very country has its own kind of funeral culture. So does Myanmar. Funerary customs are usually based on the beliefs, culture, religions, and rituals of each indigenous group. In Myanmar, funeral customs vary between the cultures and religions of its dwelling ethnic groups. This article will give you insight into the most common funeral customs and the Buddhist funeral culture in Myanmar.

Myanmar funeral rituals

Myanmar funeral rituals generally last for a week and the dead body is buried or cremated on the third day. The duration of funerals and whether someone will be buried or cremated will depend on the religions and beliefs. Cremation is more common than burial in the cities of Myanmar. In the past, the deceased was laid at home which is still practised in remote rural areas. Nowadays in the cities, the body is sent to the cold chamber and prepared only on the morning of the funeral at the cemetery.

When a person dies in Myanmar

the family sends a mourning invitation letter to relatives and friends to attend the late person's funeral. The family will receive condolence visits at home. No formal dress is needed to be worn for the home visit. Monetary tokens kept in an envelope are usually given to the bereaved by the condolence visitors, though some families may not accept the monetary support. In rural areas / some villages, more practical gifts such as food items are given to the grieving family. 

On the day of the funeral,

Myanmar people tend to break a clay pot in front of their houses, a custom that is derived from Hinduism. It is likely to mean breaking the existing relationship between the deceased and the left family.  On the day of the funeral at the cemetery, the invited guests can arrive 30 minutes earlier as the funeral tends to take place punctually. Flower wreaths and flowers can be typically given to the family. A paper or plastic fan with the name of the deceased person's name and Buddhist scriptures relating to the impermanence of life and a small book with sutta in Pali and Myanmar to remind people of the transience of life are given to all the attendees. 

Memorial Graves in Yangon
Christian Memorial Graves in Kalaw

The deceased body

will be prepared and laid out on the coffin for the last viewing. A coin called kudoekha is put in the mouth of the deceased person to pay it as a ferry fee in order to leave the human world and Myanmar people crack coconut near the coffin which has the same meaning as breaking the pot. Monks (if invited) send prayers, blessings and chanting. Then the coffin has been wheeled into the incinerator ante-room or the burial spot as the case arranged by the family. 

The windows and doors of the house

in which the person died have to be left open for seven days to let the deceased person's spirit leave the house and a meal and candlelight are prepared everyday for the deceased before his photo.

7th day Burmese funeral rituals

A general invitation including date, time and address to attend the offering of a merit meal on the seventh day is written on the fan given on the actual funeral day. However, the 7th-day offering is not attended by everyone but by the ones who are close and related to the family. On the seventh day, a meal which is generally to be Mont Hin Kha (a traditional breakfast dish of vermicelli and fish broth) is offered to monks in the case of transferring merit and blessing to the deceased and concludes with a water libation ceremony. (The water libation ceremony is the ceremonial pouring of water from a vessel of water into a vase, drop by drop, concludes most Buddhist ceremonies, including donation celebrations and feasts. The definition of water dropping is donation to make witness.) Mont Hin Kha is offered to every attendee and partaking of the meal is believed to contribute to the creation of merit for the deceased person.

During COVID-19,

if someone dies with a normal disease, the funeral has to be held alone with the family and funeral service team to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In the Yangon Region,  if there is a person with a serious Covid-19 condition, the regional health administration team brings the patient to Phaung Gyi Health Care Center for Covid-19.  If someone dies with Covid-19 at the Local Health Care Center, the volunteer team burns the body down. The family is not allowed to see the deceased body to prevent infection.

During the Military Coup,

people who have been shot dead by the military are regarded as the "Myanmar Spring Revolution Heros" and their funerals are full with the residents of the township. The deceased body has been laid at home for a day and conveyed to the cemetery at the funeral day then cremated and made a memorial grave with the Spring Revolution Hero Title.  

Well-known War Cemeteries

Myanmar has a list of well-known cemetery grounds that you can visit.

1.        Taukkyan War Cemetery ( A memorial cemetery of the British Allied Soldiers who died in World War (I) and World War (II) and is located in Taukkyan Township, Yangon Region.  )

Taukkyan War Cemetery

2.       Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery ( A memorial cemetery of the victims of Japanese imprisonment who died in building the Dead Railway in Myanmar and is located in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. )

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery

May 14, 2021