Thousands honour deity at Myanmar festival
YANGON: The medium spins around in a frenzy of red and gold while glugging from a bottle of whisky, part of an age-old ritual to honour Myanmar’s spirit guardian of drunkards and gamblers.
Every year, thousands of people pour into a small village southwest of Mandalay for a twoweek festival, many packed into boats clutching bags of food and bedding or pulling up on rickety old bullock carts.
The event honours Ko Gyi Kyaw, one of Myanmar’s bestloved 37 “Nat” spirits and is known for his penchant for booze, dancing and cockfights.
“He is the unrivalled Nat and the king of Nats, the master of Nats,” said medium San Hlaing Tun, his huge diamond and ruby rings glinting.
Most people in Myanmar are piously Buddhist, but many turn to local deities for help with everything from business deals to car engines. Each day of the festival, worshippers hold different events to honour Ko Gyi Kyaw, from bathing to cockfights.
Beggars dressed up as Nats and clutching wooden bowls line the road, seeking donations from the devotees. Dozens of stalls sell roast chicken to help sober up followers who overindulged in their whisky-fuelled worship.
Others flock to small pop-up shrines dotted around the village to make offerings, while the rich throw handfuls of money into the air.
Inside one small hut, medium Naing Naing sits dressed as Ko Gyi Kyaw in a sparkling red and gold outfit, including a headdress bedecked with pink orchids.
“I came here from Yangon to pay respects to the Nat and it was an arduous journey to get here,” he said, his face caked with lipstick and eyeliner.
“I pay my respects to the Nat with all that I am. Anyone who