Holidays, events and national customs
|January 4||Independence Day: it commemorates the date of 1948, when Burma left the British Commonwealth.|
|February 12||Unity Day: The date of 1947 is remembered when the Panglong ethnic group was integrated into the Union.|
|2nd March||Day of the Farm Workers: On this day the ordinary workers are honored.|
|27th of March||Day of Resistance. The day commemorates the resistance against the Japanese occupation forces during World War II.|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|July 19||Martyr‘s Day The day commemorates the founder of the Burmese state By Aung San in 1947.|
Source: Countryaah – Myanmar Holidays
In the course of Burma’s history, the capital or royal city has been relocated several times. They were the following cities:
Mid-April – THINGYAN FESTIVAL
Thingyan means “to slide from one year to the next”. It’s the Burmese New Year or water festival. The calendar year also consists of twelve months, but it starts in April and ends in March. The New Year falls on the second calendar week of April. The water festival is celebrated three days from this date by splashing each other with water. The festival has been celebrated for around 500 years. It is believed that the sins committed in the old year can be washed away with the water, so that everyone can start the new year innocently.
Mid-April – Taunggi Fire Balloon Festival
The festival is held in Taunggyi City, capital of Shan State, during the Thingyan Festival. It is celebrated Kathein, the handover of the yellow robes to the monks.
It is the biggest festival in Burma. Not only locals take part in the festival.
End of September – Regatta Festival on the Royal Lake
The king took part in the regatta that was held on the Royal Lake with his boat and his court.
The custom began under King Anaukphetlun, 1605-28. The king was able to test the skills of his navy and award the best. Today’s races are accompanied by music and chants.
October – Festival of Light, end of Buddhist Lent
At the end of Lent, houses, streets and cities are illuminated. The festival is at the time of the full moon.
The festival dates back to the story of the Buddha descending with light from the heavenly Thvatimsa. Fire balloons are also raised during the festival.
November – Myanmar Tazaungdine Festival
In the month of Tazaungmon, November, the deity of the full moon Tazaungdine is honored with light and food gifts.
During this time, the monks are offered yellow robes. This Kathein Festival is the highlight of the Tazaungdine Festival and is especially celebrated in the larger cities where thousands of people gather.
One of the numerous pagoda festivals almost always takes place somewhere.
Burma boxing, Lethwei
This extremely tough martial art Lethwei is a very old fighting style from Burma, from which Burma boxing developed in 1996. Only bandages or tapped hands are used for fighting. In addition to the use of fists, elbows, feet or knees, the headbutt used to be a method of incapacitating an opponent.
The Burmese yellow make-up is made from the wood of the thanka tree. The paste from the tree bark is smeared both on the face and on the body. The make-up is not only used for cosmetic purposes, but also as sun protection.
The aim of the game is to keep a rattan ball in the air for as long as possible. All parts of the body except the knees and feet may be used for this.
Traditionally, every man was heavily tattooed from his knees to his hips until the 1920s.
The painful and lengthy procedure represented a kind of manhood test. Now and then the young men were allowed opium to relieve the pain. Cinnabar, which fades over time, or soot, which is permanent, was used as the coloring agent.
Many working elephants are still used in Myanmar today. The elephants are ideal for use in the forest.
The betel nut is chewed across the country. You can recognize the betel nut chewers by their black teeth.
The betel nut has a stimulating effect on mood and digestion. The leaves, coated with a lime puree, are chewed together with pieces of betel nuts and peppermint.
Myanmar is one of the largest producers of opium in the world.
Opium has been known as a narcotic for around 2,000 years. The Romans and Greeks already knew about its effect. It is believed that the opium came to Burma with Arab traders.
The opium is produced in the mountainous region in the north of the country, the so-called Golden Triangle.
From 1805, morphine was made from opium and towards the end of the 19th century, the Bayer company developed heroin as a further product from poppy seeds, which at the time was sold as a non-addictive drug.
The beginning of heroin production in today’s Myanmar can be documented as follows:
Almost immediately after the country gained independence on January 4, 1948, the insurgent problem began. Almost 80% of the country came under the control of various groups of insurgents. Gradually the government was able to regain control. Then around 1949/1950 from Yunnan/China national Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) troops, which had been pushed back by the communist Chinese troops, invaded Myanmar, where they remained for a number of years. This caused great problems because these KMT troops brought with them the technical know-how to make heroin from opium. They created the heroin market in this region.
At the same time they operated the whole arms trade, i.e. supplied the other insurgency organizations in Myanmar with a large part of the arms. Myanmar informed the United Nations about it. Around 1961/62 these KMT troops were flown out of Myanmar, but in practice some of them stayed behind. Thus, when the “drug warlord” Khun Sa surrendered to the government in 1997, many of the senior officers were former KMT officers.
The extent to which the current military regime benefits from the production of opium and at least tolerates it, if not directly supported, is controversial.
Myanmar is characterized by the tropical monsoon climate, ie:
During the southwest monsoon from June to September it is cloudy, rainy, hot and humid. The temperatures are between 30 °C and 40 °C.
During the northeast monsoon in winter from December to April, the temperatures and humidity are no longer so extreme. The sky is less cloudy. The temperatures are between 21 °C and 28 °C.
In the north
In the north of the country and around Inle Lake the temperatures are bearable even in summer. In winter, however, it can get quite cold here at night – with temperatures around 0 °C.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that BM stands for the nation of Myanmar as a two-letter acronym.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Empire of the Pyu
The empire of the Pyu existed from the second century to the ninth century. There were four large cities in the empire (Beikthano, Halin and Mongmao and Sri Kshetra) and many small towns.
Finds of the Puy from Sri Kshetra can be seen in one Admire the museum. There are also some Buddhist buildings, the stupas. They symbolize Buddha and Dharma.
The structures are called Bawbawgyi and are in constant need of restoration. The shape is cylindrical and ends conically.
The Bawbawgyi Paya structure is approx. 45 m high and hollow on the inside and the substructure consists of five circular stone terraces.
According to legend, the god Vishnu should have ridden in the sage Bisnu. This “new” god is said to be the founder of Sri Kshetra.
The religion of the Puy was Buddhist but many elements of Hinduism can also be found in the religion, as an inscription from Bagan proves.
Bagan in Myanmar is considered a sacred landscape with an extraordinary variety of Buddhist architecture and culture. The selected sites include eight areas with numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and pilgrimage sites as well as frescoes and sculptures.
It testifies to the civilization of Bagan in the 11th and 12th centuries and reflects the pronounced piety of the old Buddhist empire. Bagan was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2019
The design of the stupa originally came from India and Sri Lanka, from where the practiced Theravada Buddhism originates. A stupa is a further development of the Indian burial mounds. In Myanmar, the stupas usually rise above a rectangular or square base. Near Bagan was at times the pilgrimage site for Theravada Buddhists from mainland Southeast Asia. The ultimate goal in the life of a Burmese is to build a stupa. This is a credit to both the sponsor and his descendants. The founder was given the name, honorable stupa builder (Paya-dagayi).
The stupas serve, among other things, as a repository for the relics of Buddha – which were divided into eight parts after his death and distributed to the eight kings present. After more than 200 years, these eight parts came into the possession of Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BC), who, according to legend, divided them into 84,000 parts and enclosed them in just as many stupas that were built on his orders let.
Furthermore, stupas were erected as monuments at the place of his birth (Lumbini), at the place of his enlightenment (Bodhgaya), at the place of the First Sermon (Sarnath) and at the place of his Parinirvana (Kusinagara).
Kekku is home to a large number of stupas that were built under the Emperor Ashoka. Most of the stupas, however, date back to the 11th century, when King Alongsithu of Bagan ordered that every family should build a stupa in honor of the Buddha.
Land of a Thousand Pagodas
Old royal cities
In the course of Burma’s history, the capital or royal city has been relocated several times. They were the following cities:
Pyu Thaton Bagan
Pyu Thaton Bagan is located on the Irrawaddy River. The decline of the city came with the invasion of the Mongols.
The city is surrounded by around 5,000 stupas. The stupas are spread over an area of 30 km2. Bagan was the capital from the 11th to the 13th centuries. The high point of temple architecture was the construction of the Ananda Temple in the 12th century. The Ananda Temple is still a place of pilgrimage for believers today. The Pagoda Festival takes place here on the full moon in January.
Inwa (Awa) was the capital repeatedly from 14. -16. And from the 17th to the 18th century
Sagaing was founded at the beginning of the 14th century on the Irrawaddy River.
Shwebo was the capital under King Alaunpaya from 1750 to 1760.
Amarapura means “city of immortality”. Amarapura was declared the capital by King Bodawapaya in 1783. In 1823, however, he moved it back to Awa. The king’s wooden palace was always taken away when the capital was moved.
Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon.
Special buildings and structures
Bago is the fourth largest city in Myanmar.
The most important buildings in the city are the Schwemadaw Pagoda, the Schwegule Pagoda, the Mahazedi Pagoda and the second largest reclining Buddha – the Shwethalyaung Buddha.
The villa is located in Mandalay and was built according to the plans of the architects Comodo and Bonvalleinim based on the model of the classic Palladio villas in Italy. The special thing about the villa is that it is constructed entirely of wood and transfers the classic style to the Burmese wooden house on stilts.
The hotel was built in 1896 by the Sarkies brothers, who also owned the famous Raffles in Singapore, as part of a hotel chain.
Kandawggyi Palace Hotel
The hotel on the banks of the Royal Lake in Yangon was designed in 1996 by the architect Bunnang. Architecturally, it is a mixture of a traditional monastery and a secular wooden house on stilts. The complex is characterized by a tangled roof landscape made of wood shingles.
A sophisticated irrigation system runs through large parts of the country, making intensive agriculture possible. Especially rice cultivation.
Kyaiktiyo is the second holiest site in Burma. Its huge golden rock is crowned by a 7 m high stupa. The stone hovers over a deep abyss. According to legend, the rock is held by a hair of the Buddha in the stupa.
In Sri Ksetra from the 5th – 9th centuries are the oldest surviving Buddhist buildings on the mainland of Southeast Asia. Thayekhittaya is one of them. These were built by the Puy.
This pagoda in Yagon is one of the most sacred sites in Burma.
It is the main pilgrimage site for Buddhists from all over the world and was – according to legend – in 588 BC. Built in BC. Since then it has been repeatedly damaged by eight earthquakes, especially that of 1786 when the entire upper part collapsed. The last time a fire caused severe damage in 1931.
What can be seen today goes back to 1789. Its current height and shape come from the following renovations. Its name means “Golden Dagon” and thus refers to the ancient name of Yangon. Towering over the entire city, it was built on the heavily fortified Pegu-Joma hill, adorned with two terraces.
The platform is made of immaculate marble slabs and measures around 60,000 m2. On an octagonal base, the Shwedagon Pagoda rises with a circumference of 413 m to a height of almost 100 meters. Over the years it has been richly decorated with gold leaf (weighing 60 tons) and precious stones (diamonds, sapphires and rubies). At the top of their screen, a conical gold-plated iron network (hti), which was hung with bells everywhere, there is a 76 carat diamond. According to Buddhist tradition, it should contain eight main hairs of Buddha..
In Sagaing there is a white “stupa forest”. The collection of stupas represents the most important religious center of Burma. Over 500 monasteries are located in the city, which was the capital for a short time at the beginning of the 14th century.
temple architecture made of stone and brick. The temples were used as refuge during wars. The models for this type of building can be found in Bihar, India.
National Museum in Mandalay
A library is attached to the museum and contains important Buddhist scriptures. The museum itself is dedicated to the history of Burma.
Museum in Yangon The museum is worth a visit. If you want to buy gemstones, this is the right place for you, there are also gemstone shops in the same building.
The Kandawgyi Lake is the largest natural lake in the country with an area of around 260 km² (= 100 square kilometers)
With an area of approx. 120 km², Inle Lake is the second largest natural freshwater lake in Myanmar and is very popular with tourists. The floating gardens and the huts built on wooden posts in or by the water are well known by the Intha people who live here. The lake and its surroundings have also been a bird sanctuary since 1985. During the dry season, the lake has a maximum depth of less than 4 m.
In the lake on an island is the small town of Ywama with a floating market, and there are also a number of art and craft shops here. There is also the Phaung Daw U Pagoda with its five Buddha images.
In the 160 year old Nga Phe Kyaung monastery there are said to be cats trained by monks. However, visitors could not find any trained cats. In any case, it’s a beautiful story!
But no story is the fact that the local fishermen row with one leg – better said – wriggle in order to have both hands free for the nets. Keep your balance with your second leg.