n acclaimed celebration in Myanmar where groups and individuals wearing elephant ensembles perform different customary moves known as the “Elephant dancing Festival”. The elephants' dance celebration is a heavenly performance by men who stay inside elephant sculptures made of garments to dance in rhythm.

The cultural role of elephants in Myanmar

Elephants possess  extraordinary significance and have reliably been highly regarded by Myanmar people for a very long time. In the Kings' days, White Elephants were viewed as the most great belongings as they accept that the White elephants are a picture of power, prospering, and harmony. Until lately, stumble elephants were used as a critical piece of the country's expansive logging industry.

Can I suggest for the second and third sentences- As White Elephants represent power, prosperity and harmony, since the Kings’ era they have been viewed as being the greatest possession.

Where is the festival held?

Kyaukse, the town and capital of Kyaukse District in the Mandalay Region is where the festival is held.The town is located in the center of the arid region of Myanmar, that  is drained by the Panlaung and Zawgyi rivers, which were used as an ancient irrigation canal system .

 How to get there?

Kyaukse is around 22 miles southeast of Mandalay and You can Get there by truck or local bus from 84th St at 29th St in Mandalay (front/back K1000/500) or a taxi from Mandalay for around K20,000 to K30,000.

When is the festival held?

The dancing elephant festival takes place the day before Thadingyut's full moon (October), at the end of the rainy season but already a day or two in advance, you might see the "elephant" prancing around town. Since the 11th century, it has been held for two days a year, with the fun and tradition passed down from generation to generation and the tradition of making elephant costumes for elephant dance competitions became popular with local families.

What is the festival for? (History)

The historical backdrop of “ the dancing elephant festival” is concerned with King Anawrahta, the founder of the Purgam Empire who is considered the father of the Burmese nation. As per legend, a darling elephant of King Anawrahta cherished Webu Hill at Kyaukse town and the king constructed a city named Kyauk Se by making a water system framework with a stone dam.For this legend, Kyauk se is known for naive elephant veils and toys which are sold at numerous stands, and white elephant statues guard the gigantic golden Buddha halfway up Webu Hill’s north slope.

Besides that, the dancing elephant festival has an impressive and novel history. King Anawrahta obtained various Buddhist relics while traveling to China. After returning to Myanmar, he decided to build a pagoda to store these precious cultural relics. He strapped the relics to the elephant's back and told him to choose a suitable location for the new pagoda. The elephant went straight to the hills east of Kyaukse and Knelt. In this place, the king built the Shwe-tha-lyaung pagoda, which is still there today. In order to commemorate the royal elephant, a festival is held at the foot of Taliang Mountain every year.

How is the festival held? 

The Dancing Elephant Festival, which takes place at the foot of the Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda, Kyaukse is a celebration with  a competition, prizes, and dedication activities. Several towns compete for prizes with a decorated cloth elephant dancing with two men inside. At this festival, participants  wearing the best elephant costumes and dancers with the best performances will be awarded by the local festival committee.For the festival, the huge elephants are made of bamboo, cloth and paper, hardened with glue and then covered with soot and organic fixative, or enamel and a wonderful art decoration called Sut Baji.The various types of elephants are infant elephants, sequined elephants, and traditional elephants. Throughout the entire work process, the team entrusting the elephant will be busy checking each attached decoration piece. Defeating other teams is a matter of prestige because the game between towns can be close to a true full-scale battle and each artist keeps his construction methods secret. 

On the day of the competition, giant elephants with specific names from various areas of Kyaukse paid tribute to the Sungnye Pagoda and Ruiliang Pagoda at the foot of the mountain three times and then competed in front of the jury. The instruments that are played are Dobat and Drums. The judges, made up of township officials, pagoda trustees and other distinguished personalities, judged various details, including the accuracy and harmony of the music ,dance, the teamwork of dancers, traditional clothing, exquisite decoration and wrapped music and singing.

The competition starts early in the morning and continues all day. After a full day of dancing, the winner of the elephant dance contest will be announced in the evening .Winners will receive cash prizes and will have the honour of performing at the pagoda on the Full Moon day.On that day, thousands of pilgrims carried the small paper elephant to the pagoda on the top of Tha Lyaung Mountain. At the top, they wal(ed) around the pagoda three times in a clockwise direction and show their donations.

Highlight of the festival

The Elephant dancing festival at Kyaukse is a unique festival that should  not be  missed when you are in Mandalay.  It is the most entertaining event to mingle with locals from not only Kyaukse but also from different parts of the country as individuals from far and near come to visit Kyaukse and watch the elephant dance. During the festival, the streets of Kyaukse are packed with stalls offering everything from elephant masks and toys to street food, so you can support local businesses while learning about local traditions & cultures.

June 23, 2021