Thazaungdine festival, the so-called Festival of lights or fire lights festival is one of the merit times for Myanmar people. People lit the lights both in Thadingyut and Tazaungmone months with the aim of offering to Sulamuni pagoda where Buddhists welcomed Buddha who will be in Tavaditha for preaching to his former mother in the whole 3 months so-called lent. Moreover, the offering of new robes and alms are also made during these periods with celebrations, Kathein-Pwe in Myanmar language that all monks are not allowed to go outside or move their place during lent, they have to just meditate and preach during the holy lent, so people offer new robes, alms and accessories to monks when lent is over. So, the end of Lent is the time for new robes, alms, and accessories which starts from Thadingyut on the Myanmar lunar festival,usually, it falls inOctober.
Myanmar people light the candles and lanterns, play fireworks and firecrackers and launch fire balloons during the Thadingyut and Tazaungmone festival with the beliefs of olden days that lighting the candle and colourful lanterns to offer to Buddha, playing the fireworks to drive the evil away, and launching the fire balloon makes them lucky. So, this tradition has lasted since a long time ago. At first, the fire balloons were not the competition, they were just released as worship to Buddha. Later, the tradition became a competition because many people participated in liberating fire balloons.
Taunggyi Thazaungdine Festival
As Thazaungdine festival is a famous one, it is widely held annually at 3 regions – Taunggyi, Kalaw and PyinOoLwin. Among these, the one held in Taunggyi is the most famous and the longest one. It is held in Tazaungmone, the 8th Myanmar lunar month and it mostly falls in November. Actually, it is also known as the fire balloon competition which takes almost 10 days and is held both day and night liberating the respected fire balloons.
During the Festival, you will see 3 kinds of fire balloons in this festival which are fire balloons in animal shapes like Nae-a-yoke fire balloons, the ones in colorful lanterns and unique designs are present as Sein-na-pan fire balloons and the ones painted with arts and drawings and weighted with massive fireworks is called Nya-mee-kyi fire balloons. Here, the first kind is released at daytime intended for children, and the other two are released at night and are actually the essence of the festival.
All 3 kinds have different rules according to the authorized judges and every fire balloon is completed by its own team that no fire balloon will be released by only one's effort. So, unity and interest stand as the main supporting role for each team because the fire balloons cost money, time, energy, and teamwork. Apart from the advertising ones, another obvious thing for this festival is the cost of the fire balloons that no funding or sponsoring organization exists. Every fire balloon is cost by its own team members. Some provide some amount of money, some spend time and energy and some provide both. So, it is said that they participated voluntarily at their own cost only because of their Interest, Happiness and Traditionalism.
Another wonderful fact of these fire balloons is that all of the ingredients, processes, and designs have to be Handmade. The fire balloons are made with Shan paper and the decorating materials like colourful lanterns, the hooks, the attaching design formats are made with bamboo that creating the balloon, making the multi-colored lanterns and the design, the painting and drawing on shan paper, constructing the fireworks are all handmade and electronic device or ready made materials is NOT allowed to use.
Since the festival takes almost 10 days, the sooner the festival ends, the more crowded it becomes. The last two days, the eve and the full moon days are the most crowded days that you might even assume all of the residents are coming and assembling at the festival. The nearer the festival venue, the longer the traffic and you have to wait in a long queue just to reach the venue.
According to my experience, these are some instructions you should follow when you celebrate the festival. Because of being the over-crowded festival,
· Set one or two places in advance to meet if you lost your group
· Follow the instructions announced by the respective authorities
· Don't carry heavy things
· Take care of your belongings
· Be aware of which side the wind flows and don't stay under its way
· Don't go too close when the balloon is ready to liberate especially from the balloons with attached fireworks
· Wear hats to cover snow
· Wear boots and jackets although it seems sweaty in the festival, it's cold outside the venue
· Wear masks to cover dust and smell in the festival
· Check the weather in advance
· Be conscious of the surroundings and the crowd
· Go early on the last 2 days, the eve and the full moon day not to squeeze by a huge crowd while entering into the festival
Besides the fire balloons, you will be attracted by local games at the game zone, local food stalls, food and beverages shops and other various shops around the venue, the commercial temporary bar, the stage show and so on. In the festival venue, you may hear the traditional musical instruments played by the fire balloons participants or the ethnics, both traditional and modern songs played by the shops, the salesmen's voice on loudspeaker who advertise their products and give promotion to buy those, DJ songs switched by the commercial temporary bar, customers and waiters ordering food, the child asking his/her parents to buy the toys he/she wants, the judges announcing the name and characters of fire balloon which will be launched in 10 minutes, the respective authorities broadcasting losing people or things, the singers singing at the stage show and the vendors selling the betel, map, boiled quail egg, the sunflower seeds in the crowd and so on.
By far the most common is the local benefits. As a direct effect, the residents will be employed in respective areas concerned with the festival. Their income may increase to the peak level during the festival. All local businesses will be promoted and many people will be employed by this festival in the related fields. Moreover, since the festival raises the image of the destination, the tourism industry will also be developed, consequently creating the pull factor for 2nd time visit and supporting the country's economy and GDP of the nationalities as the indirect effect.
Although the festival seems dangerous and crowded, it will definitely give you a diverse experience. The fire balloons, colorful lanterns and unique designs, the fireworks, local culture and traditions, local foods, and local songs, local lifestyle and the festival surrounding will be eye-catching and take your attention. Since the view is spectacular and unique, you may even forget to blink your eyes. When you visit the festival, you will not only get adifferent story but also promote the local business and support local benefits at the same time.