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Planet Myanmar - Festivals 2000

Myanmar - Calendar of Pagoda and Nat Festivals in 2000 and Beyond

by Vicky Bowman

Pagoda festivals are a central part of life for Buddhists in Myanmar. For the people in the towns, they are a good excuse to take a few days off work, club together with friends to hire a car, and see the rest of the country while gaining merit in the process. For the paddy farmer they are a well earned rest after the harvest in December/January. For basket weavers and blacksmiths they are a chance to sell their wares. For the bands of travelling actors and musicians, they are a constant source of bookings. Pagoda festivals have given rise to a sub-economy, peopled by "twelve festival traders" or seh-hniq-pwe-thee, who move each month to a different festival. They include artisans and fortune-tellers, people who set up tea-houses, beauty parlours and rest-houses for festival goers, and pickpockets and assorted hangers-on. The majority of pagoda festivals coincide with full moons (Myanmar operates a lunar calendar). They may last a week or a fortnight, or even several months. Some of the major festivals in 2000 are listed below (subsequent dates will of course be different, according to the moon). Waxing days (la-san) means days leading up to a full moon, waning days (la-souq or la-pye-kyaw) means days following a full moon. (NB every third year there is a "second Waso" to fit the lunar calendar to the climatic one.)

Nat or spirit festivals (nat-pwes), while not a part of mainstream Buddhism, are equally central to Myanmar life. The majority of festivals take place in central Myanmar during the months of December (Myanmar month of Nadaw), March (Tabaung) and during Buddhist Lent, July-August (Waso/Wagaung/Tawthalin). They usually either start or finish on the full moon day. They have numerous common features: the ablution of the nats (the festival usually honours a particular nat); offerings and dances; merchants and hawkers; pilgrims arriving by bullock cart; music blaring from loudspeakers and liberal use of perfume and alcohol.


The following represents only a selection of the festivals which take place in Myanmar every year. The length and exact timing of the festival may vary. Check locally for confirmation and exact details of timing. The dates given are for 2000. Future dates depend on the lunar calendar.


4th Independence Day. Ceremonies held throughout the country. In Shwebo there are bicycle races in which girls carry pots of water on their heads.
5th Mi-ko-taun - 9000 lights festival, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Kyaikto, Mon State. Alms are offered at dawn, and candles lit in the evening.
10th 1st waxing day of Pyatho. Kayin New Year. Celebrated in Hpa-an and Arlein Ngarsint in Yangon. Speeches by Kayin elders and group dances
10thKachin State Day. Manau festivals in Kachin state. The precise dates of the Kachin new year in early January vary.
13thAnanda Pagoda Festival, Bagan. From 8th waxing day of Pyatho to 14th waning day. Bowls of alms filled with crops are offered to long lines of monks. Many farmers travel by bullock cart from Upper Myanmar. Festival market with local produce including woven baskets.
15thKayah State Day. Five day festival celebrated in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state. Oxcart racing, horse racing, pillow fights and slippery pole climbing contests
15thNaga New Year's Day. 10th waxing day of Pyatho. Celebrated in Khamti, Sagaing. Oxen (gayals) are slaughtered in sacrifice followed by singing, dancing and drinking alcohol throughout the night, with bonfires to ward off the cold.
18thNadaw Pagoda Festival, Phekon, S Shan State. 13th waxing day of Pyatho - Full Moon day (20th). Pillow fights
19thStumadu Pwe, Shwe-mok-taw Pagoda, Bagan. 14th waxing day of Pyatho. Stumadu (made of sesame oil, molasses, honey and butter) is offered to monks


Feb-Apr Shwesettaw Pagoda festival. Three month festival at the Shwesettaw Pagoda (with two Buddha footprints) near Minbu, Magwe. Temporary accommodation is arranged close to Mann stream
5th Lourdes procession, 1st waxing day of Tabodwe. Evening processions over two days at St John's Curch, Bo Sun Pat Street, Yangon, and in Nyaunglebin, Bago Division, in honour of the Virgin Mary.
6th Shan Harvest festival, Pankan, Hsi-saing, S Shan State. One day ceremony with traditional sword fights and drums, 2nd waxing day of Tabodwe,
7th Shan State Day. Three days of ceremonies and dances in Taunggyi, Kengtung and Lashio
12thKyaik-hkauk Pagoda festival, Thanlyin, near Yangon. 9 day festival from the 8th waxing to the 1st waning day of Tabodwe. The descendants of the early pagoda donors donate drinking water to pilgrims
17th-19th Moe-bye (Moe-bre) Pagoda Festival, S Shan State. 13th waxing to full moon day of Tabodwe. Includes a traditional crossbow contest
18th-19th Mahamuni Pagoda (Payagyi) Festival, Mandalay. 14th-15th waxing days of Tabodwe. Glutinous rice contests are held late on the 14th waxing day. On the morning of the 15th waxing day, incense is burnt in large flames in a symbolic gesture of offering heat to the Great Image.
19thFull Moon of Tabodwe.
Kyaikkasan, Kyaikkalo and Kyaikwaing pagoda festivals, Yangon all take place in this month
Kayin Bonfire Ceremony, Kyondo and Hpa-an. Kayin nationals burn branches and stems of the thet-yin-gyi plant (Croton oblongifolius) in the morning of the full moon day. By watching the billowing smoke and the crest of the flames, they make predictions about the weather and other conditions for the forthcoming year. Throughout the night, young people sing songs with riddles
Around the Tabodwe Full Moon Day, many Myanmar families hold Htamane festivals when a pudding of glutinous rice is cooked up for allcomers.
Bonfire Ceremony (nyan-yo-bwe), Pyay. White stems of the nyan-yo plant which emits no smoke when lit, are burnt at the four cardinal points on the platform of the Shwesandaw Pagoda in the early morning of the 15th waxing day. Worshippers then proceed to Hpo Oo Taung, the hill where the Lord Buddha was said to have predicted the founding of the city of Srikshetra.
20thChin National Day 1st waning day of Tabodwe. Sacrificial gayals are slaughtered and singing, dancing and drinking takes place in Haka and throughout Chin State

MARCH 2000

5th Mawtinsoun Pagoda festival, SW tip of Myanmar (accessible by boat from Pathein), by Diamond (or Turtle) Island Popular pilgrimage and holiday site for the inhabitants of the Ayeyawady delta. Two pagodas, one in the sea along a causeway, and one on a clifftop, are said to be at the point when Buddhism first landed in Myanmar from Sri Lanka. North of the pagodas are miles of clean, flat sandy beaches, perfect for surfing in rubber tires. The local Rakhine fishing villages serve up the ingredients for a deliciously sweet cuttlefish stew (ket-tet hin). 1st waxing day of Tabaung to the Full Moon Day.
6th-7th Lady Pon-ma-kyi Day, 2nd and 3rd waxing days of Tabaung. At many upcountry sites, farmers ceremoniously pay a debt of gratitude to the harvest deity for her kindness in the harvest and for bringing fine weather.
7th Pakkhan Nat festival (Pakkhan is on west bank of the lower Chindwin river, between Pakokku and Pandawbyin), held from the 1st to 15th waxing days of Tabaung in honour of U Min Kyaw or 'Ko Gyi Kyaw'. In the 8-day ceremony which begins on the 3rd waxing day of Tabaung, Ko Gyi Kyaw ascends the throne on the first day; on the 2nd day, the nat figures are washed and regilded, on the 3rd days drums are beaten for the nat and there are cockfights, on the 4th-7th day, Ko Gyi Kyaw is appeased, and on the 8th day, legends are re-enacted.
9th Mingun Nat festival (north-west of Mandalay, 1 hour by boat). From the 5th to 10th waxing days of Tabaung, for the Brother and Sister of the Teak Tree. The boy and girl fell into the Irrawaddy and were carried along by a floating teak tree, but died before the tree ran aground. The trunk took root and the children became nats in its branches.
10thShwedagon Pagoda, Yangon - ceremony to celebrate enshrinement of Sacred Hair Relic. From the 6th waxing day to the Full Moon of Tabaung.
12thNat festival for Ye Yin Kadaw ('the Water Lady'), at Zeedaw and Maungdon (cross Chindwin river at Monywa and travel 22km along Yinmabin road). The festival begins earlier, and farmers from west of the Chindwin River come on bullock carts, including for a parrot market. The ceremony takes place on the 8th and 9th waxing days of Tabaung. On the 1st day, an image of A-me Ye Yin is carried around the village on an oxcart, and on the second day she is appeased and worshipped. She was a minor wife of a Shan king whose magic powers frightened the other Queens so that she was forced into exile and died by drowning in this village. Throughout the festival, despite the large number of pilgrims, the village well is apparently able to cater to all needs. Immediately after the festival, it dries up. Many of the sorcerers who attend this nat-pwe go in for fire-eating.
12thIndawgyi Pagoda Festival, Kachin State nr Moehnyin. 8th waxing day to full moon day of Tabaung. This is the biggest pagoda festival in Kachin State, and very popular with local Shan mountain-dwellers. With drinking and gambling, it can be a bit wild. The Shwe Myitsu Pagoda is on an island in the lake. Two causeways made of sandbanks surfaces during the festival to allow pilgrims to have access to it. One is for humans, and the other for spirits (it is incomplete).
12thShwenattaung Pagoda Festival, Shwedaung, near Prome/Pyay. From the 8th waxing to the full moon of Tabaung.
13thPyi-daw-byan ('returned image') Festival, Zalun, near Hinthada/Henzada. From the 9th waxing day of Tabaung to the full moon. The Mahn Aung Myin image of Zalun was taken by the British to Bombay in 1856 but later recovered. Legend has it that all attempts to melt the image down or beat it to bits failed, and were followed by violent thunderstorms and migraines for Queen Victoria. There are robe-weaving contests and bowls of alms are offered.
13thKekku Pagoda Festival, Kek-ku, near Sesai, S Shan State (headquarters of U Aung Khamti's Pa-O National Organisation). A traditional Pa-O festival, with theatrical performances and singing contests. The collection of pagodas at Kek-ku dates back to the 17th century. Festival runs from the 9th waxing day to the full moon of Tabaung.
14thBawgyo Pagoda festival, 17 miles from Kyaukme, 5 miles to Hsipaw, N Shan State. The main festival in the Shan state, at the most revered pagoda in Northern Shan State (the Paung-daw-oo at Inle Lake being the most revered in the South). Held from the 10th waxing day of Tabaung to the first waning day. It was famous for its gambling. Many Palaung pilgrims come from the Namhsam area. They offer alms to the images at first light on the Full Moon Day. There is a large market, and boat races on the Dokhtawadi (Myitnge) river. The pagoda contains four gilded images, and a sagawa tree which bends so as not to overshadow it.
14thShwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival, Pindaya Caves, Shan State. From the 10th waxing day to the full moon of Tabaung. A typical festival of the Taung-yo minority, attended by many of the other minority tribes of Shan State (Danu, Pa-O, Shan etc).
14thPin Pagoda Festival, Taungdan, near Natmauk. From the 10th waxing to the 8th waning day of Tabaung. A 6-inch Buddha image presumed to be of Pyu origin and said to have once been studded with diamonds is worshipped.
14thHomecoming, or sit-byan, Nat Festival, Taungbyone, near Mandalay. Two-day festival on the 10th and 11th waxing days, which celebrates the return of the Taungbyone brothers and was originally held to commemorate the return of King Anawrahta from his Yunnan expeditions.
14thAva (Inwa) Nat festival, celebrating the nat Thon Ban Hla: 10th waxing day to full moon of Tabaung
14thSameikkon Nat festival (east bank of Ayeyawady, due north of Myingyan) to honour Shin Nemi, from 10th waxing day to full moon of Tabaung
14thHinthagon Pagoda Festival, ]. 11th waxing to 3rd waning day of Tabaung.
16thNam-pan Tabaung Festival, Nam-pan village, Inle Lake, Shan State. 12th waxing day to 1st waning day of Tabaung. Numerous monks receive alms by boat.
18thYe-leh Pagoda Festival, Kyauktan, near Thanlyin. 14th waxing to 2nd waning day of Tabaung.
18thRelic Mountain Festival (Dat-taw-taung-pwe), Kyaukse. 14th waxing day and Tabaung full moon day. Buddha images from the caves of the relic mountain are worshipped. Includes traditional boxing.
19thFull moon of Tabaung. This moon is said to be the most beautiful of the year. The month of Tabaung sees the greatest number of festivals in large and small pagodas throughout the country including Manuha Pagoda, Bagan Shwe-Ohn-Hmin Pagoda, Aungban (near Kalaw, Shan State); Zwegabin, Hpa-an; Shwethalyaung, Kyaukse; Myathalun Pagoda, Magwe; Alaundaw Kathapa shrine in the National Park of the same name, Sagaing Division.
19thTitle Decoration Ceremony, Kaba Aye Pagoda, Yangon. Monks and laymen are decorated with titles for their religious achievements, with alms offerings.
20thShwesayan Pagoda Festival, near Patheingyi, Mandalay. On the river south of the main Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin road (near Ton-bo) and accessible by car or horsecart from the main road. Merchandise from Shan State, and in particular pineapples, sweets and traditional medicines are sold, along with the local speciality, brightly coloured toys and bracelets woven out of toddy palm leaves. From 1st to 8th waning days of Tabaung. A teashop is built out in the river, and piers built out into the river offer scope for pre-Thingyan water-splashing. Ferrymen rowing swallowtail boats come across from Sagaing and Ava to row pilgrims to the various pagodas.
20thPyin Oo Lwin Nat festival, for Ko Myo Shin, the black-garbed nat who is guardian of Shan State. Held from the 1st to 5th waning days of Tabaung.
26thMa Ngwe Daung nat festival, Ahlone, 12 km north of Monywa on the Shwebo road. Held from the 7th waning day to the new moon of Tabaung. This is the festival for the broken-hearted.

APRIL 2000

7th Flower-picking ceremony (Thakin-ma Taung-pan Hkauk-pwe), Patheingyi, Mandalay. 4th waxing day of Tagu. The ceremony commemorates the flowers strewn from the garland of Lady Shwe Oo who was mauled by a mythical tiger who was, in fact, the man whose love she had earlier rejected.
10thTiger-man Dance, Palaw, near Myeik. The natives paint themselves as tigers and dance through the streets in the run-up to Thingyan (7th -11th waxing days of Tagu)
11thShwe-maw-daw Pagoda Festival, Bago. From the 8th waxing to 5th waning days of Tagu. Theatrical shows.
12th-15thThingyan Water Festival. The festival lasts four, or occasionally five days, and takes place in mid-April, leading up to New Year's Day. Thingyan dates back to the Myanmar kings and is also celebrate as Songkran in Thailand. But it is not a religious festival, strictly speaking, and is not determined by the phases of the moon. According to legend, Sakkra, King of the Devas, and Arsi, King of the Brahmas, made a bet whereby the loser would be decapitated. Arsi lost the wager and his head. The Brahmas cut off an elephant's head and fixed it on his body and he became the god Ganesh. Since it was said that the earth would be consumed by flames and the oceans would dry up if Arsi's head fell into them, seven celestial goddesses were charged with holding the head for a year each. When they pass it from one to another, this represents the New Year.
On the eve of Thingyan, Day 1, only children are allowed to throw water before it gets too wild. On Day 2, the Descent Day, Thagyarmin (Sakkra), the Lord of Thingyan is said to descend from his celestial abode. On the intervening day(s), he records saints and sinners in his book, before returning to heaven on Ascent Day, the day before the New Year.
The throwing of water originally took place from a silver bowl from which thanakha scented water was scattered with tha-bye (Eugenia) leaves. Nowadays, water pistols and motor-driven pumps are used. Young people splash water at one another to wash away sins and to have a good time flirting and drinking, especially in Yangon and Mandalay, while older people retreat to the monasteries and observe the eight precepts including fasting after noon.
Astrologers from Mandalay distribute the annual Thingyan-sa or almanac which predicts the situation for the coming year, including the weather, pests, economy etc.
During the festivities, than-gyat or satyrical rhyming couplets are called out with a lead singing the first line and the chorus responding. Special Thingyan sweets - moun-lon-ye-baw, rice dumplings with a jaggery centre are cooked as a ritual by boys and girls. When cooked, they float to the top of the boiling water (ye-baw). Sometimes a chili is substituted for the jaggery.
In Dawei, then men were 4 metre high bamboo effigies of Indians call Kalar-koe-daung and dance down the streets to drum music.
12thThanakha Grinding Festival, Sittwe, Rakhine State. Held on the eve of Thingyan. In the early part of the night, young women grind thanakha log on stone slabs and young man play music and dance to accompany them. On the following day the Image Bathing Festival (paya ye-cho-bwe) is held, and Buddha images are cleansed with the thanakha water.
16thNew Year's Day. Buddhists throughout the country perform meritorious deeds such as releasing animals (be-meh-hlut-pwe), at Kaba Aye Pagoda and elsewhere, offering alms, and paying homage to their elders. Water-throwing is forbidden except in the village Yo Go south of Moulmein.
16thElders' Day ceremony, Kaba Aye Pagoda, Yangon and elsewhere. Held on New Year's Day. An elderly man and women from every township in Yangon are invited to Kaba Aye to be presented with gifts and to have their hair washed and nails clipped as a sign of respect.
16thFree Food or 'Visitors' Festival (Eh-theh Pwe), Chaungzon township, Mon State (Bilugyun Islan opposite Moulmein). Each of the 64 villages in Chaungzon township takes turn over the course of the following month to offer free food to anyone who crosses the threshhold. The more guests a house receives, the better future the family is thought to have.
16thSand Stupa Festival, Shwesandaw Pagoda, Twante near Yangon. Takes place on New Year's Day. A stupa of sand is built in the pagoda compound, in a ceremony sponsored by descendants of Shan migrants. People dress up as buffaloes and dance.
16thMount Popa Nat festival, from the night of the 13th to noon of 14th waxing moon of Tagu - to celebrate return of Taungbyone brothers from China. Pilgrims come from all over the country.
16thKo Gyi Kyaw or Gu-ni Nat Festival, Magwe. Held from the 13th waxing to the 2nd waning day of Tagu. It is widely believed that the nat Ko Gyi Kyaw travels around the country and on his way home, he usually takes a break in Gu-ni. The nat is approached by mediums during their dances who seek his patronage.

MAY 2000

1st Kyaukse Nat festival (Kyaukse is on the main road between Meiktila and Mandalay). Held on the 14th waning day of Tagu until the New Moon (2 May) to honour Shwe Sagadaw
10thShiq-thaung Pagoda Festival, Mrauk U, Rakhine State. From 8th waxing day to full moon of Kason. There are mock boat-races on land and real boat races and splashing in the Mrauk U canal on the full moon day. Traditional wrestling competitions take place at the foot of the pagoda, with the final on Full Moon day.
10thKutheinaryon Pagoda Festival, Salin (West Bank of Ayeyawady, SW of Bagan). The festival begins on the 8th or 9th waxing day and continues until the 9th or 10th waning day.
13thU Shin Gyi nat festival, Sat Island and Brown island, Bogalay, Ayeyawady Division. From 11th to 13th waxing day of Kason. On the first day, the performers dance in front of the statue of U Shin Gyi, an outdoor nat popular in the Delta, in particular with fishermen. On the second, his story is re-enacted throughout the night and on the third, he mounts the bamboo shrine.
16thShwe-kyet-yet Pagoda Festival, near Amarapura. Held on the 14th waxing day of Kason, the day before the normal 'watering' ceremony. A large-scale ceremonial procession is followed by the pouring of water on the sacred Bo tree.
17thFull Moon of Kason. In different years, Buddha was born, died and achieved enlightenment on the full moon day of Kason. The festival of offering water to sacred Bo (banyan) trees celebrated throughout Myanmar, including at the Shwemohkdaw Pagoda in Pathein. Alms-offering ceremony by Pyay residents at Neikbeinda (monasteries three miles north of Pyay)
17th Danu Ta-teq Festival, Ta-mae, Pindaya, Shan State. Single Danu young people court one another by throwing roasted lablab (Hyacinth, Dolichos lablab) beans at each other on the Full Moon Day
17th-18th Mahathwanthara Festival, Bo-gone, Insein, Yangon. It is deemed auspicious to have the 2 ft high image of the Buddha at one's home overnight. Reservations for inviting the image are made a year in advance. Full Moon of Kason and 1st waning day.
22nd Shwe-guni pagoda Festival, 20 miles east of Monywa. Typical black and gold lacquerware from nearby Kyaukka is the festival's speciality. Held from the 5th to the 8th waning day of Kason.

JUNE 2000

1st Shwemyintin Pagoda Festival, Meikhtila. Kason New Moon to the 7th waxing day of Nayon.
8th Shwemudaw (Pan-aing) Pagoda Festival, Mahlaing (23 miles from Meiktila on the road to Myingyan. Pan-aing is 2 miles off the road). A typical up-country pagoda festival. The market specialises in cotton, tobacco (both locally grown) and toys. Held from the 7th waxing to the 7th waning day of Nayon.
9th Thihoshin Pagoda festival, Pakokku (north of Bagan on west bank of the Ayeyawady). The pagoda contains an image presented by the King of Ceylon some 800 years ago. Held from 8th waxing to the 8th waning day day of Nayon, with traditional plays (although not, for the last few years, puppet shows). Local specialities include thanakha logs, jaggery, longyis and checked cotton and wool blankets. The pagoda is said to have been built by King Alaunsitthu.
14thAmay Gyan nat festival, Kyaukse. Amay Gyan is the beer drinking wife of an Ava prince-thief. Held from the 13th waxing to the Full Moon Day of Nayon.
16thRecital Festival (Sa-pyan-pwe). Held on the Full Moon Day of Nayon at Kaba Aye Pagoda, Yangon. The five parts of the Nikaya are recited. Similar recitations are conducted by monks and nuns throughout the country.
17thWicker Ball Festival, precincts of the Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay. The festival lasts a month from the 1st waning day of Nayon. Chin-lon ball players come from all over the country to participate in a festival which has been going for over seventy years.

JULY 2000

4th Boddhaw-maw-pwe or Cliff Nat Festival, Sittwe. Held on the first Tuesday and Saturday before the Full Moon of Waso. The women of Sittwe gather at the cliff where they believe the Guardian spirit dwells and stick yellow papers onto the rock with banana paste.
14thShinbin-sagyi Ceremony, Sa-le near Magwe. 14th waxing and Full Moon Day of Waso. The pagoda is noted for Buddhist paintings and carvings. Another ceremony is held on the Full Moon Day of Thadingyut.
14thYadana Larbamuni Pagoda Festival (Snake Pagoda), Paleik, south of Mandalay. From the 14th waxing day of Waso, for a month. The festival includes dramatic performances, volleyball, football and bullock cart races. The Warlinpo Festival in nearby Singaing also runs from the Full Moon of Waso for a month.
15thFull Moon of Waso, start of the Buddhist Lent (Dhammasetkya Day). The Full Moon Day commemorates the day Buddha preached his first sermon on the turning of the Wheel of Law. Marriages are frowned upon in Lent. Monks are confined to their monasteries because of Buddha's injunction that they should not go travelling during the rainy season in case they inadvertently stepped on some growing plant or insect life. Waso Thingan robes are offered
15thFish Feeding Festival, Pwint-byu, Minbu. Three month festival ending on the Thadingyut Full Moon Day. Locals feed the large catfish in the Mone canal. This is believed to be the only time the catfish appear.
15thPaukpayin Festival, Kume (between Meiktila and Kyaukse). Full moon to 10th waning day of Waso.
16th>Flower-picking Ceremony (Pan-ku-pwe), Inle Lake and elsewhere. Young men and women cruise in motorboats across the lake to pick waterlilies on the first waning day of Waso.
31stThread-tying Ceremony (leq-kyeh-hpweh-pwe), Hpa-an, Kayin State. 1st waxing day of Wagaung. Members of all Kayin clans sing, dance, pray and tie cotton threads around their wrists to ward off evil and danger.
31stShwe-kyun-bin, Golden Teak Tree Nat Festival, Mingun, Mandalay. 1st to 3rd waxing days of Wagaung. The last barter market in Myanmar, where natives trades by exchanging goods. Nat dances on the 1st day are an audience, the second a royal bath, and the third, the cutting down of the htein tree (see Taungyone, below).
31stKyaukse nat festival, 1st to 3rd day of waxing days of Wagaung, in honour of Shwe Sagadaw


7th Pottery Day (Oh-pouq-pwe), Myauk-pyin, near Mandalay. Pottery-sellers tease one another by hiding each other's wares while on their way to Taungbyone nat festival. 8th waxing day of Wagaung
7th Taungbyone Nat Festival, 10 miles north of Mandalay (from 8th waxing day to the full moon of Wagaung). Myanmar's most famous nat festival which any nat-gadaw ('nat wife' or medium) worth his or her salt must attend. Very crowded and boisterous. Watch out for pickpockets. The two Taungbyone nat brothers (also called the Shwepyin brothers - Shwepyin-gyi and Shwe-pyin-ngeh), King Anawrahta's adopted sons, are worshipped.
On the 8th and 9th waxing days, homage is paid with flowers at the shrine of the Twin Princes, gilded images one slightly larger than the other. Discarded flowers are kept as tokens of good fortune.
At 3 p.m. on the 10th waxing day, there is a conference of the officiating families of the festival and the main orchestra begins to play to pay homage to the images (other orchestras do not start playing until the afternoon of the following day).
On the 11th waxing day, the royal ablutions are carried out. The 12th waxing day is -weq-pwe (or 'half') day, when offerings are made if bananas, coconuts, fruit, flowers, cakes, fried chicken, fish and liquor. One half is left at the shrine and the other half taken home. The 13th waxing day is htat-pwe ('heap day'), when whatever is offered at the shrine is added to, and devotees take home their offering and the extra.
The 14th waxing day is yon-hto-pwe, when roasted wild rabbit or hare and toddy are offered to the images, with a drunken procession and dancing, in memory of when they visited toddy plantations themselves for grilled rabbit and a drink.
On the Full Moon Day, male natgadaws representing the princes descend from the stage and cut down the branches of 'htein' tree (Nauclea Parviflora) which have been placed by the shrine. According to legend, their adopted father Anawrahta was killed by the god of the htein tree in the form of a wild buffalo, and they are exacting their revenge. Fragments of the branches are kept for good luck.
On the 1st waning day, the images are regilded and their robes changed and the following day alms are offered to the monks.
9th Pin Pagoda Festival, near Yenanchaung, 10th waxing to 5th waning day of Wagaung.
14thGold Pot Burying Day (Shwe-oh-hmyouq-pwe), Ye, Mon State. Full Moon Day of Wagaung. Alms bowls completed with offertories are painted in gold and offered to the monasteries.
14thSa-ye-dan festival in monasteries. Lots are drawn in which the winner is presented with an alms bowl to offer food to the monks. Full Moon Day of Wagaung
14thU Min Thounseh Pagoda Festival, Sagaing Hills. Full Moon Day of Wagaung
23rdMount Popa Nat festival to celebrate departure of Taungbyone brothers for China - from 9th to 13th waning days of Wagaung.
24thAmarapura (south of Mandalay) Nat festival - Irinaku/Yadanagu pwe, for the ogress Popa Medaw, mother of the Taungbyone brothers who has visited them in Taungbyone. 10th waning day of Wagaung to the new moon day. The site is flooded during the rainy season and a rowing boat must be taken. The five day ceremony includings a nat audience, the royal bath, ascending the throne, the daughter of Mahagiri reels on the ground in grief (4th day) and the cutting of the htein tree (5th day). Thalein Medaw, the nat guardian of buffaloes, dances in the streets.


5th Myittha Nat festival (between Mandalay and Meiktila) in honour of the nat Shwe Nabe. From the 8th day of waxing moon until full moon of Tawthalin,
10thTooth relic procession, Paungde, south of Pyay. From the 13th waxing day to the Full Moon of Tawthalin. The Tooth Relic mounted on an elephant is taken around town on the Full Moon Day, after being displayed to pilgrims. After the ceremony it is kept inside a heavily locked chamber for the rest of the year.
11thRice-donating Ceremony, Padamya Pagoda, Sagaing, 14th waxing day to the Full Moon Day of Tawthalin. Sacks of white rice donated from around the country are given away to the monks and nuns of Mandalay and Sagaing Hills. Nuns are presented with alms on the 14th waxing day and monks on the full moon day.
14thBo Min Gaung Nat Festival, Bo Min Gaung shrine, Mt Popa. 2nd waning day of Tawthalin. Bo Min Gaung is remembered for his attainments in meditation. He was said to have escaped worldly sufferings.
17thBo Bo Gyi nat festival, Taungthaman Lake, Amarapura. 5th waning day of Tawthalin to the new moon.
20thOil-donating Ceremony, Hpa-auk, south of Moulmein. 8th waning day of Tawthalin. A traditional Mon ceremony. Monks move around the villages to receive oil donations at the time of the first harvest. The oil is used for lamps
22nd Hsu-taung-pye Alms Offering Ceremony, Monywa. Over a thousand monks are invited and receive alms bowls. 10th waning day of Tawthalin.
22nd Myo-daunt Zedi Pagoda Festival, Shwebo. The festival market is famous for tobacco, earthenware, woven cotton and other local products. 10th waning day to the New Moon day of Tawthalin.
28thInle Lake leg-rowing festival and Paung-daw-oo Pagoda festival. The festival is held from the 1st waxing day to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut. The Buddha images are taken from the Paung-daw-oo Pagoda from village to village around Inle Lake in a barge propelled by leg rowers. The tour lasts about 18 days. Boat races are held throughout.


2nd Sand Stupa Festival, Kyaikkami and Setse Beaches, Mon State. 5th waxing day of Thadingyut. People from the nearby villages gather on the beach to build sand-stupas and enshrine paper currency. These are washed away by the waves hours later.
7th Myathalun Pagoda Festival, Magwe (east bank of Ayeyawady between Pyay and Bagan). 10th waxing day to the New Moon of Thadingyut. Buddhist chanting, early morning rice offering to 1700 monks, and the lighting of 9000 candles are major activities. The pagoda is situated on the riverbank. The market specialises in iron utensils.
10thPyet-khay-way Pagoda Festival, Kume, between Meiktila and Kyaukse. 13th waxing to Full Moon Day of Thadingyut. The mountain top is demarcated at the centre of the cardinal points of Myanmar. Pilgrims bring their own musical instruments to play at the pagoda. A peasant band plays do-bat and drums.
11thKyauktawgyi Pagoda Festival, Mandalay. The Kyauktawgyi image was cast from a single piece of alabaster in 1864 under the guidance of King Mindon. The festival lasts from the 14th waxing day to the 2nd waning day of Thadingyut.
11thPa-O Ceremony of the Tree of Plenty (Than-bouq-sin-pwe), Taunggyi. A mythical tree of plenty is erected with a seat on top for Buddha. It is decorated with fruit and other offerings. 14th waxing to 4th waning day of Thadingyut.
11thFloating Alms Bowl festival (thabeik-ye-myaw-pwe), Dawei. Small black clay alms bowls, loaded with vegetarian food, are floated in the early morning. 14th waxing day of Thadingyut and Full Moon Day.
11thElephant Dance Festival, Shwethalyaung, Kyaukse. Two (one black, one white, life-size dummy elephants made of paper and cloth on a bamboo frame dance for two days to music and take offerings up the stairs of the pagoda to the accompaniment of dobat and drums. Previously pilgrims came on real elephants. 14th waxing day and Full Moon Day of Thadingyut.
11th28 Buddhas (Hniq-kyeiq-shiq-hsu) Festival, Pyinmana. 14th waxing to 1st waning day of Thadingyut. A procession of the 28 Enlightened Ones takes place from the town's streets. Similar processions take place elsewhere in Myanmar.
11thKyaikkami re-lay Pagoda Festival, 14th waxing to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut.
11thThadingyut Festival of Lights. Throughout Myanmar from the 14th waxing to the 1st waning day of Thadingyut. Marks the end of Lent, Buddha's descent from Tawatimsa, the Celestial Abode after spending the three months of Buddhist Lent there. Between Thadingyut and Tazaungmon kahtein/kathina robes 'donation with great merit' are offered to the monastery as a whole to be distributed by the senior monks. Padetha-pin - padetha trees - are adorned with money and donations and offered to monks. The Pa-wa-ra-na ('requesting') ceremony in held in which monks ask to be reprimanded for any sins.
12thFloating Alms Bowl festival (thabeik-ye-myaw-pwe), Bohtataung Pagoda, Yangon. Alms bowls are floated in the early morning of the full moon of Thadingyut.
12thZayat-gyi Pwe, Toungoo. Dummy oxen and buffalo dances and release of hot air balloons. A Pa-O, Shan, Mon and Kayin event on the Full Moon Day.
12thTawatimsa Ceremony, Pathein. The Buddha image is ceremoniously pulled down a decorated stairway using cables and pullies to mark the day that Lord Buddha descended from Tawatimsa. Full moon of Thadingyut.
12thThanakha Cheeks Ceremony, Saw, Magwe. During the full moon day, young men dab girls on the cheek with a cloth soaked in thanakha water on their way to pagodas and monasteries, and vice versa.
12thPagoda Shaking festival, Net-khet-khwu village near Kyaukpadaung. Full moon day to 2nd waning day of Thadingyut. The upper part of the pagoda is shaken.
13thFloating Lights Festival, Shwekyin, Bago. On the first waning day of Thadingyut there are dances, followed a night in which floating lights dedicated to Shin Upagutta are released onto Shwekyin Canal.
13thRamayana festival, Pyapon. The Ramayana is performed from the 1st to the 9th waning days of Thadingyut.
13thHsu-taung-bye Pagoda Festival, Monywa. The best puppeteers perform during the festival which lasts from the 1st waning day to the new moon of Thadingyut. On the eve of the festival, traditional sweets and snacks are handed out by each household.
15thShin Bo Meh Festival, Mandalay, at a pagoda donated by Queen Shin Bo Meh who became queen at the age of 8.
16thCylindrical Pennants Festival, Chauk. From the 4th to the 7th waning days of Thadingyut. Girls bring long decorated windsock pennants to display in competition, to the accompaniment of music. The pennants are later flown on high poles next to the pagoda.
16thSaung Hsan Festival, Namkham, N Shan State. Maw Shan ceremony with dancing, music, processions, alms giving on the final morning. Attended by the Shan, Tai Maw, Tai Ngwe, Palaung and Lisu. From the 4th to the 8th waning day of Thadingyut.
17thChinese Floats festival, Sin-Oh-Dan, Yangon. The Sin-Oh-Dan Chinese Temple sponsors this floating lights ceremony dedicated to Shin Upagutta on the Yangon River. 5th waning day.
31stShwesandaw Pagoda Festival, Pyay. From the 5th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon.


3rd Shwezigon Pagoda Festival, Bagan. Candles and fireworks are offered to the pagoda. The festival runs from the 8th waxing to the new moon of Tazaungmon.
5th Balloon festival (Mi-bon-pyan-bwe), Taunggyi. A Pa-O festival in which hot-air balloons are released day and night, and compete for attractiveness and height attained. During the day, animal figures are flown, and at night, there are fireworks and bamboo and gunpowder rockets launched, and lighted balloons are sent up as high as possible to reach the magnificent pagoda in Tavatimsa with Thagyarmin, King of the Devas, resides. From the 10th waxing day to the Full Moon Day
8th Than-boddhay Pagoda festival, 20 km from Monywa. 13thh waxing day to Full Moon Day of Tazaungmon.
8th Myo-Nam Zedi Festival, Loikaw, Kayah State. 18 ft long burning sticks made out of bamboo and pinewood are used in a burning competition. From the 13th waxing day to the Full Moon of Tazaungmon.
9th Robe-weaving Competitions, Yangon. Groups of young women compete in various pagodas such as the Shwedagon, Botahtaung and Kyaikkasan to weave flawless robes overnight to commemorate Buddha's foster mother Gotami who made him a robe. They offer the Matho Thingan (unstale robes) to the images at dawn. On the night of the 14th waxing day of Tazaungmon
9th Kyi-ma-no-pwe ('before the crows awake'). On the night of the 14th waxing day of Tazaungmon, young men roam the streets looking for items to steal and place in embarrassing places. If the owner catches them, the would-be thief must stay all night long where the owner demands and at dawn, do anything he asks. If the item is successfully stolen and displayed in a public place, the owner can only regain his possession by singing and dancing for the thief.
9th Kuthein-nayon Festival, Pathein. A festival featuring buffalo dances and a re-enactment of the conversion of deviant sects back to mainstream Buddhism takes place from the 14th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon.
9th Astrologers Festival, Shwebonpwint Pagoda, Yangon. The ekantha-byakrana society of astrologers pays homage to its elders and offer free predictions for the night of the 14th waxing day of Tazaungmon.
9th 13th Street Lighting Festival, Yangon. Lanterns with cartoons are displayed along the street from the 14th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon, and the best cartoonist receives an award.
9th Hpo-win-daung Festival, Monywa. The 16th century cave temples of Hpo-win-daung host a festival and market from the 14th waxing day to the 1st waning day of Tazaungmon which features indigenous medicines from the west of the Chindwin River and bronze utensils and religious articles.
9th Flower-tossing ceremony, Mahamuni pagoda, Mandalay. People toss water lilies at the image of Buddha while making a wish. 14th waxing day of Tazaungmon.
10thTazaungdaing festival of Lights. Full Moon of Tazaungmon. Candles are lit throughout the country, and buildings are illuminated in lower Myanmar (more so than at Thadingyut as there is less chance of it being rained out). Treasure hunts (pant-ha-ku) are organised for the children and donors hide and hand out money, sweets and presents.
10th9000 Candles Ceremony, Ko-dat-gyi (9-storey pagoda) Yangon. 9999 candles are ceremoniously lit on the Tazaungmon Full Moon Day and at midnight visitors are served with a mixed salad of mezali buds (Cassia siamea), mixed with sesame, groundnuts, fried garlic and sesame oil, which is believed to possess powerful magical and medicinal properties if eaten on this occasion.
10th9000 candles ceremony, Kyaiktiyo pagoda, Kyaikto, Mon State. Rice and fruit are offered at dawn, and candles at night to the Pagoda on the Gold Rock.
10thThinbok Soon alms offering ceremony, Sittwe. Rice, oil and lamps are offered to the Payagyi Buddha images by young people dressed as princes and princesses and accompanied by royal drums (si-daw). The rice comes from the new harvest and is molded into small mounds using banyam leave cones. The rice is collected from the neighbourhood by the elderly women the night before, and cooked by the girls, while the boys go out looking for banyam leaves. This appears to be harvest festival which dates back many hundreds of years.
10thFire-stick Festival, Kalaw, Shan State. Long poles stuffed with fireworks are ceremoniously carried to a pagoda on the outskirts of town on the Full Moon of Tazaungmon. They are planted near the pagoda and set off to burn throughout the night.
10thHindu Sacred Bathing Festival, Pyay. Hindus from all over Myanmar come and observe the Full Moon of Tazaungmon day as they do at the Ganges.
10thKaunghmudaw Pagoda Festival, Sagaing. The festival is renowned for its puppet shows and peasant pilgrims who come with oxcarts. It runs from the Full Moon of Tazaungmon to the 6th waning day. 802 lamp posts illuminate the dome. The pagoda slaves of the three nearby villages (Si-tee, Leq-hlouq, Sun-ket) perform the duties of the respective village names (drum playing, dancing (hand moving), and alms cooking).
26thNi-gyaw-da Festival, Pathein, 1st waxing day of Nadaw. The procession includes demonstrations of the miraculous powers of Lord Buddha, and the robbing of a Shan merchant caravan
26thWar-going ceremony (siq-htweq-pwe), Taungbyone, Mandalay. This nat festival on the 1st waxing day of Nadaw originally commemorated Anawrahta's departure for Yunnan.
26thWriters Day. 1st waxing day of Nadaw. On this day, and during the rest of the month, writers hold lectures and readings and are honoured.


3rd Spectacled Image Festival, Shwedaung, near Pyay. 8th waxing to Full Moon of Nadaw.
5th Sandawshin pagoda festival, West Phayonga island, Rakhine State. The festival runs from the 8th waxing to the 1st waning day of Nadaw. The pagoda on the Nilar Paba Hill at the mouth of the Kaladan River is dedicated to a famous Rakhine queen, Saw Me Kyi (or Soe Mai), wife of King Phalaung. According to legend, any form that represents a tiger cannot be taken into the pagoda precincts.
9th Taungbyone Nat festival, 14th waxing day of Nadaw until the full moon, for the Taungbyone brothers. The shrine is opened at the end of the afternoon and on the following day, King Anawrahta's proclamation is read, originally made after his departure to China in quest after the Buddha's tooth relic.
10thPyay Brothers nat festival, Pyay from the Full Moon of Nadaw to 5th waning day
10thThe days leading up to the Full Moon of Nadaw see pagoda festivals in Yangon at Moegaung Pagoda, Bohtataung Pagoda and Mehlamu Pagoda.
10thMount Popa Mahagiri nat festival from the Full moon of Nadaw to the 6th waning day. The festival celebrates the brother nat and Lord of the Great Mountain, formerly Maung Tint Deir the blacksmith who was burnt at the stake by a jealous king.
22nd Zaygalay Nat Festival, Kyimindine, Yangon. 12th waning day to the New Moon of Nadaw. Nat dances on the earlier days, then Buddhist chants
25thKayin New Year. Celebrated in Hpa-an and Arlein Ngasint, Yangon. Speeches by Kayin Elders followed by group dances
The above information is compiled from my own knowledge, the AV Media calendar for 2000, guide books, Yves Rodrigue's book on nat-pwes and a number of Burmese magazines and books. I would welcome details of other pagoda and nat festivals to make it complete (

Recommended reading on nats and pagoda festivals:

Nat-Pwe: Burma's Supernatural Sub-Culture, by Yves Rodrigue, published 1992 by Kiscadale Publications, Murray House, Gartmore, Stirlingshire FK8 3RJ, UK
A Wonderland of Burmese Legends, by Daw Khin Myo Chit, Tamarind Press Bangkok, 1984
The Native Tourist, Ma Thanegi, Swiftwinds Books, Yangon, 2000
On the Road to Mandalay by Mya Than Tint, White Orchid Press, Bangkok, 1996
AV Media, Calendar 2000, 126 Mahabandoola Garden Street, Kyauktada, Yangon Fax 284891
V. Bowman