awei city is located in Southern Myanmar. Dawei’s population is an ethnic group of Myanmar. Dawei is known for its adorable traditional culture, interesting customs, Dawei Traditional Longyi and Festivals. People in Dawei celebrate festivals throughout the year, like the 12 months of Myanmar festivals. The most popular festivals are Thingyan Festival, Thadingyut festival and Tazaungdaing festival in Dawei. Most of the residents are Buddhists and festivals are mostly held at Buddhist festivals. There are also the religions of Christian, Hindu, Islam and Traditional gods (U Shin Gyi of Burmese Sea God and Sawsikon of China traditional God). Other religious festivals held in Dawei which are the Ma Ma Bayar Hindu festival and the Chinese New Year festival. In these festivals, most of the residents are also celebrating and participating. Among the many festivals, the most unique and famous festival of Dawei is the Alm bowl floating festival. This festival is only celebrated in Dawei.

Preparing to Fire Air Balloon (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

When is the festival held?

The festival falls on the full moon day of Thadingyut, which is the 7th month of the Myanmar calendar (October) and the beginning of high season for tourists (the best time to visit Dawei is from October to April). This day is also known as Abidhama day. According to Buddhism, this is the day when Gaudama Buddha returned from heaven to earth after finishing preaching Abhidhamma sermons which tend to acknowledge how to maintain our mind and body peacefully to his mom (deva) during the lent period. People from the earth welcomed Buddha by lighting candles, oil lamps and lanterns. Thus, following this step, the Lighting festival is held throughout Myanmar as a Thadingyut festival.

Lighting as a Flower (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

Dawei people also hold a Lighting Festival by lighting candles, oil lamps in the houses, streets, monastery and pagoda for three days. An Alm bowl Floating Festival takes place one day, full moon day in Thadingyut. People also pay homage to their honoured person of parents and teachers, go to the famous pagodas and give donations in the monastery at this time. Before the full moon night, locals offer food to the monks, monastery, and pagodas. Dawei is located along the Andaman Sea and it has the belief of Shin Upagutta (mythical monk) who collected rice, fruits, and foods from people along the river during Buddha time. Thus, locals float offerings annually in an Alm bowl. The aim of the festival is to do good deeds by offering light, fruits, rice, water and candles to Buddha and Shin Upagutta by floating an alm bowl in the Dawei river. Residents believe this custom can bring good luck to them.

Candle Lighting as Alm Bowl shape (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

Which main quarters hold the festival in Dawei?

Dawei township has 15 quarters and 138 villages in Dawei District. The main festivals are held in the quarters of Tahlaingmasu, Sin Seik and Ka Myaw. During the festival time, all of the people from 4 townships of Dawei district come and celebrate it. These quarters are situated near Dawei river. The riverside residents transfer this traditional custom to their new generation. The festival has a huge number of people participating. This day is called the "no sleeping day" for Dawei people. The residents of the quarters participate and celebrate in a festival with a little different style.

Dawei Traditional Alm Bowl Festival with electric lights (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

How do people celebrate the festival?

Tahlaingmasu Quarter: Before the full moon day of Thadingyut, people build bamboo automatic moving machines to float Alm Bowl down to the  Dawei river. Locals are selling ready to float down alm bowls to get funds. In the alm bowl, there is rice, candles, fruits, water, flowers, snacks and joss-stick. Some people are not buying from locals and they make an alm bowl filled with rice, desired fruits and candles. The time starts to float down the Alm bowl in the river at 4:00 am. There is also a stage show and performance with Dawei traditional songs, traditional dances and pot dance. You can enjoy Dawei's tradition and local culture when visiting Dawei in October. 

Floating Alm Blows in the Dawei river (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)
 Dancers performing Dawei Traditional Pot Dance (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

Sin Seik Quarter: There is a big Alm bowl floating down custom. This quarter is also located near the river; they order a three-foot Alm bowl for the festival and fill it with rice, water, fruits, flowers, candles and joss-sticks.  About five people carry this Alm Bowl. They place it on the raft and float down in the middle of the river. There are many people who are watching, recording videos, taking pictures with friends and enjoying the festive time.

Big Alm Bowl heading to the river (Photo Credit: Aung Than)

Ka Myaw Village: To float Alm Bowl, they temporarily build a floating jetty. The beginning time is 4:00 am and there are a lot of people who don't want to float down with an automatic moving machine in the river. Instead, the people float Alms bowls at the floating jetty and free colourful hot air balloons to the air. You can see the beautiful views of fireworks here.

Automatic Moving Machine to float down Alm Bowl (Photo Credit:Golden Dawei Travel Service)
Floating Alms Bowls down in the river (Photo Credit: Aung Thu Phyo)

What about in COVID-19 period?

A huge number of people celebrate the festival peacefully and happily in 2019. According to the prevention of COVID-19 rules and the use of social distancing, people did not hold festivals in 2020 or 2021. People stayed home and other people stayed away from their home paid homage to their parents, grandparents, and teachers by video calls. And they widely used online payment platforms such as Wave pay, AYA pay and KBZ pay to give for pocket money and presents to their honoured person. Locals passed that Thadingyut time by making delicious foods of Mote Sie Lone, Mote Latt Thouk together with their beloved family. People also exchanged snacks with their neighbours. They lit candles, oil lamps, and decorated their houses and trees with electric lights and set free hot air balloons from their houses. After the lifting of COVID 19 restrictions, people really miss and hope to celebrate the Alm Bowl festival again the coming year. 

Making Mote Sie Lone 

Dawei holds and celebrates religious festivals and traditional festivals annually.  Dawei people inherited their traditions and customs and transferred them to their new generations. In these traditional festivals, locals actively participate and have fun. The Alm Bowl festival is a traditional event that takes place in Dawei each year. During the festival, local people enjoy special moments with Dawei traditional dances, music and culture. If you visit Dawei in October, you can experience this unique event for yourself.

You can watch the video clip of the Alm bowl floating festival in Dawei, Myanmar here.

October 9, 2022