Most Visited Festivals In Myanmar
Myanmar is a land of many festivals which take place throughout the year and often celebrate and pay homage to nats (protecting spirits). Some are large and nationwide, some are small and regional – but they all provide a fantastic opportunity to embrace the vibrant life and culture of Myanmar. You can surely enjoy the uniqueness and traditional values of Myanmar.
The festival dates of Myanmar in the western calendar may change from year to year as the most festivals are according to the lunar calendar. Let us know your specific interest and we can check the dates locally whether you can experience during your stay. Below are the most famous and visited festivals in Myanmar.
Thingyan is the Burmese New Year Festival and it usually takes place around mid-April, this is very well known as Water Festival and it is the biggest festival of Myanmar. Water symbolizes for purity that can clear away all sins, diseases and bad lucks. So people splash water to each other to begin a new year with a cleansed soul. In Myanmar the festival is commonly known as Thingyan. A Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days and culminating in the New Year, it is the most important public holiday in Burma.
Thadingyut takes place in the sevent Myanmar month (in September-October) after the end of the rainy season. Thadingyut Lighting Festival is a celebration that the Buddha descending from the heavens after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya. Buildings and houses across the country are festooned in colourful lights and candles to welcome him back to earth. Thadingyut or Festival of Light is celebrated across the country. It begins one day before full moon and held for three days. Houses and streets are beautifully illuminated. The Nations pagodas are very crowded and it is not only a festival of joy but also a time to give thanks to parents and teachers and to ask for forgiveness for every mistake done during the year. The streets are thronged with people browsing the markets and food stalls which spring up during this time and traditional open air plays and concerts take place everywhere. As it signifies the end of Buddhist Lent, there is an abundance of music and dancing.
Taunggyi in the Shan State is famed for its Balloon Festival. The hot air balloon festival is celebrated once a year on the second festival of lights after Buddhist Lent and lasts for four days. Traditionally, the natives pay homage at the Sulamani Temple by releasing decorative balloons towards the heavens. The paper balloons are between 3, 5 and 6m high and are decorated on the outside with colourful lanterns made of cellophane. The balloon competition is held throughout the day and night. Day balloons are usually in the form of pagodas, and animals such as elephants, dragons or ducks. At night, the balloons are usually in the shape of a rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with hundreds of small lighted multicoloured paper lanterns hung around their sides. The night balloons would string along fireworks and fire sticks which are set off mid-air creating a spectacular display. The ceremony is accompanied by musicians who play and dance lively traditional Shan music and the partying goes on in the festival tents until dawn. This wonderful and slightly barmy festival makes a magical stay in Myanmar.
The Taung Byone Nat or Spirit Festival, a very popular celebration is held in July and August at Mount Popa which is situated in north of Mandalay. It is held yearly with the purpose to appease the spirits because it is believed that the Nats/spirits can make wishes come true, protect against illness and danger and bring their worshippers wealth and success. According to the legend, the story of two Indian brothers originated during the rule of King Anawrahta when it was the duty of every person in the Kingdom to contribute. The brothers failed this duty and they were punished by the king. Unfortunately, the Nat brothers were accidentally killed by this punishment. The King was remorseful and built the big Nat/spirit shrine by the side of the pagoda honoring the two brothers.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is one of the key attractions of Southern Shan state and is situated in the middle of Inle Lake the pagoda houses five Buddha images from the Bagan era. The festival of the pagoda lasts 18 days starting from 1st waxing day to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut. The celebrations take place over more than 20 days. Four out of the five revered Buddha images are paraded around the lake in an elaborate, gilded barge pulled by traditional long boats manned by hundreds of rowers. Throughout the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, rowing competitions are held, which makes for a wonderfully visual spectacle. Pilgrims from all over the country come to this festival to pay homage to the four Buddha images and gain merit whilst enjoying the festive air of the event. The mysterious fifth Buddha image is left to ‘guard’ their original resting place at the Phaung Daw U Pagoda whilst the festival takes place.
This festival also known as sticky rice festival, Htamane is held between February and March, through the whole country. Htamane feast is the either celebrated communally or done usually in the private circle of family and friends. The nature of the feast is such that, in whatever way the feast is celebrated, it means a big gathering because many hands are needed. The folks also prepare different dishes made with rice. The dishes are first offered to Buddha and the day is considered as a national holiday.