If you love water festivals, then you will love Myanmar’s New Year celebration! It is the biggest water festival ever! Just as big as its capital city.
What is Thingyan Water Festival all about?
Lets begin with a short story: The King of Brahmas called Arsi, lost a wager to the King of Devas, Thagya Min, who decapitated Arsi. Miraculously, the head of an elephant was placed onto Arsi’s body, and he then became Ganesha.
The Hindu god was so powerful that if his head was thrown into the sea, it would dry up immediately. If it were thrown on the land, it would be scorched. If it were thrown up into the air, the sky would burst into flames.
Thagya Min therefore ordained that Ganesha’s head be carried by one princess after another who took turns for a year each. Thus, the New Year festival is to signify this annual change of hands.
The Essential Travel Guide to Myanmar
Thingyan means “The Sun from Pisces to Aries.”
Thingyan is the Burmese new year festival which usually lands on the middle of every April. People celebrate it up to five days! The most known activity that takes place during this New Year festival is the water festival.
The first day of Burmese New Year is called “a-kyo nei”, it starts with various religious activities. At night time there are music festivals, dance, and merrymaking in anticipation of the coming water festival.
The second day is called “a-kya nei”, which is the day the water festival starts. It started as only sprinkling scented water from a silver bowl to symbolize washing away one’s sins to get ready for the coming year. However, in big cities like Yangon, anything with the ability to contain water is used during the water festival.
The remaining days are called “a-kyat nei”, some years they even add an extra day.
How do the locals celebrate Thingyan Water Festival?
Buddhists observe the Eight Precepts, which include having only one meal before noon. Alms and offerings are offered before monks in their monasteries. Some religious people will also volunteer to work in temples for several days and pray. This is the when Shwedagon Paya is at its busiest, with pious Buddhists coming in and out for days on end.
The main festival starts on “a-kya nei” the second day of the New Year celebration. You can see all the locals throwing water at each other while passing by. Some people even start throwing water on the first day, but the second day is traditionally the day the King of Devas, makes his descent to earth from his celestial abode, and people throw water to celebrate. Nowadays, rich people, powerful families, and business companies even sponsor to set up pandals, which are temporary water spraying stations and also used as dance flours.
Some Pro tips for people who want to attend Thingyan Water Festival
1.Make sure all your gadgets are waterproof!
Everything is going to become really wet! People get real crazy when it comes to parties, especially when the party is so huge! There will be water everywhere, from buckets of water, water balloons, and garden hoses up to fire hoses! So make sure all your valuable things are well packed and waterproofed.
2. Receive the generosity from the locals with gratitude
The local people are religious and generous, people give out free food outside their houses to share the joy with each other. Don’t be shy and try some of their traditional snacks such as palm sugar rice balls, a traditional snack eaten especially during Thingyan Festival.
3. To add extra fun to your celebration…
Look out for pick-up trucks and hop on one of them, the truck drives around town, and the people on it waters everyone soaking wet when they pass by. The pick-up trucks also drives along to refill your water weapons. Remember to bring a towel with you to keep your eyes dry!
4. Some comfort food for after-party
After a long day out in a water fight/party, all that energy you used up needs to be restored with some street food. Shops and restaurants usually close early or are closed during New Years, so the best place to get food is on the street! Have some noodle soup Mohinga to warm up your shivering watered soul.
This year’s (2019) Thingyan will be falling on the 13th of April, pack your bags and be ready to get wet!