Wed 29 Jul 2009
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Thousands of people began gathering at a site near Mandalay on Wednesday for one of Burma’s most popular festivals, the week-long Taung Pyone Pwe, a celebration of ancient belief in nats, or inhabitants of the spirit world.
The annual festival is held at Taung Pyone, 14 km north of Mandalay and attracts as many as 100,000 people.
Tour companies reported a drop in interest this year, however, because of Burma’s economic difficulties.
A typical three day excursion from Rangoon costs 35,000 kyat (US $35). â€œThe demand for tickets is very low this year,â€ said a representative of Rangoon’s Travels and Tour company.
Taung Pyone Pwe commemorates the fable of two nats, Min Gyi and Min Galay, who are said to have been executed by the Pagan ruler King Anawrahta (AD 1044-1077), for failing to help in the construction of a chedi to enshrine Buddha relics.
They joined a hierarchical pantheon of 37 nats immortalized in niches ordered by King Anawrahta to be placed in the Shwezigon Pagoda in Pagan.
The rituals of the festival are performed by hereditary mediums. Participants in the festival believe the nats have the power to grant them good luck, health and wealth. Many make the pilgrimage to Taung Pyone to give thanks for good fortune ascribed to the intervention of nats.
â€œMarriagesâ€ are even performed between believers and spiritual partners. One of these nat kadaw, as they’re known, said: â€œIt is very important and significant festival for me.â€ She set out from Rangoon with expensive gifts for members of the spiritual family into which she had married.
One well-known make-up artist, Khin San Win, is attending his 16th festival. â€œI believe that if I pay my respects and make solemn wishes to the Taung Pyone kodaws, most of my wishes will come true.â€