Thadingyut Festival of Light

Month:   October
Visited: 2269 Time

       October is the time when the people of Myanmar celebrate with joy and lights: the Full Moon of October or the month of Thadingyut according to the local lunar calendar, marks the end of three months of Buddhist Lent when weddings, fairs and festivals are not permitted. This festival marks the time when Buddha descended to earth from Ta-warain-tha Heaven where for three Lenten months he had been preaching to the Celestial being whom in the previous human life was his mother, Queen Maya, who had died giving birth to the baby Prince Siddhattha who would become the Buddha Gautama. To greet His return after the three months, celestials and humans lit the way from the heavens to earth, celebrating joyously to see Him again.
       This event is celebrated annually by the Buddhists of Myanmar who light oil lamps, candles and incense at pagodas and decorate their

houses and gardens with colourful paper lanterns. The celebrations take place over three nights, i.e., the night before the full moon day, the night of the full moon, and the night after.
       At famous pagodas such as the Shwedagon of Yangon, the Mahamuni of Mandalay, and Kyaikhtiyo the Golden Rock, Literally thousands of candles are Lit. Light represents the intellect in Buddhist lore, so the lit candles are lit. Light represents the intellect in Buddhist lore, so the lit candles symbolize the gratitude of the worshipers for the Buddha’s wisdom and his teachings that showed them the way to salvation and peace.

       People dressed in their best attire come in crowds to the pagodas to join in various religious associations who offer “Ninety Nine Thousands Lights” in a night; these are candles, or small terra-cotta cups with candles ,or filled with oil, and twisted cotton used as wicks. Thousands would be set up on the platform. In the early mornings, fruits and cakes will be placed in long rows, as offering for the Dawn Meal. After some hours these will be distribute to the poor.
       In some places, new alms bowls filled with food are donated to thousand of monks. For all who come, a free feed called a ‘Zat-ditha’ of sweet drinks or snacks are offered.

       Street fairs, in both, cities and villages, are celebrated over the three days. Girls and boys two had been saving up these past three months come out wearing brand new clothes, to stroll the streets which are closed to traffic and lined with shops. Children run around laughing happily waving sparklers and older kids set off small fireworks. Pavement vendors sell snacks such as the “Yei Moun,” a tissue thin pancake filled with beans and coriander ;” Moun Lei Bwei”, a fairly large crinkly, crispy round snack made from glutinous rice. It has a delicate flavor; “ Kauk Hnyin Kyi Dauk”, segments of hollow bamboo filled with sticky-rice and water and cooked on embers, and “Husband-and-wife” cakes, which are two round halves that make one. Other stalls selling deep fried gourd, bananas, and vegetables or noodle shops line the pavements, emitting enticing aromas. Housewives look for bargains among the piles of small pots and pans selling “any two for KS.1000’, and children flock to pavement toyshops offering the same deal. Balloons, paper masks, toys and pretty ornaments are hug on bamboo frames carried by sellers who stroll through the crowds peddling their wares.

       For others who are more religious and who do not enjoy crowds, this is the time when they can enter meditation centres or stay at home quietly to observe the nine or ten precepts of Buddhism, which are stricter than the five they honour everyday. The basic five includes, not killing, stealing, lying, drinking intoxicants, or committingadultery. The higher precepts include the basic five and in addition forbid eating solid food or drinking liquids apart from water, fruit juices, or soft drinks after 12 noon until dawn of the next day. Enjoyment of performing arts or wearing perfume or make up is also forbidden. These higher precepts are those observed by monks and nuns on a daily basis, as well as many other rules of behavior they must follow and obey.
      During this festival, nothing is more beautiful than to see lamps made of coloured wax paper floated on streams and lakes in the silence. The floating lamps twirl gently as they are carried by the breeze and the current. In their thousands, they make a glorious sight never to be forgotten.