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MYANMAR FESTIVALS

KACHIN STATE

Manaw is the colorful festival of the Kachin people who live in northern Myanmar. Traditional Manaw was a Nat Festival, honoring guardian spirits, and the Padaing Nat is believed to be the protector and benefactor of the Kachin. There are many versions of Manaw: a version to celebrate the New Year, other versions to celebrate victory in battle, house-warmings, and so on. In earlier times it was a festival for the Duwars, or tribal chieftains, but now it is the victory festival for all of Kachin State. A big Manaw Festival is usually held on Kachin State Day, 10 January, in the state capital, Myitkyina, to usher in the New Year and to celebrate prosperity and abundance. Traditional Manaw poles, decorated with Kachin motifs, and are placed in the center of the Manaw grounds. A line of elaborately dressed dancers, led by shamans, approach the Manaw poles to the sound of brass gongs. As is usual for all mountain people, the dance is communal and everybody lines up behind the leaders. The dance is a show of gratitude to their ancestral spirits and their wish for brighter future. Although most Kachin are now Christians, they are still proud of their ancestral traditions.

Inndawgyi, Myanmar's biggest natural lake is situated in the Moegaung area in the Myitkyina district of the Kachin State. The lake is 16 miles long (north-south) and 7 miles wide (east-west) with a total lake area of is 80 sq miles. Every year in March, the festival of the Shwe- Myintzu Pagoda, built during the Konebaung era, is held from the 8th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tagaung.

SHAN STATE

The most significant festival in Taung Gyi is the Tazaungdine Lighting Festival held in November, during this festival, hot-air balloon competitions are held. The festival features a colorful display of decorated hot-air balloons in different sizes and in the shapes of animals including elephants, pigs, cattle, horses, the mythical Hintha bird, and hens. The night sky lights up with colorful fireworks and lights from the multicolored hot-air balloons. The natural beauty of Taung Gyi and its environs can be viewed form Mya Sein Taung zedi.
 

This festival is held in Kalaw in November. Long poles stuffed with fire works are ceremoniously carried to a pagoda on the outskirts of the town. They are planted near the pagoda and are burned all night.
 

Bawgyo is near the town of Thipaw in Nothern Shan State. The festival is held around the full moon day of Tagaung (March). The 700 year old pagoda is the site of festivities for a week when pilgrims from all over Shan State arrive to worship the four holy images of the Buddha. The images are locked in a reliquary for most of the year, but during the festival days, the images are taken out for display, for worship and for gilding with gold foils.

Inlay Lake is the most famous scenic lake in Shan State. The picturesque lake is 22.4 km long and 10.2 km wide, and is about 900 m above sea level. It is famous for its unique leg-rowers, floating villages and colorful makers.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda in the lake is very famous and its houses five small Buddha images. The pagoda festival is held every year in the month of Thindingyut (October) with pageantry. Four of the five Buddha images are placed on a decorated royal barge and rowed around the lake, stopping at villages for people to pay homage. There are fun fairs, music, dances and boat races, and it is the biggest annual occasion in the Lake Inlay district.
 

Kakku Pagoda is in the territory of the Pa O people in Taung Gyi Township. There are about 2000 stupas packed closely together in ranks, covering an area perhaps a square kilometer. Legend says that Alaung Sithu, the 12th century king of Bagan, built the first stupas. The pagoda festival is held in Tagaung. On the full moon day, alms offering are carried out by the Pa- O people dressed in their traditional black outfits. There also is the festival market.

Shan State is situated in the eastern part of the country and has a total area of 61,091 sq miles which is a quarter of the total area of Myanmar. The State Day ceremonies are held in Taunggyi, Kyaing Tong, Lashio and many towns of the Shan State and other ethnic minorities are performed. Shans celebrate the Feast of Harvest on the 3rd of February, one day before the Shan State Day.

Pindaya well known for its lime stone caves is about 45 km from Kalaw. The cave is set deep in the hillsides, and at the entrance there is the 15 meter high Shwe Oo Min or Golden Cave pagoda. The tazaung or prayer hall was built by the famous hermit U Khati who also built many of the religious edifices on Mandalay Hill. The entire length of the cave is 490 feet and there are about 8,000 Buddha images made from various materials like teak, marble, alabaster, brick, cement and lacquer. All the images are enshrined in the nooks and corners of the winding caves. There are also numerous interesting stalactites and stalagmites in these stone caves. A three day pagoda festival is held in Tagaung (March). The native tribes such as Danu, Pa O, Taung Yoe and Palaung make offerings on the full moon day. Festivities include performances by roaming artists and there is a busy market.

KAYIN STATE

Kayin State comprises 7 townships and has a total area of 11,731 sq miles, ie, 4.9% of the Union of Myanmar. November 7 is the Kayin State Day, which is celebrated in Pa- an, the state capital.
 

The Kayin New Year falls on the 1st Waxing Day of Pyatho (usually in December, but some times in January). It is celebrated in Kayin State, Kayin quarters in Yangon and in other cities where Kayin dominate. The celebrations include folk dances, traditional boxing and fun fairs.

CHIN STATE

This one day festival is held in Haka (Nothern Chin State) and in Mindat (southern Chin State) on the 20th February. It is a popular holiday for the Chin, one of the major ethnic groups in Myanmar. Different Chin groups at both venues perform folk dances.

The Naga tribes live in the mountains, valleys and plains of one of the most remote regions on earth, in the northwest corner of Myanmar close to India. They live on both sides of the border. Their New Year Celebration is from the 14th to 15th January, and held in one of the towns in Sagaing Division, either Layshi or Khamti. Tribes from all of Nagaland, from both the Indian side and the Myanmar spots. The different Naga tribes, once fierce warriors, gather in their bright and exotic dresses and celebrate with endued drinking of rice wine, dancing and feasting on wild boar meat.

MON STATE

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda rests on top of a precariously balanced boulder overhanging a cliff on top of a ridge more than 3000 feet above sea level. The stupa itself is about 20 feet tall, resting on top of a 50 foot boulder balanced on the rocky cliff. The boulder, stupa and part of the cliff are gilded with gold leaf applied over the centuries by faithful pilgrims. There are many legends about the Pagoda and the "Nats" and "spirits". Access is only by foot, either a steep 45-minutes climb from the new car park or else a more gradual 7 miles walk taking four hours from the base camp of Kin mum, east of Kyaikhtiyo, about 160km from Yangon. The pagoda festival is held from Dabodwe to Tagu.

MANDALAY DIVISION

Mandalay the last capital of the Myanmar Kings is located in central Myanmar, 668 km north of Yangon. Alsp known as Yadanabon - nepyidaw (Gem City) it was built in 1857 by King Mindon, the father of the last king Thibaw. Mandalay is the largest city boasting a rich cultural heritage, and it is also a commercial center with rail, road, river and air links to all parts of the country.

King Bodawphaya built this pagoda in 1784 to house the Mahamuni Buddha Image, brought from Rakhine State. The image originally was of alloy but now it is heavily gilded with fine foils of gold, and is estimated to be over one ton in weight. Being the most revered Pagoda in Mandalay, the early morning ritual of washing the face of the Buddha's image draws a daily crowd of devotees. The Pagoda Festival is held in the month of Dabodwe. In the first ceremony from the 1st Waxing Day to the 9th Waxing Day of Dabodwe (February), a number of monks chant Buddhist scriptures nonstop. On the 8th Waxing Day, there are communal offering of dry rations and other necessities to the monks from nearby monasteries. The evening entertainment includes zats (a variety of dances, songs, short & long plays), anyeints (comedic dances), open-air movies, and many stalls selling various traditional snacks and other utilities.

This is the most famous Nat Festival (appeasing of spirits) in Upper Myanmar. It is at Taung Pyone village, in Madaya Township, one hour drive from Mandalay. The festival is held in August, around the full moon day of Wahgaung, and lasts five days, with special programs each day.

This is another Traditional Nat Festival held in also in August, around the no moon day of Wahguang. The festival is on the Mandalay- Sagaing road in Amarapura Township, half an hour drive from Mandalay.

King Mindon built Kyaukrawgyi pagoda (the Pagoda of the great Marble Image) in 1865. The huge Buddha image was cast out of a single alabaster boulder and brought from the Sagaing hills, about 50 miles from Mandalay. Ten thousands laborers are said to have been employed for 13 days to transport the boulder along a specially dug canal o the site of the pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill. The festival is from 8th waxing day to the full moon day of Thindingyut (October). The event is similar to other pagoda festivals.

The Pagoda festival is celebrated during the Tazaungdine festival. People throw lotus flowers to the top of the stupa, located at the north entrance of the Mahamuni Pagoda, as homage to the Lord Buddha.

It is a traditional "Nat" festival from 30th July to 5th August, similar to other "Nat" festivals, where people from surrounding areas came for the festival.

The uncompleted mammoth pagoda was built by King Bodawphaya (1781 - 1819 A.D) in Mingun, Sagaing area. It was built on 5th waxing day of Tabodwe of Myanmar Era, but it was left uncompleted due to a prophesy that once the pagoda is completed the country will break up. Had it been completed, it would be a height of some 500 feet and would have been a wonder. It was stopped at 162 ft (up to the first terrace) and its girth is about 450ft.  

Mogok is famous for its rubies and, hence, is called ruby-land. It is the center for mining and sale of quality rubies and other precious stones. During the days of the supervision of the appraisers in the royal city. Nowadays private gem traders open sale shops in Mogok, and there are also venues called "Hta Pwe" in reference to keeping gems in brass trays known as "Hta". The gem trading is carried out during the time where there is enough light; trading is done twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. One of the sweet customs of Mogok is that nobody sells fake gems; when one dealer is bargaining the price no other person would barged in to out bid him.

A traditional Shan Pagoda Festival held in the Nothern part of Pyin Oo Lwin, about an hour's drive from the centre of the town, on and around the full moon day of Tagaung. It is similar to other traditional festivals.

SAGAING DIVISION

This huge pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing, south west of Mandalay, across the Ayeyarwaddy River. The enormous dome rises 46 meters in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modeled after the Mahomet in Sri Lanka. Also known as Rajamanisula, the pagoda was built to commemorate Inwa's establishment as the royal capital of Myanmar. The pagoda festival is held around the full moon day of Tazaungdine. The most interesting aspect of the festival is the caravan of bullock carts in the pagoda compound, some carrying village products like hand-woven cotton cloths and rattan mats for sale at the festival.

Monywa, the commercial center of the Chindwin Valley, is about 136 km northwest of Mandalay. A very unusual Buddhist temple complex, Thanboddhay, is situated about 20 kilometers from the town. The pagoda has a unique shape. Receding terraces top the square temple, with a myriad of small stupas surrounding the central golden chedi. The pagoda festival is held around the full moon day of Tazaungmone (November).

MAGWE DIVISION

This pagoda festival is held for more than one month from the second week of June to the third of July (Nayone to Waso).

Sale is a small town about 15 km south of Bagan, on the Ayeyarwaddy River. The Shinbinsagyo Pagoda festival is held around the full moon day of Waso (July).

The Magway Myathalun Pagoda is believed to have been built by Thubawga the philanthropist in the Maha Sakrit era. The original height was 52ft, but it was extended to 82ft by King Saw Lu of Bagan, enshrining 120 relics and seven gold Buddha images. When it was damaged by earthquake in Kawza Sakarit 1290, it was rebuilt to a height of 99ft. King Mindon gilded the pagoda in 1214 in the Myanmar calendar. The pagoda festival is held around the full moon day of Thindingyut for two weeks.

The Kyaungdawyar pagoda is in Pwint Phyu, and the festival is lengthy, held from mid July to the second week of October. It is a famous festival known as Fish Feeding Festival. People believe that hundreds of big fish, which can only be seen in July, came specially to pay homage to the pagoda.

AYEYARWADDY DIVSION

This pagoda is situated at Maw Tin Zun, Ngaputaw Township in the Pathein District of the Ayeyarwaddy Division. Maw Tin Zun is also called Nagayit Mountain, Tharana Mountain or Neibban Mountain. The pagoda is believed to have been built in Sakarit 103 by Zeyathena, the king of dragons, enshrining two hair relics of Buddha obtained from the two brothers Tapusa and Balika. It was named Maha Makuta Yanthi Buddhist Synod, and later, in Sakarit 457, King Alaung Sithu of Bagan renovated the pagoda and renamed it Phaung-daw-Oo Pagoda. The Pagoda festival is held in Tagaung (March) for 14 days around the full moon day. People from all over Myanmar country come to the festival.

In Maha Sakarit 113 the King and lay disciples of Rakhine cast the Maha Myatmuni Buddha Image in bronze and three more images were cast our of the surplus bronze. The fourth statue came to be known as the Man Aung Myin Statue. This statue was conveyed to Amarapura by the Crown Prince, son of King Bodawphaya, in Sakarit 1146. The image was housed in the front part of the royal palace and was called Nan-Oo-Phaya.
In Sakarit 1214 the statue was conveyed to Zalun by the Zalun headman U Shwe Pwint. The colonialists who had occupied lower Myanmar took the Image to England with the intention of using the bronze in their mint. According to legend they could neither melt it nor break it with hammers, and the Queen was said to have suffered nagging headaches and nightmares. She ordered that the statue be returned to the place from where it was taken. But because the British could not remember the original site from where it was taken, they left it on a sandbank near Hintha, and the people called it Padawmu Phaya - the image found on the sandbank. A tug- of -war over ownership took place between the citizens of Zalun and Hintha, and Zalun emerged as the winners. The image has been kept in Zalun ever since. In memory of its having been taken abroad and having been brought back, it became famous as the Man Aung Myin Pyitawpyan Image (the statue that was returned from abroad). This pagoda festival is held in Tagaung (March) for ten days around the full moon day.

BAGO DIVISION

Shwekyin a town in the Bago Division on the back of Sittuong River celebrates the light festival on the full moon day of Thindingyut (October). Thousands of lighted candles on terracotta bowls are floated en masse down the river.

YANGON DIVISION

Kyaik Khauk Pagoda is built on a hill on the road to the town of Kyauktan in Thanlwin, about a half an hour drive across the river from Yangon. It is believed that Shin Khawlaka and King Sula Thirimar Thawka of Thaton built the pagoda to enshrine hair relics of the Buddha donated by King Asoka of India in the 124 Buddhist Era. The pagoda festival is held around the full moon day of Dabodwe (February). Evening entertainment includes Zats, Anyeints, and stage shows and movies are shown in the open air.

It is common belief that 28 Buddha’s, including the last Gotama Buddha came into existence and passed onto Nibbana. In the fair weather season, people hold the 28 Buddha’s Festival in various townships around Yangon and in most other parts of Myanmar, according to their own calendars. The images of the Buddha’s are conveyed in a grand procession around the town for people to pay obeisance, accompanied by music and dances.

RAKHINE STATE

This is celebrated in Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine State, on April 12 every year, the eve of Water Festival. In the early hours of the night young women damsels grind the bark and roots of Thanakha, a scented wood, on rounded stone slabs to make a fine cream. Young men support the event with music and dance.

This ceremony is held on April 13 to the Buddha images with the aromatic thanakha cream made earlier by the women.

This 8 day festival is held at the pagoda's precincts in Mrauk Oo, Rakhine State, around the full moon day of Kasone (May). The main pagoda was built in five tiers, surrounding by a variety of stone pagodas. This pagoda festival is similar to other pagoda festivals, but it also includes exciting traditional wrestling. Boat races and water splashing in the Mrauk Oo canal also occur on the full moon day.

TANINTAYI DIVISION

The Salone are people living on archipelago in Myeik area. The Salone Traditional Festival (Sea Gypsies Festival) will be held from 14th to 16th February 2004 at Manjungalet Village on Boncho Island with the aim of developing and promoting Myeik archipelago as a tourist destination and attraction as unspoiled natural beauty of Myanmar for international market.

 

 
 
 

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