Let the festival begin
GET your party hats ready – it’s festival time.
Foreigners and locals alike are streaming into Mandalay Region for the Taung Pyone Nat Festival, a once-ayear chance to see Myanmar’s mystical nat mediums. Starting today, Taung Pyone Gyi village in Madaya township will teem with tourists and pilgrims for eight days.
U Myint Ko Oo, a member of the Taung Pyone Pagoda trustee board, said the most crowded day is expected to be August 14.
“This year, August 14 is the day when the two Taung Pyone brothers’ [images] will have their shower,” he told The Myanmar Times on August 10. “After that bathing ceremony, hundreds of other small nat shrines will begin to play nat music.”
Today and tomorrow, believers will come to worship statues of the two nat brothers. Those seeking to make merit or secure spiritual blessings also donate food and money.
Then on the third day, the nats are believed to hold a night conference, followed by the aforementioned bathing of the two statues on the fourth day. On August 15, the fifth day, devotees will hold the ceremony that requires spirit mediums – often men and women dressed in drag and wearing make-up – to dance before the two nat brothers as an offering. Then there’s a day for hunting rabbits followed by a day of cutting the htein trees. On the last day, which will be August 18, festival-goers gild the statues of the two brothers and change their clothes and turbans.
According to the pagoda trustee board, more than 800 stalls have set up for the event, including theatres, display rooms for health and other fun activities. Stalls selling local food such as kayaykayar, anusote and
khawpyin have also popped up. During the festival, Myanmar Railway will run special trains from Thaye Zay station in Mandalay to Madaya station, including a regular train.
Though it normally takes about 45 minutes to drive from Mandalay to Taung Pyone village by car or motorcycle, expect traffic to worsen during the festival.
Scenes from the festival depict the excitement generated by nats and their media.