We are arriving in Yangon just in time to catch Myanmar’s New Year Water Festival, Thingyan! Thingyan is a celebration of water symbolizing the end of the dry season and the washing away of the past year’s bad luck and sins.
The roots of the Thingyan festival are not originally Burmese but are rather traced back to India’s Brahmin Hindu traditions cultivated hundreds of years ago. How did Indian culture become rooted within Myanmar? Brahmin once held important positions in the courts of Burmese kings thus permitting their culture and traditions to seep into the upper levels of Myanmar’s ancient culture. Over the centuries Thingyan has become an integral part of Burmese culture and is one of the most joyous and collectively celebrated festivals within Myanmar; everyone young or old, rich or poor all get in on the action!
This festival of spiritual cleansing lasts three to five days and is marked by powerful pipes that pump water on to celebrators! Kids and teens also join the fun using water pistols to drench anyone in range including friends, family, and strangers – word is only monks and the elderly are safe from the downpour.
Besides dousing each other with water, the locals also celebrate the day by performing acts of merit as it is believed that will add to their good karma in the coming year. The festival is further commemorated by the capture and release of birds and fish, and a special feast held for the local monks.
The cleansing power of the Thingyan is meant to bring promise and a fresh start for the New Year!