Monday, April 12, 2010



Myanmar celebrates New Year or Thingyan according to the lunar calendar and this normally falls around the middle of April.

This is the traditions handed down from generations to generations. The earliest instances of Thingyan during the Bagan Dynasty are seen on the numerous mural paintings in Bagan's pagodas. There was even a story of a jilted queen who tried to poison her King because she felt she was shamed during the royal Thingyan Festival. But that is another story.
Legends tell us of a bevy of female Celestial Beings entrusted with holding up the severed head of the Brahma( another Celestial Being) who had lost his bet on the question of how wide is the Universe. This severed head has so much magic power that it cannot be placed on the ground as it would scorch every living thing on earth and if thrown into the ocean as it will evaporate all the waters in the oceans. So a bevy of female Celestial Beings were chosen to hold on to it at their abode in the heavens. And every year in the Myanmar month of Tagu this head is passed from one guardian to another. But others say it is to signal the change of seasons in the northern hemisphere, from the cold winter days to sunny Summer days. A wake up call for the farmers to prepare their fields for the new harvest with the coming of the monsoon rains.

But whatever the reason. Thingyan is one of the most auspicious time for the Buddhist people of Myanmar.

Many foreigners see Thingyan as a time of play, splashing water on each other and merry making. Maybe they are influenced by the images and commercialization of such an auspicious event in the neighbouring country. And how sad that they miss the real essence of Thingyan.

During the duration of Thingyan devotees crowd the pagodas. Many go to spiritual retreats at the monasteries during this time. Others observe the Sabbath for the whole duration of the Thingyan, some in monasteries or at home.

The most popular ceremony at this time is the Shin byu ( the novitiation of young boys and youths) into the monkhood. For the parents this novitiation ceremony is a great joy, not to mention a great merit making occasion. For this ceremony re-enacts the Rejection of Prince Sidhattha of all the worldly attachment of the royal court of his father, going into the forest and later attain Enlightenment to emerge as Lord Gauttama Buddha. The newly initiated monks (or novices) are repaying also the boundless love of their parents with gratitude by becoming monks or novices even temporarily during the Thingyan holidays.

The ceremony starts with the future young monks or novices dressed up like princes of the court. Then they are escorted to the pagoda and around the town in a procession. The cars ( or a horses) to carry them would be decorated with golden umbrellas fit for the royal princes. A big feast hosted by the proud parents for invited guests will also wait for them when they arrive back. Sometime this Novitiation Ceremonies might also be combined with an Ear Piercing Ceremony for the girls. The girls will also be dressed in the costumes of princesses of the royal court and accompany the boys around the town.Their ears are pierced in an elaborate ceremony with the proud grandparents or the parents presenting them with their first earrings. After all the guests had gone back the immediate family will go to a monastery of their choice and the Abbot shaves the young boys heads and don them with the saffron Holy Robes of a monk.

At all Myanmar homes family shrine room is dusted and cleaned. The Buddha Images, many priceless heirloom objects handed down from generation to generation, are washed and some will be re-glided with gold leaves. The whole family participates at this auspicious occasion.
Many young people organize mass ceremonies to kowtow to the senior citizens in the neighbourhood, wash their hairs or trim their nails as gestures of reverence and acts of making merits.

The Myanmar Thingyan (New Year) is not all rowdy amusements, gaudy attaire and loud music or water throwing but also a great religious occasion, lovingly preserved and followed by every Myanmar Buddhist in the country.

Credit goes to
Photo by Sonny Nyein (Swiftwinds)


MoeThwayNge said...

ဟလို ဟိုင္း ေဟာင္းဒူးယူဒူး။
ေဟာင္းမန္းနီး ဘယ္ေလာက္ရွိလည္း။
တေန႔ ေဟာင္းမန္းနီး ဒရင္ကင္းလည္း (ph7)


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