Among a land of festivals, Thingyan is one of the biggest and most favorite ones in Myanmar. During Myanmar cruise tours, you can learn how people have water fights to welcome New Year in the Burmese way.
Despite being for the beginning of a new year, Thingyan Water Festival takes place in the middle of April, the hottest time of the year. Now that the Burmese government has made it a legal public holiday, every Burmese citizen, as well as tourists from other countries, have the opportunity to enjoy the Water Festival. It is a time for happiness and friendly attitudes after hard-working days.
The Myth of Arsi and Sakra
You can learn from your Myanmar travel guide that, the myth of Arsi and Sakra is the origin of Thingyan celebrations. For years, many Hindus and Theravada Buddhists have spread a myth in which Arsi, the King of Brahmas, challenged Sakra, the King of Devas. Having lost the game, Arsi was chopped off his head by Sakra. Then the head of an elephant was used to replace Arsi’s head, which caused Arsi to be transformed into Ganesha, a powerful deity. Ganesha was so powerful that his head placed into the ocean could make all of the water instantly evaporate. To prevent the tragedy in which Ganesha might destroy large portions of the world, the elephant head was placed into the custody of a princess. Accordingly, the elephant head of Ganesha was transferred to a different princess every year. In that way, Thingyan traditionally celebrated the transition of the elephant head so that the world could exist.
Spiritual celebrations of Thingyan
On the day before the Water Festival commences, the first Thingyan celebrations have begun. That day is called Thingyan Eve, or A-Kyo Nei – a time for observing Buddhist beliefs.
Myanmar cruise tours mean a chance for you to take Burmese fasting. During the festival, many Buddhists consider fasting as a way to observe Thingyan Eve. A single basic meal prior to noon is usually advisable for those who decide to fast for Thingyan Eve, which is often very bland.
Observing the Eight Precepts
Buddhists are also expected to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism, which are similar to the Five Precepts, during Thingyan Eve. On observing the Eight Precepts, Buddhists must do as follows (and this is also what to do in Myanmar for you):
- Refrain from killing living creatures
- Refrain from sexual activities
- Refrain from lying or delivering incorrect speeches
- Refrain from using alcohol or drugs
- Refrain from seeking for entertainment
- Refrain from meat during fasting periods
- Refrain from sleeping in high places
Do a favor to Monks
Visiting a Buddhist temple is one of the best things to do in Myanmar for both locals and foreigners in order to celebrate Thingyan Eve. During this chance, you had better give Monks an offering which usually consists of a single green coconut surrounded by a circle of bananas.
Washing the statues of Buddha
Burmese people will also use sacred water that has been scented with water extract to wash Buddha statues. They start by washing from the top, drizzling water over the head. Joining this deeds with the Myanmar people can make your cruise tours more interesting.
Celebrations at night
When the religious formalities of Thingyan Eve have finished, Burmese people take time to get some relaxation and enjoy themselves. During the night of Thingyan Eve, many appealing celebrations will be organized.
Music, Song, and Dance performances
As soon as night sets in, people will celebrate parties with all of their enthusiasm, which is totally opposite to the Eight Precepts, which prohibit Buddhists from enjoying the entertainment of any kind during the daytime. Huge stages are set up with a lot of water hoses for the purpose of entertainment, in almost every Burmese village, city, and town. On these stages, you can watch women dance classical and contemporary music in flowery skirts. Such an appealing Myanmar luxury holiday! Besides these flower skirts, padauk blossoms in their hair are also popular to Burmese women. This kind of dressing up is also commonly referred to as the Thingyan flower because of its rarity.
Burmese people in parades
After enjoying live music and dancing, friends and family members get together into parades, filling all streets of their town to celebrate Thingyan. These parades also include vehicles and decorated floats. Commonly, locals perform a form of Burmese rap called Gyat during these parades. However, Gyat is a popular way of expressing distaste for social and political issues, which makes it fairly controversial.
Water fights are the center of Thingyan Festival. The fact that people throw water onto each other is for celebrating the descent of Thagyamin – a celestial Buddhist figure, to Earth. The beginning of the Water Festival, or A-Kya Nei, is marked with the firing of a water cannon into a public area. While the cannon is fired, people run out to collect the water with pots and buckets. Then they pour the collected water over the ground, following with a short prayer. During cruises in Myanmar, you can use anything for water splashes, like toy guns, balloons, and hopes to have soaking-to-the-bone water fights.
In the end, Thingyan is a Burmese public holiday in which Buddhists can not only celebrate their religion but also reconnect with their cultural roots. This harmony is believed to add more values to your Myanmar cruise tours.