Myanmar should be, out of question, highly regarded as “the Land of Festivals” having quite a large number of activities in the forms of monthly festivals, pagoda festivals, ethnic feasts and ceremonies around the year. There is no doubt to the fact these are, of course, the best time to enjoy the lovely nature of the respective area and particular ways of life-style on nature people. One remarkable point is that almost all the festivals in Myanmar are usually held according to “lunar calendar “while Kyaik-Hti-Yoe and Shwe-Set-Taw are two longest festivals covered about seven months annually.
The festival of all Kachin nationals, it is the commonest and the traditional festival, full of significance and essence. It is usually held at Myitkyina for one week in grand style accompanied by pomp and ceremonies. It is at a time when six major ethnic groups of Jingpaw, Rawang and Lisu etc. could be enjoyed in their striking costumes, emotional dances and musical instruments performed in dedication to Madai Nat (the chief) and all other nats. It is said that setting and decorations of Manau Ground look much alike to Red Indian.
Naga is a major ethnic group of Myanmar and lives up high rugged-mountainous area in the most primitive style. The most interesting festival of happy new year called “KAING BI” in Naga language is held at Khamti, Leshi, Iahe and Nanyung alternatively presented by various Naga sub-clans.
Among the pagoda festival in Myanmar, it is the most popular and crowded one. Regional people and villages come in fashionable bullock-carts assuming a vast fleet then camp for the duration from 9 waxing day to the full-moon day Pyatho. Next to routing of festivities, countless number of stalls in an open space is also enjoyable.
As an agro-based country, the productivities are somehow major points and harvest festival is accordingly held, and thus Htamane feast is in nation-wide held on the eve full-moon day of Tabodwe. The competitions of Htamane (an ingredients) are held inside monastic complexes, pagoda compounds or even in front of the houses. The month of Tabodwe also noted as the time for bonfire festival which is lesser known but a lovely tradition curious enough, is performed in presence of the Buddha-image, pagoda or even for the warmth of the Ven-Abbot at a monastery. This tradition is still mostly held in upper Myanmar.
That is a well-known holiday of Shan people, one of the eight major ethnic groups in Myanmar. Performance and dancing contest are accordingly held at Taunggyi in Southern Shan State and Lashio in Northern Shan State on 9 February.
Like Shan people, the chin people also hold their national day on 20, February at Mindat of Southern Chin State and Haka of Northern Chin State simultaneously accompanied by performances, dances and songs of various Chin ethnic groups.
Maw-Tin-Zun Pagoda in Pathein of Ayerawaddy Division, Pindaya Pagoda in Southern Shan State and Shwe-myitzu Pagoda at Inn-Daw-Gyi lake in Kachin State are also held for about one week from 9th waxing day to full-moon day of Tabaungp, where is the last one favourable by the presence of Kachin, Kadu and Kanan ethnic people.
It is annually held at the respective pagoda precinct in Kyauktalon of Taunggyi Township on the full-moon day of Tabaung in which pious Pa-oh people from all the neighbouring villages intentionally come in homage the pagoda. Some comes by bullocks and over-night under the century old shady banyan tree in order not to miss early morning rites and rituals.
There is a far and wide well-known festival in Tagu as Thingyan or Water Throwing Festival, but actually The Happy New Year of Myanmar. Based on the interpretation of Lunar Calendar System, this festival usually lasts 5 or 4 days in which everyone is authorized to pour water on another. One curious fact is that natives and people in Mon State only still keep on watering to one another on the first day of new year while the rest of country have already terminated to pour so. On the other hand, Thingyan is highly regarded as the most hilarious and merriest monthly festival around the year.
It is held on 4 waxing day of Tagu in Patheingyi Township of Mandalay and commemorating to the tragic legendary of lady Shwe U in which she was attacked and killed by a mythical tiger assumed of the younger Shwe Pyinn for her rejection to his proposal.
It is so held to commemorate U Min Kyaw, most commonly pronounced as Ko Gyi Kyaw who is believed to pass away in the 12th century by means of alcoholism. A womanizer, drunkard and opium addict, he is widely popular with gamblers, alcoholics etc. The powerful spirit travels around the country and usually takes a break at Gu-ni village in Magway on his way home back. The ceremony lasts about 5 days, in Tabaung.
It falls on the full-moon day of Kason according to the Lunar Calendar (in May). All Buddhists both men and women go to pagoda in procession for pouring water on the sacred Bo Tree throughout the country.
It is usually held at Mrauk-U in Rakhine State and lasts 8 days from 8 waxing day to full-moon day of Kason. It is always accompanied by ceremonies and contests at the foot of the respective pagoda.
It celebrates at Pakkoku in Magway Division from 8th waxing day to 10th waxing day of Nayon. Since, it is one of the most revered Buddha-images in upper Myanmar, a series food stalls, toy shops, consumer shops, puppet shows and dramas, etc… could be enjoyed as a typical pagoda festival of Myanmar.
It is held at “the Golden Cave” in Pindaya of Southern Shan State and lasts about two weeks up to the full-moon day of Kason. Taung-Yoe people come in grand procession with torch-light to pay homage to the numerous images and status inside the cave in the earlier part of the night.
It is the remarkable time when the Tipitaka examination is accordingly held in nation-wide under the auspices of the government and religious associations then resumed with a greater momentum, honoring of the outstanding custodians of the Tipitaka excels all other festive occasions in the country.
There are two major ceremonies as (1) The Rain Retreat and Dhammacakkra-pavattana Sutta, both are in pure religious affairs. Since the full-moon day of Waso is the beginning of Buddhist lent which covered for three month from the full-moon day of Waso to Thadingyut. Eventually, the ceremony of taking rain retreat is purely a religious function of the Sangha, but the laity also participates in it and make the occasion more like a festival by doing deeds of merit such as dedication of food, robe, shelter and medicine (the four requisites of a Bhikkhu Sangha going into rains retreat. Meanwhile young people and teenagers go around gathering flowers of the season offering to the pagoda.
Another important feature of Waso full-moon day is that the recitation of Dhammacakkra-pavattana Sutta in chorus by the religious associations to commemorate the significant events in Buddha’s life such (a) conceived of Mother Yasodara, (b) great renunciation and (c) especially, deliverance of the above mentioned Sutta, the very First Sermon.
It is usually held at the precinct of Mahamuni Temple in Mandalay for about 40 days ending up on the full-moon day of Waso. Cane-ball (Chinlone in Myanmar pronunciation) is century-old traditional game of Myanmar and unique to foreigners. It focuses on gentleness, skillfulness and mutual understanding of the players then calls for a space of circle, about 7 meters in diameter but not for strength, power, money nor popularity. Regarding to these admirable qualities, foreign players from Japan, Canada, Thai and Europe etc., intentionally come to participate this Cane-ball contest annually.
It is a four day ceremony covered from 1st to 4th waxing day of Wagaung in Rakhine State. Women in all classes of Sittway group altogether at the mountain cliff where the guardian spirit is believed to dwell. They stick yellow paper ribbons on the boulders with banana paste homage to the spirit.
It is a hilarious ceremony usually held on 8th waxing day of Wagaung to 3 months onward at the bank of Mone Canal in Pwint-phyu of Minbu. A large number of gigantic catfishes so-called pilgrim fishes could be fed throughout Buddhist Lent which most of local people believe is the only duration those fishes appear.
It is an interesting ceremony of our brothern Kayin people and annually held all over Pha-an, the capital of Kayin State commencing on 8th waning day of of Wagaung to two weeks forward. Members of all Kayin Clans meet at the assigned spot and usually sing, dance then pray finally tie cotton threads, similar to those of amulets or talismans, around their wrist believing to ward off the evil and misfortune.
This is little known ceremony in commonest tour destination since it is usually held for 3 days from 8th to 10th waxing days of Wagaung at Mingun village, near Mandalay. Attending of a nat audience on 8th, having a royal bath on 9th and cutting celebrated by the companion of sailing hundreds of small boats on mighty Ayerwaddy River, performances of spiritual dance and paying to the nats.
Among the Nat festival and spiritual performances in Myanmar, it is the most famous of its kind, even drawing the attention and evoking the curiosity of people from abroad then usually lasts five days from 1st to 5th waxing days of Tawthalin at Taungbyone village near Mandalay. Attending a nat audience on 1st day, having a nat audience on 2nd day, ascending the throne on 3rd day, presenting roast rabbit on 4th day and cutting Htein on 5th and finally day are accordingly held together with the gathering of spiritual dances.
It is a three day ceremony and held at the town of Yay in Mon State. During the ceremony, the Buddhists bring Gold-painted alms-bowls and offering to the nearby monastery for the dedication to the residing monks of the respective monastery. This act of doing meritorious deed is highly believed to be an excellent investment for nature existence and eternal life.
It is also known as the Mother of Taungbyone festival and held at Amarapura, some 7 miles to the south of Mandalay for five days: Attending a nat audience on 1st day, having a royal bath on 2nd days, ascending the throne on 3rd days, grief of daughter of Mahagiri on 4th day and cutting of Htein tree on 5th days are ceremonially accomplished. The advantage point of this festival is that of taking a rowing boat trip to the site.
It is a regional festival held for 3 days at Paungde. The tooth-relic usually locked in a secured point away, is put on an elephant back and ceremonially taken around the town on the full-moon day Thadingyut by the accompanying of colourful dresses, pomps and ceremony.
This festival is held on the full-moon day of Thadingyut to mark the end of the Buddhist Lent. During the three days of the festival, each and every house and building Street, Town and City of the entire nation is well embellished with colourful lights and brilliantly illuminated. Pagodas are crowded with people in doing of meritorious deeds so it is not only a time of joy but also of thank giving and paying homage to parents, elders and teachers.
It falls on the 14 waxing day and full-moon day of Thadingyut at Kyaukse, a town some 26 miles to the south of Mandalay. At the festival time, figures of elephant made by rice floor are carried on open palanquins around the town then offered to the shrine of Shwe-Tha-Lyaung, a large reclining Buddha on top of the bill. For the elephant dance contest, life-size and life-like elephant proportionately constructed by bamboo, paper and cloth, are performed in front of the main pandal then required to go about the market three times to accomplish their effort in turn by the accompanying of 20 – 30 men including musicians.
It is so held on Inlay lake of southern Shan State and usually lasts about 20 days, from 1st waxing day to 3rd waxing day of Thadingyut. During the festival, 4 Buddha-images out of 5 are gracefully set on a beautifully decorated royal barge and voyage from village to village drawn by leg rowing boats. Well-known leg rowing boat contest are also exhibited throughout the festival period.
It is held at the respective pagoda in Nyaung U for about one week finishing on the full-moon day of Thadingyut.
It celebrates at Sutaungpyae Pagoda compound in Monywa of Sagaing Division in which over a thousand monks receive offering bowls.
This festival is held for 4 days at the foot of Mandalay Hill and a pagoda festival of a lot to be enjoyed, such as, open air markets, performances, circus, Myanmar therater show, etc.
It is a held for one day at Dawei in Tanintharry Division. Alms-bowl filled with ample vegetarian food are afloat down on the river early in the morning, similar ceremony of Botahtaung in Yangon.
This festival is accordingly held on the full-moon day of Tazaungmon by Myanmar Calendar. Like Thadingyut, mansions and public buildings to every nook and corner of the country are colourfully illuminated. Kathina robes and other requisites are offered to the Holy Order at Kahtein ceremony. One remarkable point of that Mathothingan or timely woven robes are offered to the images of Buddha by means of weaving competition throughout the night of the eve to the full-moon day.
It is the glory of Shan State and one of the popular occasions in Myanmar then held at Taung-gyi, the capital of Shan State. A variety of shapes and designs of hot-balloon are presented to participate the grand contest and ceremony of firework is also held in the forms of belle-illustration and competitive nature.
It is held at the respective temple in Bagan Archaeological zone in which 9 different fruits and flowers are dedicated to the Buddha-image of the temple together with other offerings such as candle-lit, water, alms-food and ins cent-stick so on.
Kayin people usually hold their new year on the 1st waxing day of Pyatho in accordance with their own traditional calendar. It celebrates mainly in the Kayin settlements of Yangon and other places where Kayins dominate accompanied by feast and ceremonies with performances.
It is so held at the pagoda compound in Sanchaung Township of Yangon in which a complete set of 5000 candle-life or oil-lamps are ceremonially donated to the colossal Buddha-image.
It celebrates for one day on the pagoda platform of Golden Rock in Kyaikhto Township of Mon State. 9000 candle lit or oil-lamps and a variety of 9000 flowers are fantastically arrayed in beautiful designs dedicated to the Golden Rock. Sometime, musical troupe of Kayin people in their bright traditional costumes entertain the pagoda and the audience with their delightful dance and performances.
It is held throughout the country while major ceremonies and events set in specific places.