Culture: Festivals


Ananda Pagoda Festival in Bagan January
Naga Festival in Northern Sagaing Division January
Lahu and Lishaw Tribe festival in Kyaing Tong January - February
Chin New Year Festival in Min Det 12 February
Kyaikkhauk Pagoda Festival in Thanhlying February
Shwesetdaw Pagoda Festival in Minbu February to April
Pindaya Cave Pagoda Festival in Pindaya March
Shwe Myitzu Pagoda Festival in Inndawgyi Lake March
Shwe Sayan Pagoda Festival near Pyin Oo Lwin March
Nat Festival in Pakkoku and near Mandalay March
Kakku Pagoda Festival near Inle Lake March
Water Festival in whole country Mid April
Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival in Bago Mid April
Shinpinsakyo Pagoda Festival in Salay June
Lawkananda Pagoda Festival in Bagan July
Thihoshin Pagoda Festival in Pakkoku July
Sunooponnyashin Pagoda Festival in Sagaing July
Myazedi Pagoda Festival in Bagan August
Nat Festival near Mandalay August
Manuha Pagoda Festival in Bagan September
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival in Inle Lake October
Kyauk Dawgyi Pagoda Festival in Mandalay October
Myathalun Pagoda Festival in Magwe October
Kyaikkhami Pagoda Festival in Mawlamyaing October
Artificial Elephant Dance Festival in Kyaukse October
Shwezigon Pagoda Festival in Bagan
November
Hot Air Balloon flying Festival in Taunggyi November
Lighting festival in whole country November
Robe Weaving Festival in Shwedagon Pagoda November
Kaung Mudaw Pagoda Festival in Sagain November
Kachin New Year Festival in Myitkyina December / January

Note: All Pagoda festivals take place on dates set by the lunar calendar and vary of year to year.

Pagoda Festivals – Ananda and Shwezigon

When the moon is full, it’s festival time. The Pagoda Festivals are known as “pwe” meaning an occasion that anybody could enjoy and participate.

Day time events during “pwe” include cane ball tournaments, climbs ‘up the greasy bamboo poles’, and tug o’war. In the evening stage show entertainment takes place. The temporary stage is built in hard wood, the changing rooms of dancers are partitioned by cotton blanket, and raw bamboo mats are erected to wall the theatre. The traditional orchestra takes its place near the stage but on the ground. All power of electricity of the village is sent to the stage to give bright light. The music, the dress and the dance are performed in the traditional way. The people who do not want to see the show, enjoy wandering around the stalls that line up under the battery light. This is the general scene of “pwe” in rural Myanmar.

Myanmar people love the "pwe". Especially for the country people, "pwe" is a joyful break after year-round hard work in the fields. They work hard and look forward to enjoy the "pwe" with great temptation. They are longing to participate in the tournament, to watch the show, and to shop anything they want from the stalls that come to their place once a year. All the stalls are run by a kind of nomad people who follows the "pwe" all the year round.

The biggest pagoda festivals in upper Myanmar are held in Bagan area : The Shwezigon Pagoda Festival is held in November and the Ananda Pagoda Festival is held in January. The official festival date is on the full moon day of Thasaungmon for Shwezigon and Pyatho for Ananda. The festival lasts for three weeks. The villagers from nearby villages come by bullock-carts, some come by bamboo rafts or sailing boats especially the pottary people from the north sails down the Ayeyarwaddy with their all sizes of clay pots to sell in the festival. People who comes to the festival pay homage to the pagoda, enjoy the trading, see the show, learn about the people from the different part of their little world, then go back home refreshed and relaxed in anticipation of the coming ploughing season. Hundreds of bullock-carts standing near the pagoda, thousands of clay pots are displayed along the road, the colorful Pakkoku blankets are piled high for sale, and the reed mats from delta region come all the way upstream to Bagan, people from all levels stroll around, the introducing music from the show ground, everything makes the environs actively alive. The other lovely point, but not the least, is that the pagoda festival supports the survival of the traditional dance and music.

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Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival at Inle Lake

The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is located in the middle of Inle Lake. It’s festival is celebrated in the first two weeks of the seventh month of Myanmar’s lunar calendar (about end of September or beginning of October).

Tradition says, the 12th century King Alaung Sithu of Bagan dynasty who was very religious and fond of traveling, visited the Shan plateau and made five Buddha Images and built a shrine near the lake.  After centuries, these Buddha Images had disappeared from the public view until the 19th century. When the Governor Prince of Nyaung Shwe Town went for hunting in the forest near the Inle Lake he rediscovered the Images. They built a shrine on the lake to relocate the Images. Then they decided to celebrate Pagoda Festival on full moon day of Thidinkyut (generally it falls first or second week of October) just after monsoon. During the festival, Inntha people (‘sons of the lake’) made a barge in the form of the mythical Karaweik bird to carry the five Images. Two narrow long Inle boats, each boat rowed by one hundred leg rowers who wear the traditional white shirt, fawn colored cotton trouser and turban, pull the barge steadily. Stroll around the floating villages to accept the homage from the villagers. The Shan, Pa O, Palaung, Taung Yo and Inntha, all kinds of tribes who lived around the lake participate in the festival.

The legacy of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda continued. During the 1968 festival, an unexpected accident occurred. It was not a windy day, but the barge turned over and sank into the lake. People were so worry and tried to find the sinking Images. They got only four Images back. They lost One. They went back to the Pagoda shrine sadly and quietly with Four Images. It was great silent when they entered into the shrine. Their eyes looked downward. One of them gripped his lip and looked up the shrine. He was amazed at the sight he saw, he shouted excitingly with joy. “Look ! There was our lost Buddha!” It was wet and was covered by the green weeds. People were so happy. Then people were so wonder how the fifth Buddha got back to the shrine Itself? Who brought It back? Celestial beings? Super man? Miracle power? Till now no one knows the answer! Then, people presumed that this Image, the smallest One, does not want to voyage. Therefore, after 1968 Pagoda festival, only four Images make the visit around the lake. The fifth One has not been moved from the shrine ever since.

The traditional food : warm steamed sticky rice, fried fermented bean paste with ginger, crispy tofu, Inle fish curry and hot green tea are offered to any pilgrims in the monastery of the host village where the Images sojourn temporarily. The boat racing of Intha leg rowers takes place near the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda during the festival. Get drunk by the fragrant of Lotus flowers. Dance with the Shan drum. Gild the gold leaf on the Images. Feed the sea gulls that follow your boat. It is time to visit the Inlay Lake, home of the people who perfectly adapt the nature.

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Kachin Manaw Festival

Although parts of the Kachin peoples have converted to Christianity, nearly all still hold onto some animist beliefs and a traditional festival called Manaw. During the Manaw Festival colorful wooden spirits pillars are erected (like may-poles) for girls and boys dance around, and rice-toddy is served from big bamboo jars. A buffalo or two is sacrificed during the festival to appease the spirits, and as food for merry-makers.

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