Thingyan Water Festival is the biggest and the most celebrated festival in Myanmar (Burma). The Water Festival celebrates the dawn of the Myanmar New Year.
When is the Thingyan water festival in Myanmar (Burma)?
This fun filled water event marks the end of the hot season and usually falls in mid- April (13th-16th) and goes on for about three-four days. Originally the dates of the festival were calculated based on the Burmese lunisolar calendar but nowadays it is based on the standard Georgian calendar.
The significance of the Thingyan festival in Myanmar
The water festivities of Thingyan mark the transition of the sun from the Pisces constellation to the Aries constellation. Interestingly this festival coincides with New Year festivals of neighboring countries - Songkran festival in Thailand, Lao and Cambodian New Year.
What happens on the Thingyan water festival?
Day one of the water festival – called ‘a-kyo nei’ in Burmese language
The first day of the water festival is dedicated to religious activities and marks the eve of the New Year. Burmese will observe 8 precepts instead of the usual 5 precepts on this day and offer alms to the monks in temples and monasteries. Myanmar people also pour scented water from head down over the Buddha images and offer food and drinks. By night fall the real celebrations starts. Young men and women dress up for the occasion by wearing ‘thanaka’( locally made powdery paste) on their faces and flowers in their hair. Everyone takes to the streets with songs, dance and merrymaking.
Day two of the water festival- called ‘a-kya nei’ in Burmese language
The fun and frolic of the water festival starts on this day which is marked by firing a cannon. Burmese people believe that on this day god Thagyamin (the king of Nat spirits) leaves heaven and comes down to earth. Traditionally people used to gently sprinkle water on one another using a bowl and sprigs and the water was meant to wash away our sins of the previous year. However nowadays people use whatever they can (water guns, buckets, water balloons, fire hoses, bamboo syringes) find to throw water and have fun. On this day the roads get crowded with people dancing, singing and having water fights and almost anyone in the street is a target for water. (So, if you want to get somewhere on this day, just forget about it, get armored with a water gun and join in the games)
Day three which is called ‘a-kyat nei’ in Burmese language
The water festivities continue till the late hours of the night.
Day four which is called ‘a-tet nei’ in Burmese language
Burmese people believe that god Thagyamin returns to heaven on this day and it marks the end of the water festival.
Day Five - The Myanmar New Year’s Day
The day following the end of the water festival is celebrated as the Myanmar New Year’s Day. Myanmar people celebrate this day by visiting their elderly relatives and offering water and shampoo made of beans and bark in a terracotta bowl. On this day you can also see a hair washing ceremony where young people wash the hair of the elderly. Burmese also carry out merit making activities like releasing fish into large rivers and donating cooked food throughout the day to people who have come to enjoy the festivities. Apart from all these general celebrations, there are vibrant and colorful ethnic celebrations unique to each and every ethnic group in Myanmar.
If you happen to be one of the lucky travelers visiting Myanmar during this festive season get ready to have some awesome water fights, dancing and merry making in the streets of Myanmar.