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Festivals

by Ashin Acariya
Translated by U Hla Min

Updated : August 5, 2019

The Burmese Calendar is a luni-solar-socio-religious calendar.
The Burmese New Year falls on or around April 16. The three (or sometimes four) days preceding the New Year is celebrated as Thingyan (similar to Songkran festival in Thailand).
It is a lunar calendar with 12 lunar months in most years. An intercalary month called “Second Waso” is added every three years. There are 12 religious and/or social festivals (one for each Burmese month).
Most religious festivals are celebrated on the Full Moon Day.
The following is a brief description of the 12 Burmese months and the associated festivals.

1. Month of Tagu

Name of the auspicious event: Ushering in the Burmese New Year by the Buddhists
Associated festival: A Ta Thingyan Water Festival (generally held from April 13 – 15 or 16)
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite guests for special treat. (b) Take eight precepts and practice Sila (morality). (c) Listen attentively to the “38 Blessings” by the sangha. (d) Chant Paritta (protective verses) and Pathana (“relations”) (e) Pay homage to the elderly people as if they were one’s own parents (f) All the above are performed (by the Burmese Buddhist) to accumulate kusala (wholesome deeds) (g) Most younger people usher in the Burmese New Year by throwing water (h) Thingyan festival is the most prominent among the 12 (monthly) festivals.
Objectives: To cleanse akusala (unwholesome deeds) from the past year (a) symbolically by throwing water (b) practically by performing meritorious deeds such as dana (charity), sila (mrality), and bhavana (meditation)

2. Full Moon Day of Kason

Name of the auspicious event: Buddha’s Day. It is the most prominent day for the (Theravada) Buddhists celebrating four milestones (a) the proclamation that the Bodhisatta Sumeda would become Buddha in four incalculables and 100,000 worlds (b) birth of the Boddhisatta Sidartha (c) enlightenment of Gautama Buddha (d) Mahaparinibbna (final passing away of Buddha)
Associated festival: Kason Nyaung Ye Thun Pwe (pouring water on the Bodhi tree)
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite guests for special treat. (b) Invite sangha and offer requisites (c) Take (five or eight) precepts and practice Sila (morality) (d) Listen to the dhamma talks (e) Practice metta (loving kindness meditation) (f) Share merits (g) Pour water on the Bodhi tree

Objectives: (a) To acknowledge the practice of parami (perfection) for four incalculables in order to become a Buddha (b) To realize that Buddha’s teachings are for our own good (c) To make a determination that we should practice Buddha’s teachings to the fullest extent

3. Full Moon Day of Nayone

Name of the auspicious event: Mahasamaya (“Great Occasion”) A Kha Daw Nay
(a) Commemorating truce between Kapilavutta and Koliya countries (b) Assembly of devas, brahmas, galons, nagas, and sanghas expressing their metta (unbounded love) (c) Ordination of 500 princes from the Sakya clan (d) In sum, distinguished and outstanding day of love and peace
Associated festival: Recitation of Mahasamaya Sutta
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite guests for special treat. (b) Invite sangha and offer requisites (c) Take (five or eight) precepts and practice Sila (morality) (d) Listen to the dhamma talks (e) Recite Mahasamaya Sutta (f) Practice metta (loving kindness meditation) (g) Share merits
Objectives: (a) To advocate love and peace among nations with diverse cultures and beliefs (b) To practice metta (unbounded love) not only for humans but for all beings

4. Month of Waso

Name of the auspicious event: (a) Offering of Waso robes (b) Recitation of Dhammacakkapavutna Sutta (“Turning the Wheel of Dhamma”)
Associated festival: There is no specific date for the offering of Waso robes to the sangha.
Full Moon Day of Waso is a prominent day for (Theravada) Buddhists celebrating three milestones (a) the day when Boddhisatta was conceived in the womb of Queen Mahamaya (b) the day when Prince Sidharta renounced his worldly pleasures (c) the day when the First Sermon Dhammacakkapavutna Sutta was delivered to his five disciples
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite guests for special treat. (b) Invite sangha and offer requisites (c) Take (five or eight) precepts and practice Sila (morality) (d) Listen to the dhamma talks about Magga (Noble Eight-fold Path) (e) Collectively recite Dhammacakkapavutna Sutta (f) Practice metta (loving kindness meditation) (g) Share merits
Objectives: (a) To avoid the two extremes of sensual pleasure and self-mortification (b) To practice the Noble Eight-fold Path

5. Full Moon Day of Wa Khaung

Name of the auspicious event: Metta (“Unbounded Love”) A Kha Daw Nay
500 monks who were practicing meditation in the forest were intimidated by nats (guardian spirits) and returned to Buddha’s monastery. Buddha preached them Metta Sutta and exhorted them to practice loving kindness meditation to the nats before meditating. The monks returned to the forest and practiced per Buddha’s exhortation. The nats no longer obstructed the practice of the monks, thereby allowing them to progress and get enlightened. Thus, Metta A Kha Daw Nay came into being.
Associated festival: Recitation of Metta Sutta & Sar Ye Tan Mei (deciding the donation to a monk based on a “raffle” [letter written on a stick, in ancient times]
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite guests for special treat. (b) Invite sangha and offer requisites (c) Take (five or eight) precepts and practice Sila (morality) (d) Collectively recite Metta Sutta (e) Offer requisites to the monks based on the Sar Ye Tan Mei “raffle” (f) Dhamma talk on metta and the virtues of practicing metta (g) Share merits
Objectives: To practice metta (unbounded love), karuna (compassion), mudita (altruistic joy), & uppekha (equinamity)

6. Full Moon Day of Tawthalin

Name of the auspicious event: Garudhamma (“Five precepts”) A Kha Daw Nay
A brief history is as follows. Bodhisatta was (once) born in Kuru Taing (province), where the king and his people practiced Garudhamma. They refrain from (a) killing (b) stealing (c) sexual misconduct (d) lying (e) taking intoxicants. So, the weather was fine and wealth was amassed. Kawlinga Taing (province) suffered from (a) war (b) famine (c) disease. Many perished. The king and people of Kawlinga Taing decided to emulate the king and people of Kuru Taing. Soon, the weather became fine and wealth was amassed. The three sufferings disappeared. The Full Moon Day of Tawthalin, which is part of the rainy season, was named Garudhamma (“Five precepts”) A Kha Daw Nay.
Associated festival: Competition for reciting poems about the merits of taking five precepts.

Details for the celebration: Host competitions for reciting poems about the merits of taking five precepts.
Objectives: (a) To make people aware of the merits of taking five precepts (b) To have a peaceful community (c) To promote world peace

7. Full Moon Day of Thadinkyut

Name of the auspicious event: Abhidhamma (“Ultimate Reality”) A Kha Daw Nay & Mahapavayana Nay
Buddha taught Abhidhamma to the devas in Savateinsa (during the Buddhist Lent) and returned to earth on the Full Moon Day of Thadinkyut
Associated festival (1): Festival of Light
Details for the celebration: (a) Light candles (b) Light incandescent bulbs
Objectives: Emulate the scene where the devas and the people paid homage with candles and lights to the Buddha upon his return from Savateinsa
Associated festival (2): Pavayana Pwe
Details for the celebration: (a) Monks assemble in a sima hall (b) Each monk invites other monks to give advice. He says, “If you have seen me commit a misdeed, you may reprimand me. If you hear that I have committed a misdeed, you may reprimand me. If you doubt me, you may reprimand me. I will try not to commit that misdeed in the future.” (c) Lay people might also invite their fellow people to give advice.
Objectives: (a) To practice Nivata Mangala — blessing where one displays humility (b) For monks to practice Sovacasatta Mangala — blessing where one takes constructive critism (c) For lay people to become good & wise people

8. Full Moon Day of Tazaungdaing

Name of the auspicious event: Samyannaphala (“Virtues of monkhood”) A Kha Daw Nay
Buddha gave the sermon to King Ajjasathat on the Full Moon Day of Tazaungdaing
Associated festival: Tazaungdaing Festival
Details for the celebration: (a) Light candles (b) Take (eight) precepts and practice Sila (morality) (c) Dhamma talks based on Samyannaphala Sutta (d) Practice metta (loving kindness meditation) (e) Share merits
Objectives: (a) Make people aware of the virtues of monkhood and the qualities of sangha (b) If one has conducted misdeeds like King Ajjasathat, one should acknowledge the fact, but be determined to be good by doing meritorious deeds.

9. Full Moon Day of Nadaw

Name of the auspicious event: Dhamma Sarsodaw Myar Nay
In Burmese History, Full Moon Day of Nadaw honors the literary giants (writers, poets). In modern days, the Department of Religious Affairs designated the day to honor writers for the dissemination of dhamma

Associated festival: Sar Pyan Pwe (Oral and written examination for the monks)
Details for the celebration: (a) Hold religious examinations (b) Written examination about Tipitaka (“Three Baskets”) : Vinaya (Monastic rules of conduct), Sutta (Discourses), Abhidhamma (Ultimate Reality) (c) Oral examination about Tipitaka (d) Lay people may visit libraries and borrow religious books (e) Lay people may hold discussions about dhamma
Objectives: (a) Preservation and propagation of Tipitaka (b) Encourage youths to be highly literate and have good moral character

10. Month of Pyatho

Name of the auspicious event: Shin Ta Htaung (1000 ascetics) A Kha Daw Nay
During Buddha’s time, 1000 ascetics in Uruvela forest led by the Kassappa brothers renounced their wrong beliefs and become arahants.
Associated festival: Ordination of monks and novices
Details for the celebration: (a) Hold ceremonies for higher ordination of monks (b) Allow youths to become novices
Objectives: (a) To reinforce the importance of practicing morality (b) To familiarize people with religious ceremonies & the performing of meritorious deeds

11. Full Moon Day of Tabodwe

Name of the auspicious event: Ovada Patimauk (Buddha’s exhortation to avoid akusala, to perform kusala, and to purify one’s mind) A Kha Daw Nay

The Full Moon Day of Tabodwe is significant for several reasons. (a) Venerable Sariputta became an arahant (b) Both Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Mogallana were proclaimed by Buddha as the Best in their specialties (c) Without any explicit notice, Ehi Bhikkhu Calabinna Patisambidapatta arahants (elite monks who do not need explicit ordination, who possess six divine powers, and who easily became enlightened) convened for the Ovada Patimauk ceremony.
Associated festival: Ovadaha Partimauk & Htamane Pwe (Sticky rice) festival
Details for the celebration: (a) Collectively prepare Htamane (b) Offer htamane to monks and devotees (c) Listen to dhamma talks
Objectives: (a) Emphasize the strength of unity (b) Perform meritorious deeds collectively (c) Understand Buddha’s exhortation to avoid akusala, to perform kusala, and to purify one’s mind & practice accordingly

12. Full Moon Day of Tabaung

Name of the auspicious event: Myat Buddha Pyi Daw Win A Kha Daw Nay
At the request of his father’s emissary Kaludayi, Buddha accompanied by 20000 arahants returned to Kapilavutta from Rajagaha. The return trip commenced on the 1st waning day of Tabaung in year 103 of Mahatheikarit (calendar used in Buddha’s time)
Associated festival: Buddha Pujaniya Tabaung Festival (paying homage to Buddha)
Details for the celebration: (a) Invite as many sangha as possible (b) Offer requisites to the sangha
Objectives: To remember the Triple Gems: Buddha , Dhamma, and Sangha

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