yanmar's Thingyan Water Festival is a vibrant and unique celebration of the Burmese New Year that you won't want to miss! From the 13th to 16th of April every year, people from all over Myanmar take to the streets to throw water on each other and welcome the new year with joy and excitement. Similar to other New Year celebrations in Southeast Asia, such as Songkran in Thailand, Laos, Cambodian New Year, Sinhalese New Year, and Bihu festival of Assam, the Thingyan Festival is a time for water-throwing and spraying that symbolizes renewal, rejuvenation, and the washing away of sins from the old year.
History of Thingyan Festival
Thingyan means "transition from old to new year" in the Myanmar Calendar, specifically during the Tagu month. According to Hindu mythology, the festival marks the rotation of the goddess who holds the King of Brahma's head, which the King of Devas (Thagya Min) won from a war between them. The rotation is necessary because Brahma's head is powerful enough to destroy all living things on earth. In the Buddhist version, Thingyan is related to the ancient astrology of Myanmar, with the Tagu month signifying the transition from the dry season to the hot season and the month of palm fruit picking. Buddhist literature shows that the water festival has been celebrated by the relatives of Buddha's mother since before the time of Buddhism. Many stories about Thingyan exist in Myanmar's rich history, but it was particularly treasured during the Bagan period, as evidenced by a stone inscription from Saw Hla Wun Pagoda dated to AD 1291 that includes the word "Thingyan/Thingkran."
Why is Myanmar's New Year Festival celebrated with Water?
Myanmar's Thingyan Water Festival is a colorful and exciting festival unlike any other in Southeast Asia. Unlike other traditional festivals, which are usually religious practices, Thingyan is a celebration of the country's New Year, which is held during the hottest monthof the year. The week-long festival is a time to shower loved ones and strangers alike with water, symbolizing the washing away of sins from the old year and starting fresh for the new. The history of the water festival is steeped in local legend and mythology, and its significance has evolved over centuries. The Thingyan Festival is not just any festival, it is an important tradition for Burmese society that is cherished and celebrated with immense joy and fervor.
Myanmar Water Festival Timeline
Thingyan Eve, the First Day, also known as a-kyo-nei, is a day of spiritual significance. People start their day by giving alms and offerings to show their respect towards Buddhist figures. The temples and pagodas are cleaned meticulously and adorned with fresh flowers to create a peaceful and calming atmosphere. However, it's not just the temples, the people make a point of cleaning and tidying their entire home to ensure they start the year on the right foot. Families also put a ceremonial pot of flowers in front of the house to welcome Thagya Min from earth. It is a day filled with a sense of community and an opportunity for reflection and self-improvement.
The second day, a kya-nei, is a special occasion as Thagya Min (Nat) arrives to mark the start of a brand-new year. The locals are buzzing with excitement as they prepare to celebrate this auspicious occasion. A silver bowl filled with thabyay (eugenia leaf) infused water is joyfully passed around, and people sprinkle it over each other with glee. As you walk around the streets, you can't help but notice the buckets, pots, and water guns that everyone is armed with. For this special day, splashing water is not only permitted, but it is believed that immersing oneself in this blessed liquid will bring healthiness, happiness, and good fortune. So, let's get ready to dive in and wash away our past wrongs while welcoming a bright future full of joy and blessings!
The Third Day, also known as a-kyat-nei, takes place with the religious activities that mirror those of the second day. In certain years, there are two a-kyet-nei. Some take rest on this day by taking turns saving energy for the last day.
In the Last Day, a-tet-nei: The last day of the water fighting festival when Thagya Min returns to the heavens. People are still playing the water festival with all their energy to fully enjoy the last day of the year and be ready to welcome the new year with good memories. People sprinkle the whole house with thabyay (eugenia leaf) infused water from a ceremonial pot to remove bad energy inside and around the house.
New Year Day
The First day of New Year is called Hnit-San-Tayet-Nei, the start of Tagu Month. Taking care of elderly is another heartwarming part of Thingyan. Young people help their parents and grandparents to do good deeds such as offering alms and food donations. Another unique activity is helping to wash the hair of the elderly in the traditional manner with shampoo beans (Acacia rugata) and bark which is believed to bring a happy new year. Going to pagodas and doing good deeds such as sweeping, freeing the trapped animals, offerings and prayers are also part of the New Year celebration.
Thingyan Traditions and Culture
The Thingyan Flower, also known as the Burmese Padauk, is a breathtaking sight to behold during the Burmese New Year water festival. When the Thingyan Rain comes, the flowers start to bloom all over the Padauk tree the next morning. The whole neighborhood around the tree is filled with the wonderful scent of flowers, and the morning market is filled with Padauk sellers. The vibrant red and yellow petals of this flower serve as an important symbol for new beginnings and renewal. Its rich hue represents the warmth of the sun that brings life and vitality to all things. The Thingyan Flower holds a special place in the hearts of the Burmese people.
Moat Lone Yei Baw is a Thingyan snack that is made not only in snack donation stations, but also in some houses. It is made of glutinous rice balls with palm sugar inside. The balls are cooked in boiling water and can be served as soon as they resurface. In some balls, green pepper is also added for pranks. Coconut shreds are also served together with the ready-to-eat rice balls. This snack can increase the sugar level and help energize you for hot and exhausting days like Thingyan days.
Another delicacy is Moat Latt Saung, which consists of white or green moat phat made by pounding and shaping sticky rice, coconut milk or jaggery caramel sauce, shredded coconut, sago, and ice water cubes. The pure jaggery has the medical value of giving good blood circulation and is also believed to cool the body down by preventing heat stroke.
Thingyan is more than a celebration of the new year in Myanmar; it is the time to increase merits as much as possible with joy for the Myanmar people. Food Donation, Satuditha, is one of the Thingyan traditions in which most of the houses in certain neighborhoods gather and cook different kinds of free food distribution such as traditional snacks or meals. "Satu" means "fourth digit" and "Ditha" means "east, west, south and north directions"; which means everyone from any four directions can enjoy the meal without discrimination of age, income, gender, known or unknown. This volunteer culture is mostly organized by middle-aged people, and they typically provide free food to those participating in the New Year's celebrations and the whole community with the intention of ending a year with starvation and starting a new year with joy.
Another food donation tradition is that most of the houses make traditional snacks and distribute them to the nearby houses. This traditional offering is one of the activities that Myanmar people do to get to know each other around the neighborhood.
"Last year, I received five different snacks just in one day from my neighbors," said a local resident.
Paying Homage Ceremony
The Paying Homage ceremony, Gadaw Pwel, is a time-honored tradition that exudes the utmost respect and reverence. Usually, it is a time for young people to wash and take care of the elders' needs and wants and provide them with honor. During Thingyan, we do more than offerings such as cutting nails and washing the hair of elders. This activity not only gains merit for youngsters but also for elders to welcome the new year with a tidy mind.
One of the fascinating traditions followed during this festival is the practice of releasing fish, locally known as nga-hlut-pwe. During this time, people come together to rescue fish from lakes and rivers that have dried up due to the summer heat and, and release them into rivers while praying and wishing for good fortune. This tradition is believed to bring about a sense of harmony and balance between individuals and nature.
Preparing for the Thingyan Festival
- Thingyan marks the end of the dry season, making April a sweltering month in Myanmar with temperatures reaching upwards of 40°C and oppressive humidity. Protect yourself from heat stroke by donning a hat and light clothing and staying hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day.
- When traveling during festival season, popular tourist spots become quieter and more serene, and transport is much simpler to book, while accommodation is easier to find. However, the Thingyan Festival is a national week-long event, and therefore, transport and accommodation can become fully booked or closed off before the festival. It is prudent to prebook your journey to ensure you can enjoy the festivities without any disturbances.
- While cafes, restaurants, and shops may be closed, morning markets and shopping malls remain operational for purchasing food and drinks.
- Get ready to converse with the locals and experience their warm hospitality – you may even be blessed by a splash of water! There's an infectious energy that pervades this place, making it ever so inviting.
- You might get surprise water attacks from children in the streets, so protect your devices with waterproof bags and ensure your electronics stay dry.
Due to COVID-19 and current political situations, most Thingyan activities such as dancing, music performances, and food stations have been stopped. However, children are still playing water fights with traditional bowls and cups, as well as hoses, massive syringes, squirt guns, garden hoses, and the street to have happy childhood memories from traditional water fighting festivals. Food donations from house to house are still continuing in most wards.
Ways to Make a Difference During the Festival
There are plenty of ways to lend a helping hand and make a positive impact on the community. One simple way to help out is by volunteering your time at local events. Whether it's handing out water bottles or picking up trash, every little bit helps. Another way to make a difference is by donating to local charities or organizations. By donating money or supplies, you can help provide vital resources to those in need. No matter how big or small your contribution may be, your efforts can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
During your stay in Myanmar, make sure to experience the traditional Thingyan Festival and wish for a prosperous year ahead! Have an amazing time celebrating this special occasion. Wishing you all the best of luck at this joyous event - Happy Thingyan FestivalDuring your stay in Myanmar, make sure to experience the traditional Thingyan Festival and wish for a prosperous year ahead! Have an amazing time celebrating this special occasion. Wishing you all the best of luck at this joyous event - Happy Thingyan Festival!
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