Festivals in Myanmar

Festival Calendar
1. Ananda Pagoda(Bagan) Fullmoon of Pyatho (January)
2. Kyaik khauk Pagoda 1st waxing to fullmoon of Tabodwe (February)
3. Shwesettaw Pagoda 5th waxing to fullmoon of Tabodwe (February)
4. Sticky Rice Competitions Fullmoon of Tabodwe (February)
5. Pho Oo Taung Pagoda Fullmoon of Tabodwe (February)
6. Mahamuni Pagoda(Mandalay) 10th waxing to fullmoon of Tabodwe(February)

Mahamuni Pagoda(Mandalay)
7. U Min Kyaw Nat (Pakhan) 3rd to 10th waxing of Tabaung (March)
8. Inndawgyi Shwe Mitzu Pagoda 8th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung (March)
9. Bawgyo Pagoda(Thibaw) 10th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
10. Pindaya Pagoda 11th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung(March)

Pindaya Pagoda
11. Shwemyethman(Shwedaung) 13th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung(March)

Festival related to Pagoda
12. Kekku Pagoda 14th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
13. Shwedagon Pagoda Fullmoon of Tabaung(March)

Shwedagon Pagoda Fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
14. Shwesandaw(Pyay)Pagoda Fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
15. Yele (Kyauktan)Pagoda Fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
16. Alon Bo Bo Gyi(Monywa) 9th waning to 14 waning of Tabaung(March)

Festival related to Nat(Spirit)
17. Mawtin soon Pagoda 8th waxing to fullmoon of Tabaung(March)
18. Thingyan New Year Festival TBA (normally mid-April)
19. Shwemawdaw Pagoda 8th waxing to 5th waning of Tagu(April)
20. Nyaung Ye Thun Festival Fullmoon of Kason(May)
21. Ponnyashin(Sagaing)Pagoda Fullmoon of Waso(June)
22. Taungbyone Nat 8th waxing to fullmoon of Wagaung(July)
23. Yatanagu Nat Festival 8th waning of Wagaung(July)
24. Paungde Buddha Tooth Relic 13th waxing to fullmoon day of Tawthalin Festival (September)
25. Manuha Pagoda Festival 14th waxing to fullmoon day of Tawthalin (September)
26. Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda 1st waxing to 3rd waning of Thadingyut (October)
27. Thadingyut Lights Festival Fullmoon of Thadingyut(October)
28. Kyaukse Elephant dance Fullmoon of Thadingyut(October)
29. Myathalun(Magway)Pagoda Fullmoon of Thadingyut(October)
30. Tazaungdine Festival Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)
31. Hot Air Balloon (Taunggyi) Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)

Hot Air Balloon (Taunggyi) Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)

Festival related to Competition
32. Kekku Pagoda(Shan) Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)
33. Meilamu(North Okkala)Pagoda Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)
34. Weaving competition Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)
35. Shwezigon Pagoda Fullmoon of Tazaungmone(November)
Please note there are festivals every fullmoon at Sagaing Hills also but too numerous to note.
All Pagoda/nat festivals are on lunar calendar. Please to check ahead for actual dates.

Festivals in Myanmar

Naga New Year Festival (January)
Naga New Year Festival is one of the rarest of ceremonies in Myanmar. There are more than 49 different clans with their own distinctive dresses and dialects. They usually gather annually to celebrate the New Year on January 15.

Ananda Pagoda Festival (January)
Ananda Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Bagan. The Great Ananda Pagoda Festival is said to have been going on continuously since the Bagan period. Long ago, people from many villages around Bagan came to the festival in bullockcarts and made camp for the whole duration of the festival. Even now some villagers still come to the festival the traditional way. You will definitely enjoy the traditional lifestyle of the locals of Bagan during this festival.

U Min Kyaw Nat Festival (February)
U Min Kyaw was a son of the Lord of Pyay and Kuni Devi. He was a drunkard and cock fighter and also a very good horse rider. According to legend, U Min Kyaw was the governor of Pa Hkan, a prosperous town under the suzerainty of Bagan. But U Min Kyaw was not a good governor. He is always engaged in debauchery, drunkenness or cock fighting. To cut the story short, he fell afoul of the King at Bagan and was put to death. This festival is held during February or March depending on the lunar calendar at Pahkan near Pakokku.

This festival is mainly visited by those wishing to make their businesses prosper by praying to him and requesting his intervention. He was killed by the devils who had been his victims.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival (March)
Shwe Dagon Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Myanmar and previously this pagoda festival was one of the most visited festival for pilgrims all over the country. The legend is that Shwe Dagon Pagoda enshrines in it’s relic chamber 4 articles of holy relics belonging to the four Buddhas that have gained enlightenment in this era. But now the festival has transformed into a purely religious nature. There would be a competition to weave holy robes for the Buddha Images at four corners of the pagoda before dawn using traditional looms. Monks would recite the holy scriptures 24 hours continuously throughout the duration. The festival is supposed to be in it’s 2546 years. The festival of the Shwedagon Pagoda is celebrated on the fullmoon day of Tabaung (March) every year. Many people in the country contributes funds for the repairing and a great number of people pay homage every day. The greatest festival is that of Tabaung festival.
Visitors from all over the country enjoy the festival at such a time. They come to donate offertories.

Kekku Pagoda Festival (March)
A cluster of more than 3000 pagodas said to be from Bagan period, but in the Yun Shan style, are grouped on a small hillock overlooking the Hopon Valley. Pa O people flock to the festival in their best costumes to pay homage to the pagoda on the full-moon day of Tabaung (March). The best time to see this is at dawn on the full-moon day when villagers come with offerings and food to be offered to the Buddha Images. The festival ends with the pilgrims offering rice and other items to more than 1000 monks. Most of the pagodas are in ruins but the main Pagoda has been renovated with donations from the Chief Monk of the Buddhist Monastery in Singapore and local donors.

Pindaya Pagoda Festival (March)
Shan, PaO, Palaung, Taung Yoe, Intha, Danu groups from around Pindaya come in bullock carts and camp under the huge banyan trees to celebrate the festival. Harvest has been done and crops are sold for festival. The Pindaya Cave houses hundreds of Buddha Images, some old and some new. Pindaya Shwe Oo Min cave Pagoda festival is held on and around Full moon day of Tabaung. It starts seven days before the full moon day. During the festival time, thousands of devotees come from villages around the area to the cave. It is a joyous scene, people coming in a group with car, or some are coming in huge line of Native bullock-cart. The tribal circle the ox-cards, and in the middle people cook, and sleep during festival. A kind of pagoda mall is set up at the foot of the hill under big shady Banyan trees to sell local products.

Thingyan Festival (April)
Thingyan is the Myanmar New Year celebrations. Actually it is the celebration to commemorate the end of the old year and it could last from 3 to 4 days and the next day immediately following the last day of Thigyan is the New Year Day. All over the country the people celebrate the festival by throwing water on each other to symbolize the cleansing of misfortunes of the old year but sometimes this cleansing could be with a firehose! Astrologers calculate when the old year will end and when the New Year Day will fall. It may seems strange to westerners to learn that the transition to the 1st day of the new year could be in the middle of the day or any other time that the astrologers had calculated. According to one legend there was a dispute between some Celestial Beings and Brahma lost and his severed head was supposed to be held up by the females Celestial Beings because if this head is put on land the land will be scorched and if it is put in the oceans they will dry up. Hence the female Celestial Beings take turns to hold up this head and annually this head is transferred to another
at this time. Another legend believed by all Myanmar people that Thagya Min or King of the Celestial Beings descend to the realm of Humans at this time, stays for the duration and returns back to his abode at the end of the Thingyan celebrations. That is believed to be the time when the old year passes into new. That is why during Thingyan every Buddhist household put out a bowl of water with flowers and Eugenia sprigs to welcome the Thagya Min. On the first day of the New Year meritorious deeds are performed at all Buddhist households. The younger generation washe the hairs and trim the fingernails of the elderly. Food is offered to the monks etc

Waso Chinlone Festival
Each year most of the villages and urban communities in Myanmar celebrate festivals of their neighborhood pagodas. Obeisance, annual gathering, farm competitions, entertainments and sporting games are mostly common at these pagoda festivals. Thus Festival of Mahamunu Shrine, being one of most venerated and cherished religious monuments, is celebrated ornately in various ways. Chanting of Buddhist Scriptures for weeks, paying homage by hundreds of thousands of devotees, nights of staged Zat-Pwe (theatrical mélange of traditional dances, comedians’ comics and musical performances complementing the two thematic dramas, one of conventional and another of legendary), half-a-nights’ shows of marionette, etc., and Waso Chinlone Festival.

Waso is fourth month of Myanmar calendar, its 30-day-span lays somewhere from mid- June towards mid-July. Waso Chinlone Festival of Mahamuni Shrine in the year 2009 stretched for 47 days, continuously. It was 81st. game held annually since 1928, largest sport event in its kind, participated by 1220 Chinlone teams. They had travelled across from all corners of the country to pay homage the most revered Shrine, and to convene in tribute to the game of Chinlone. It is believed that game has taken root in Myanmar for more than 1500 years since. Among archeological findings excavated from Bawbawgyi Stupa of Srikhetra Era (AD 5th. Century) is one ornamental chinlone made of silver.

Playing the game is to keep the chinlone airborne among six players team, standing within marked circle of 6.7 meters, for minutes toward hours by allowing only to touch with foots and knees. Knee, toes, sole, heel, inner and outer sides of foot are used to receive, to play out sets of performances by tossing, and to pass on the flying chinlone to another teammate. Style of performance, pattern of conveying, posture of each and every players are accounted to be a good game. For each player all senses are gathered in taking his or her part of team, coupled with agility and stamina in controlling muscles and skeleton. In Festival of Mahamunu Shrine, as the grandeur of game call for, chinlone contest is performed with live music of Myanmar saing-waing (traditional orchestra) and running commentary, both in complementing the game rhythmically and inspirationally. At times by swift movements of players in rigorous tempo which leads to uproarious moments, and some times by tense anticipation and quiet following especially when most clever soloist is performing intricate masterpieces. Chinlone is team sport requiring long physical practices, with elements of artistic dances and martial arts. It is a pride of Myanmar.

Kason Full Moon Day Festival (May)
The month Kason usually falls on May of the English calendar. The month of excessive great. It is the season water in all ponds, lakes and creeks reduces to its lowest level. During the month of Kason the length of the day is longer and the night is shorter. People of Myanmar regard the month of Kason as Taurus) season and the sign of the podiac is a ball. The seasonal flower is Sagar and this festival is water pouring ceremony at the maha- Bodhi tree, the holy Banyan tree at the foot of which the Buddha attained Buddhahood or enlightenment. As the month of kason is at the middle of the hot reason, the earth is dry and people pour water at the Maha-Bodhi tree to make sure it does not die of drought during the hot summer. This has become an integral part of Myanmar culture and on every full-moon day of kason, the Buddhist people would march in a grand procession to the Bodhi tree or to the pagodas to pour scented water. The full-moon day of kason is significant for other seasons too. It is the day on which
(1)Gotama Buddha was born,
(2) attained enlightenment,
(3) passed away, and
(4) as a recluse in is this previous existence,
blessed by the prophecy of Depankara Buddha that he (sumedha) would also become a Buddha one day in the very remote future. It also is the day on which the original Bodhi tree arose from out of the earth as an assurance of the coming of the Gotoma Buddha. The Bodhi tree has relations with Lord Buddha so it becomes respectable for the Buddhists. Lord Buddha attained enlightenment underneath the Bodhi tree so the Buddhists revere the tree. On the Fullmoon day of Kason Buddhist devotees celebrate not only water pouring ceremony at the Bodhi tree but also perform meritorious deeds by keeping Sabbath, meditation, offering flowers, light, water and incense to the images of lord Buddha. There are so many banyan tress in various regions of Myanmar. The majestic trees give cool shade and grandeur as well as dignity, grace and charm. Water pouring ceremony to the Bodhi tree in the month of Kason had been performed successively since the time of Myanmar monarchs to the present day. The performance of the ceremony is supportive not only to the religion and
tradition but also to keeping trees green and lush. The photos were taken from the Kason Bodhi tree watering festival which takes place at the Shwedagon Pagoda, every year.

Waso Full Moon Festival (June)
The Myanmar month of Waso (June) is the beginning of the monsoon rains. It is also the start of the Buddhist Lent. Monks are prohibited to travel overnight from their monasteries. According to the monks’ code of conduct they are still obligated to make the rounds for their daily food whether it is raining or not. As it is they would need spare robes. Therefore there is a ceremony to offer robes to the monks for use during the wet season.

Taung Byone Nat Festival (August)
This festival is actually a festival of the pagoda supposed to be built by King Anawrahta at Taung Byone village near Mandalay but it has degenerated into a kind of festival devoted to the two brothers, Shwe Pyin Gyi and Shwe Pyin Galay (also known as Min Gyi and Min Lay). These two young boys were favorites of King Anawrahta and were the target of scorn by other members of the court. These two brothers were also notorious for their bad habits, cockfighting, womanizing and drunkenness.

On his return from a military expedition to China, Anawrahta stopped at this village and proposed to build a pagoda and decreed that every one should contribute a brick towards the construction. But the two brothers couldn’t care less and went on their own way. When Anawrahta inspected the pagoda he saw two vacant places and questioned about the culprits. The other members of the court accused the two brothers for their negligence and the King commanded them to be punished. The other members of the court took the King’s command broadly and killed these two brothers and they became nats. When Anawrahta’s barge started for Bagan it was held back by the supernatural powers of these two brothers and when the King enquired on this phenomenon the two brothers showed themselves to the King and told him the whole story and asked for some place for their own. Anawrahta gave them Taung Byone village to them and from that time onwards Taung Byone Festival became the festival to pay homage to these two brothers instead of the original idea of a pagoda festival.

Taung Byone : The village is about nine miles north of the Mandalay Hill. The Taung Byone Nat festival is held every year in the Myanmar month of Wa Gaung (around August – September). The Taung Byone Nat festival is held for four days and reaches the climax on the fourth day when the faithful observe the bathing ritual of the two Nat princes, carried on palanquin followed by the train of procession to the Shwe Ta Chaung stream (the Golden stream) which runs close to the west of the village.

Manuha Pagoda Festival (September)
Manuha Pagoda Festival is held annually one day before the Full Moon Day of Tawtalin. Depending on the Lunar Calendar, the festival is held in end of September or start of October. Manuha Pagoda Festival is celebrated for three consecutive days. During the festival, rice cakes and pickled winter melon are served to all comers from near and far. The Myinkaba region dwellers donate these to all visitors. This is apart of the traditional practice of this festival. This tradition is also believed to have been descended from the time of the King Manuha. The Manuha temple is on the right side of the main road going south from Bagan, and right in Myinkaba village. King Manuha’s inscription says that it was built in AD 1067 about a decade after the Mon king was brought to Bagan.

The name of the temple was given after the name of the captive King Manuha. Traditionally, Manuha was considered one of the earliest temples at Bagan. Legend says that it was built by a Mon king named, Manuha, who had been defeated and brought to Bagan as a captive by Anawrahta. In Bagan the kings and queens, the princes and princesses all built pagodas large and small. Manuha the Mon king, detained in Bagan, also wanted to build a temple of his own. He did not have ready money in cash, so he sold his priceless Manaw Maya jewel to a rich merchant of Myinkaba and obtained six cartloads of pure silver. He used this to build the impressive Manuha Temple. It is still a place of worship for the Buddhists.

Monks from many monasteries around the region are invited to the Manuha Pagoda and are offered rice on the morning of the Full Moon Day of Tawtalin. The parade of colourful paper mache figures roam around the city during the festival. The locals create colourful and beautiful decorations of images such as the Manuha King himself, tigers, cows, elephants, horses, and even some stars of today. The number of representation varies up to hundred. The parade goes on until the end of the day.Locals and foreign visitors enjoy the sight of the colourful paper mache figures and also the lifestyle of the Bagan locals. There are other entertainments such as Zat Pwe and Anyeint at the night time. Villagers near and far never misses this opportunity of participating the Manuha Festival.

King Manuha was the last king of the Mon Kingdom of Thatone. He succeeded the throne from King Udinna. Manuha was the 59th in the line of kings who supposedly founded Thaton. Manuha and his family along with 30,000 monks and artisans were brought to Bagan.

Thadingyut Full Moon Day Festival (October)
This is normally known as Festival of Lights and celebrated for three days: one day before the fullmoon day, fullmoon day and the day after. Legend is that Buddha spent the Lent in the realm of the Celestial Beings (Tavatimsa) and at the end of the Lent came back to the realm of Humans. He came back, accompanied by his 500 disciples and flanked by all the Celestial Beings, by three stairways; gold, silver and ruby. The humans on earth welcomed Him with lights. At this time all Buddhists go around to their elders’ houses and pay homage to them. The elders also give back some money to the children which make them very happy.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (October)
One of the famous principal shrines in Myanmar, this pagoda houses five small Buddha images. In Inlay Lake annually from approximately in the middle of October or the month of Thadingyut. Four Gilt Buddha Images are borne on a gilt barge around the villages in Inlay Lake. The legend is that these Images were left there by King Alaung Si Thu of Bagan dynasty. It is held on a grand scale for 18 days, usually falls in October (sometimes in September depending on the Myanmar Lunar Calendar).

There are also Shan traditional boat races participated by leg-rowers. People from all the villages nearby come to pay homage to the Images. Four Buddha Images out of five from Phaung-daw-oo Pagoda are carried on royal barge and conveyed around 14 villages on the Lake. The barge is towed by the boats of leg – rowers and hundreds of boats follow the procession. The large crowds of people gather on the lake-shores to celebrate the occasion. It is really a splendid sight. Among the dance shows and fun-fairs, the most interesting event of the festival, especially for foreigners, is their boat race – due to their unique leg rowing. It is the one and only place in the world that one can see such marvelous act.

Tazaungmone Full Moon Festival (November)
This is supposed to be the time when the sky is totally clear and the Tazaungmon Festival is usually held on the fullmoon day. This is usually in November. After the rains the monks would need new robes and on the fullmoon day the offering of new robes for the monks are held. It is called the Kha htein ceremony. The fullmoon day of Tazaungmone is the last day that this ceremony can be held. People light up their houses for this ceremony. One interesting event is that people light candles on all items they use as a sign of paying homage to the guardian nats of that particular item. Also young people try to steal every movable item from any household and set them up at such improbable places as merry pranks on the first night after the fullmoon day. They belief that the “thieves planet” dominate this night and they play this prank on others. Also many older people belief that the herbs and other natural plants posses special potency on the fullmoon night of Tazaungmone and they prepare a special salad of “mezali buds ( Cassia siamea )” to be eaten that night.

Taunggyi Tazaungmone Hot Air Balloon Festival (November)
People from around Taunggyi make elaborate hotair balloons in various shapes and send them up. Huge balloons of more than 24-30 feet in height and hung with lighted lanterns underneath and spewing fireworks are sent up at night. Many villages and people from around Taunggyi compete with each other on who can do the most spectacular balloon. The festival starts about a week ahead of the fullmoon day.

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival (November)
Perched on the tip of a boulder it is a geological phenomena. Legend is that the custodian of some hairs of Lord Buddha enshrined them in this rock shaped like his head. One popular folk tale is of a native Kayin girl who was selected by a Myanmar King and then had to return disgraced back to her people as a victim of court jealousies but was killed on the road by a tiger. The Kayins of her native village put the blame on the pagoda for the girl’s death justifying that had the pagoda not been there the king would not come and consequently the girl would not be chosen to go to the palace and she would still be living. They then decided to pull down the pagoda but were all transformed into monkeys. There is a shrine built to this girl (Shwe Nan Kyin) near the pagoda’s entrance. Our grandparents had told us that long time ago there was a space beand ends on the fullmoon night. Also at Taunggyi to pay homage to the Atula Laba Muni Pagoda. All the people of Taunggyi and its environs walk to the pagoda with lighted lanterns. tween the two rocks and a thread could be passed between them. Even now the upper rock rocks slightly if pushed and it can be easily seen if a thin strip of bamboo is put between these two rocks. The bamboo strip will bend visibly.