Asian art

Burmese festival: Thingyan

Burmese festival: Thingyan

Thingyan is the Burmese festival which usually falls around mid-April. The people celebrate this festival for the period of four to five days. The unique feature of this festival is to throw water or dousing one another from the vessel or device. Thingyan is similar to the festivals that have been celebrated in other regions like Songkran in Laos, the Songkran in Thailand, Holi in India and Nepal, and Bihu in Assam.

Myths behind Thingyan Burmese festival

This festival is originated through the Buddhist version of Hindu myths. It is believed that once, the King of Brahmas, Arsi, lost the wager to the king of Devas, Sakra; he decapitated Arsi as agreed but later the head of the elephant was placed onto the Arsi's body. Later he was popularly known as god, Ganesh. It was believed that the head was very much powerful if one tries to throw the head into the sea. The water stored will be dried up immediately. If the head were thrown onto the land, it would be scorched. It is were thrown up into the air, the sky would burst into flames. Therefore, Sakra requested princess Devi to carry the Brahma's head and circle the earth. After she completes the year and reaches the same place, she will hand over the head to another princess. Hence, Burmese people believe the New Year to be the date when the princes' hand-over the head of Brahma to another princess.

The festivals:

First day of the festival

In Burmese, the first day of Thingyan is known as akyo nei. It is also known as the eve of the Thingyan. From the eve of the festival, the people start to celebrate with varieties of religious activities. The Buddhist observe the Eight Precepts and take only one meal that is before noon. During this time, the people also offer alms and offerings to the monks in their respective monasteries. The people also offer special kind of dish to Buddha statue. It includes green coconut with its stalk intact encircled by bunches of green bananas and sprigs of thabyay (Syzygium cumini).

During the nighttime, the streets will be filled with music, songs, and dances. Almost every areas are beautifully decorated with festive names, papier mache, with pavilions/ stages made from bamboo. The people perform the songs and dances. The performer girls uniformly dressed in colorful tops and skirts and garlanded in flower and tinsel. They wear fragrant thanaka on their faces and put yellow padauk in their hair. A thanaka is a paste of the ground bark of Murraya paniculata which acts as a sunblock and astringent.

Padauk is a flower that blossoms once in a year on this very day. Hence this flower is also known as Thingyan flower. The people also visit different places on foot, bicycles, and motorbikes exchanging greetings to others.

Second day of the festival

The second day is called akya nei and also called the water festival. It is believed that during this day Thingyan arrived in earth as Thagyamin from celestial sphere. The festival starts with the cannon firing signal and people come out of their places with the pot full of water and sprigs of thabyay. They pour the water onto the ground with a prayer. Later in the day, the people sprinkle the water to other people and also to passerby.

Third day of the festival

The third day of the festival is known as akyat nei. In this day some people enjoy the time by throwing water at people but later they take the excuses. The people normally celebrate with their family and they have a very special cushion- Mont lone yeibaw- prepared in this day. The cushion is prepared with rice ball cooked in the boiling water.

In some years this festival is elongated for four days and it is known as atet nei. This is the last day of the water festival.

New Year day

During this day the people visit their elder and pay homage with a traditional offering of water in a terracotta pot and shampoo. The young people also perform hair washing for the elderly with the shampoo beans and bark. Generally, the people do the good things with the motive to earn good karma in this day. For example- releasing fish.

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