Myanmar is a Land of Festivals. Each month of the year has its own festival. Myanmar culture centres around these festivals since the life and custom of Myanmar people are so inextricably bound up with religion. Most of the festivals are celebrated nation- wide while a few are distinctly regional.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
The massive Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is located in Inle Lake in the Shan State of North Eastern Myanmar… The most revered 5 Buddha statues kept in Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda are widely believed to have mystic and miraculous powers. The five images have so often been covered with gold leaf that by now they look like solid gold spheres. The festival of this pagoda is around October of the year. The festival lasts about 18 days. It is the biggest occasion held in the Inle Lake. The festival is held with great magnificence and pageantry. The holy Buddha’s images are placed on a decorated royal barge and toward by leg-rowers around the lake. When the karaweik (the mythical bird barge) starts its journey across the lake, it is joined by several boats which are beautifully decorated with umbrellas and ornaments. As the Karaweik does not go to every village, people residing in adjacent villages are the ones who converge on the lake area to see the spectacular event and pay homage to the Buddha. There are also Shan traditional boat races participated by leg-rowers from all over the lake and the nearby villages.
Hot-air Balloon Festival
The festival is held in Taunggyi, the capital of the Southern Shan State and it lies 1,430 meters above the sea level. It is the annual Tazaungdine Lighting Festival, usually held around October and November. The festival, commonly known as hot air balloon festival is celebrated by Pa-O, one of the many ethnic groups in the region. On the occasion, people enjoy fun and merriment by holding firework-launching competitions. The firework is in the form of rockets. There is also hot balloons competitions on the day and night occasions. Day balloons are usually in the form of Pagodas, and animals such as elephant, dragon or ducks while the night balloons usually in the shape of rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with small lighted multicolored paper lanterns hung around their sides and balloons would string along fireworks and fire sticks which are set off mid-air fireworks.
Thingyan Water Festival
Thingyan is a word derived from Sanskrit meaning change. Thingyan festival is thus the festival of changing from old year to new-year. It is held prior to Myanmar new-year to cleanse away evil deeds of the past year with water. It usually falls on 13th April and lasts for three or four days. The main feature of the festival is water throwing or pouring water. Nowadays, youth go out for enjoyment by throwing water at others or getting soaking wet by others. Pandals are specially constructed and from them, water is thrown at passers- by and revelers going around in open cars and trucks. The young people take this chance to have fun and make new friends. Elders take retreat in monasteries and pagoda precincts to perform meritorious deeds. After playing around and having fun throughout the country, Myanmar people welcome the New Year by cleaning the floors of the pagodas and monasteries, washing old and aged people’s hair, helping to cut them their nails. Some offer free food and drinks to everyone who visits the pagodas, some make other donations. If you can be here with us, you surely will enjoy the sights and sounds of the most joyous festival in Myanmar.
Naga New Year Festival
Naga tribes are spread throughout the Northwestern hills of Myanmar. Most of the Naga are from the Chin State. Naga New year is celebrated usually in mid-January. The Naga festival is social, but it is also to exchange previous year’s experiences, to make plans for the coming year and to discuss how to overcome difficulties. They pray for abundant crops and domestic animals and to have good weather. Another aspects of this festival is reunion of relatives, who are away from home. They worship to their deities by scarifying the animals. Naga from outlying villages came to participate in the festivities dressed in their colorful best. There were the warrior-like youths with their shields, spears, and headdresses framed with the curved horns of the wild boar and adorned with fur and feathers.
At the New Year celebrations, endless cups of rice wine are drunk, bison and wild boar meat roasted and eaten, tribal, dances performed with loud beating of drums. The NAGA New Year Festival in the NAGA Hills will give each and every visitor to Myanmar an experience which is closer to nature, and an experience to cherish.
Kachin Manaw Festival
Manaw Festival is held in Myitkyina and Putao in Kachine State, the northernmost state of Myanmar.
It is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar. The festival is usually held in January. Manaw festival is the celebration of the New Year, victory in battles, reunion of the tribes etc. Everybody joins the spiritual dance lined up behind one another. The traditional Manaw poles are decorated in colorful Kachin motifs and are centered in the middle of the festival ground. All who came to the festival wear their best traditional costumes and the main feature of the festival is dancing around the erected Manaw poles.
Any one, irrespective of race, religion or status, is welcome to participate in this traditional dance festival. It is a very pleasant enjoyable way to get to know the culture and traditions so dear to the heart of the Kachin peoples.
Dancing Elephant Festival
This is a famous festival in Myanmar. It is held in Kyaukse, near Mandalay.
It is a marvelous performance of two men together to dance in rhythm. A huge elephant figure is made from bamboo and paper. Men take their places inside the figure and dance around the town to the accompaniment of Dobat and Drums. The festival is usually held in October. The elephant dancers circles three times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shew Tha Lyaung Pagoda. It is a dance that requires precise rhythm and timing in order for the elephant dancers to maintain unity inside the elephant figure. People from far and near come to visit Kyaukse and watch the elephant dance competition.