward the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year. This festival is also celebrated in neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries; Songkran in Thailand and Laos, Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia. Taking place from April 13 to 16 each year, the Buddhist festival of Thingyan is celebrated over four to five days, culminating on the Lunar New Year Day.

Commonly referred to as the Water Festival, Maha Thingyan allows people to celebrate the Burmese New Year. Despite this, Maha Thingyan is observed in mid-April on the Gregorian calendar. While the Water Festival is a Buddhist event, the Burmese government has made it a legal public holiday. This ensures that many Burmese citizens have the opportunity to enjoy the Water Festival. Maha Thingyan is a time for happiness and friendly attitudes.

Thinngyan is the most unique and colourful with the merriest occasion in Myanmar. Standing on bamboo stages erected along the streets, people splash water on passersby. Powerful water pipes douse people driving by in jeeps and trucks. The people throwing water each other since the Myanmar believe that Thinngyan water has the power to cleanse the evil and sins of the old year. The water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins. On New Year’s Day itself, all the water-throwing ends. This day is celebrated by releasing captive fish and birds as acts of merit, and special feasts are held for monks.

Thingyan Celebrations:
Thingyan Eve: The first Thingyan celebrations begin on the day before the Water Festival. Thingyan Eve, or A-Kyo Nei, is a time for observing Buddhist beliefs.

Fasting: Many Buddhists observe Thingyan Eve through fasting. People who decide to fast for Thingyan Eve usually eat a single basic meal prior to noon. This meal is often very bland.

Observing the Eight Precepts: During Thingyan Eve, Buddhists are expected to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism. These Eight Precepts are similar to the Five Precepts. While observing the Eight Precepts, Buddhists must do the following: Refrain from killing living creatures, Refrain from stealing, Refrain from sexual activity, Refrain from lying or using incorrect speech, Refrain from using alcohol or drugs, Refrain from seeking entertainment, Refrain from eating during fasting periods, Refrain from sleeping on high places

Offerings to Monks: Many people in Myanmar celebrate Thingyan Eve by visiting a Buddhist temple. When visiting these temples, it is considered proper to leave an offering of green coconuts and bananas. These kinds of offerings usually consist of a single green coconut surrounded by a circle of bananas.

Washing the Buddha: Burmese people will also wash Buddha statues with sacred water that has been scented with flower extract. When washing Buddha statues, people start at the top by drizzling water over the head.

Night Celebrations: After the religious formalities of Thingyan Eve have been observed, Burmese people begin to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many lively celebrations that occur during the night of Thingyan Eve.

Music, Song, and Dance: While the Eight Precepts prohibit Buddhists from enjoying entertainment of any kind during the daytime, people are allowed to party to their hearts’ content as soon as night arrives. In nearly every village, city, and town in Myanmar, large stages are erected for the purpose of enjoying entertainment. These stages are made of wood and elaborately decorated with papier-mache and paint. Woman will dance to classical and contemporary music while wearing flower skirts. In addition to these flower skirts, Burmese women often wear padauck blossoms in their hair. The padauck blossom is also commonly referred to as the Thingyan flower due to its rarity and use during Maha Thingyan.

Parade of Locals: After enjoying live music and dancing, people celebrating Maha Thingyan parade the streets of their town or city while enjoying alcohol and the company of their friends and family members. These parades often consist of vehicles and decorated floats. Gyat, a form of Burmese rap, is commonly performed during these parades. Gyat is fairly controversial because it is a popular way of expressing distaste for social and political issues through music.

Water Festival Celebrations
Thinngyan water festival time is the merriest time for Myanmar young and old. Almost the whole populations are in the most joyous mood; roam around the city in cars or on foot to throwing and splashing water each other. Children use water pistols to drench their friends, relatives, and anyone else in range – only monks and the elderly are safe.
The primary event of Maha Thingyan is the Water Festival. This huge event is meant to celebrate the descent of Thagyamin, a celestial Buddhist figure, to Earth. The beginning of the Water Festival, or A-Kya Nei, is marked with the firing of a water cannon into a public area. While the cannon is fired, people run out to collect the water with pots and buckets. The collected water is then poured over the ground. This is followed by a short prayer. Just like Thingyan Eve, these religious rituals are followed by festive activities. Water throwing with toy guns, balloons, and hoses takes place in many areas of Myanmar.

If you are planning to travel Myanmar, Thingyan is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit. Besides the fun-filled activities and the festive atmosphere, you’ll be sure to meet lots of Burmese, who are always friendly saying “Mingalabar”

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Myanmar is a veritable land with full of colorful festivals and special events, mostly cultural and religious, all are always pleasurable. Most festivals are celebrated nation-wide all over the country. As Myanmar traditionally goes by 12 month lunar calendar, the dates of festivals and culture events are determined by the lunar New Year. Once you come and experience the festivals, you will not forget that moment. Myanmar also have festivals all around the year, at least one in each month of the year.

(PART I)

Ananda pagoda festival (Bagan):

Symbolizing the limitless wisdom of Buddha, there is a month long sanctified festival for the temple Ananda, the most beautiful one out of 2000 holy monuments in Bagan, Myanmar. It is usually falls on January every year. The busiest day of the festival is on the full-moon day of the lunar month. Villagers and pilgrims around Bagan roll in the sacred site of Ananda for the consecration.

Ananda pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Bagan. Built by King Kyansittha of the Bagan dynasty in late 11th century, it is also rated as the most aesthetic and artistic structure in Bagan. The temple’s name means the endless wisdom of Buddha. The pagoda festival is held annually on the full moon of Pyatho (January). This annual festival has been around for more than 2,000 years and even now people from surrounding villages come to the festival by the traditional way in bullock carts. They also stay the whole 7 days duration of the event, camping under the spreading acacia trees around pagoda. There are stalls too, selling everything from daily necessities to cosmetics and food stalls of course. The festival ends with the traditional donation ceremony for the monks on the full moon day of Pyatho.

This is also the best time to see not only the ritual of Buddhists but the festival is also meant for social gathering, reunification, propagation and perpetuation of the religion that is Buddhism. During the festival, walk around in sea of vendors and shops that sell traditional Myanmar food-staff and enjoy the local atmosphere in locality.

  • Date: usually starts the first week of January
  • Location: Bagan
  • Duration: 15 days
Ananda pagoda festival

Ananda pagoda festival

Kachin New Year festival (Manaw – Kachin State):

Kachin is one of the states which has a delightful festival known as Manaw, one of the largest ethnic races of Myanmar, live in the northern part of the country. The Kachin state is the roof of the country inhabited by the different Kachin races of Jainphaw, Azi, Rawang, Lashi, Mashu and Lisu. The land is swept by chill breezes blowing from the Himalayas and the streams with crystal clear and icy water of melted snow. The races dwell in villages by rivulets or in valleys or on the hill tops, each with their own language, customs and culture. Every year in January, the Kachins hold a Manaw ( traditional commemorative festival) to welcome in the Kachin New Year. Manaw simply means “festival” in the Kachin (Jinpaw) language, and is a gathering to celebrate the harvest, New Year, or a wedding with feasting and dancing. The traditional Manaw poles decorated in Kachin motifs are at the centre of the festival compound where the dancers dance around to show of gratitude to their ancestral spirits and their wish for a bright future. All the visitors are warmly welcomed to join the dance.

Kachin, the hill people or the Scots of Myanmar, celebrate Manaw festival. It is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar. The festival is usually held in January. This festival has been held for more than three decades. Manaw festivals is the celebration of the New Year, Victory in battles, reunion of the tribes etc. Everybody in town joins the spiritual dance lined up behind one another.

The traditional Manaw poles are decorated in colourful Kachin motifs and are centered in the middle of the festival ground. All who came to the festival wear their best traditional costume and the main feature of the festival is dancing around the erected Manaw poles, quite similar to the totem poles of North American Indians. Manaw festival is held in Myitkyina and Putao in Kachine State.

  • Date:   Around first week of January
  • Location: Myitkyina, Kachin State.
Kachin New Year festival

Kachin New Year festival

Naga festival (Chin State):

Numerous Naga tribes spread throughout the north-western hills of Myanmar. Most of the Naga are from the Chin State. But the festival place falls in the Sagaing Division, next to the Chin State. The places where the Naga inhabit are Khamti, Lashe, Lahel, and Nanyun in the Sagaing Division. There are 64 clans of the Naga tribe. Naga New Year festival is one of the most breathtaking and exciting events among many festival in Myanmar. The Naga is one of national races who live in Naga land. Their annual New Year festival is celebrated in the mid of January and participated by about 30 Naga clans. Naga national group gather at one of their towns to celebrate their New Year. Dressed in their finery of breads, feathers, fur, bear and tiger, they parade into town after walking several days over mountain and through valleys. One can also enjoy the unique songs and dances that may never be seen before. To all visitors, Naga New Year festival is a different world and amazing land to be visited and observed. Indochina tours Myanmar

  • Place:  Chin State
  • Time:   During January of every year, depends on Lunar calendar
Naga festival

Naga festival

Naga festival

Naga festival

Naga festival

Naga festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival (Mandalay):

The pagoda festival celebrates  on 14th Waxing Moon day and 15th full moon day of Tabodwe in Mandalay. The coldest month in Myanmar and during the festival, devotees light bonfires and cook huge pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame to offer monks at the Maha Muni pagoda. In other parts of the country, sticky rice is cooked as a celebration of the harvest and distributed within communities.

Glutinous rice (which is a delicacy) contests are also held on the pagoda’s platform. A variety of incense sticks are burnt for the Myanmar Buddha image on the full moon day. During this festival thousands of people from all over the country make the pilgrimage to the Mahamuni Pagoda. The temple is always the center of activities and during this festival it explodes with energy. Locals from far and near come to pay homage and respect to the Buddha image and enjoy the festival. Many street vendors sell, Thanakha, Myanmar made toys, Mandalay food and many more. It is very crowded in the pagoda’s compound.

  • Place:  Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, Mandalay, Mandalay Division
  • Time:   During February / March, depends on Lunar Calendar
Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival (Yangon):

It is one of the wonders of the world today, was believed to have built over 2005 years ago where Buddha’s relics were enshrined. The festival is usually held on the full moon day of Tabaung which is being in March. Many people in the country contributes funds for the repairing and a great number of people pay homage every day. There are many festivals throughout the year. The pouring water to the sacred Bo-tree, the overnight weaving contest for the yellow robes, the donation of golden leafs in a buck and many others are unnoticed festivals in each occasion. The traditional snacks and local products are displayed and sold in many stalls along the side ways to Shwedagon pagoda. It is worth moment for visitors to see how bustling Myanmar people enjoy their holiday and how they participate in religious activities of festivals. The renovation works were greatly done and the escalator on the western stairway and the elevators in all others are beautifully forced and the elevators in all others are beautifully forced and the spires are rebuilt. Even the campy is renovated with modern techniques. Visitors from all over the country enjoy the festival at such a time. They come to donate offertories

  • Place: Yangon, Yangon Division
  • Time: During February / March, depends on Lunar Calendar
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda festival (Southern Shan State):

Well known for its extensive limestone caves over million of years ago. Shwe Oo Min cave pagoda festival is as well celebrated on full moon day of Tabaung, starts a week before full moon day. Thousands of devotees from villages around the area come to pay homeage to the images of Buddha in the cave. There are some 6,000 Buddha images and interesting stalagmites.

  • Place: Pindaya, Southern Shan State
  • Time: During March
Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda festival

Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda festival

Kakku Pagoda Festival (Taungyi, Sounthern Shan State):

Annualy, Kakku pagoda festival is also held on full moon day. The devotees come from Pa-O village to the pagoda for praying respect and enjoy the days under very huge banyan trees surrounding the pagodas. There are over 2,000 ancient pagodas in Kakku pagoda compound. The Pa-O people dress up their best costume and getting to know each other while others come by their bullock carts to the festival.

As it is, all the people of the region arrive by the thousands, dressed in their traditional costumes. Some come in bullock carts while others arrive by more modern conveyances, on the village tractor. But the most interesting time to visit this place is to get there before dawn of the full moon day of Tabaung where the Pa O people in all their finery come with gaily decorated trays bearing morning food offerings.

  • Place: Kakku region, near Inle Lake, Shan State
  • Time: During March
Kakku Pagoda Festival

Kakku Pagoda Festival

Myanmar New Year Festival (Nation Wide):

The most famous festival of Myanmar is the Thingyan Water Festival, which is held from 13 April to 16 April every year. Thiangyan water festival, the greatest and the merriest, celebrated all over the country which goes together with Myanmar New Year. It features water throwing by the way of relieving of the intense heat of the season and washing away the sins of passing year. It is believed that water festival washes away sins and welcomes the New Year. The water festival represents the most popular, raucous and colorful celebration of the year for more than 120 million people who will abandon any thoughts of work and bring their nations to a standstill. People around the country gather together again and visits pagodas, offers and pay homage to the monks, play traditional games and celebrate with their joyous spirit.

Young and not-so-young people have great fun throwing at one another, teasing, singing, dancing and shouting during the festival. If you take part this festival, you will feel really awesome. But Thingyan is not all for fun and play. It is also a time for performing meritorious deeds. Some do religious deeds at monasteries. As a whole, during Thingyan period everything becomes dear. After playing around and having fun throughout the country, the city-dwellers welcome the New Year on the 17th by cleaning the floors of the pagodas and monasteries, washing old and aged people’s hair, helping to cut them their nails. Some offer free food and drinks for everyone who visits the pagodas, some make other donations. If you can be here with us, you will never forget the true joy.

  • Place: Countrywide
  • Time: April 13 to April 16 every year
Myanmar New Year Festival

Myanmar New Year Festival

Myanmar New Year Festival

Myanmar New Year Festival

 

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