By: Khin Ma Lat
Photos: Sonny Nyein
pagoda festivals take place after the monsoon and Lenten period,
which happens in October. Most pagoda festivals continue for seven
days. However the Manuha Temple of Bagan has its annual festival
in September, or more precisely, on the day before and the dayofthe
Full Moon of Tawtha Lin, in November the month just before October
which corresponds to the Burmese month of Thadingyut: which literally
means End of Lent. Another amazing aspect of this festival is
that homes in the neighbourhood of this pagoda in Myingaba Village,
serve white rice cakes and pickled tvinter melon to all comers
hey set out trays in front of their houses and serve all passer
bys, friend or stranger.
free feeding is a Buddhist tradition called Sadu Ditha, practised
at religious celebrations. This snack is unique to this festival.
The temple was the merit of a Mon king, and people say it is
a tradition that has existed since his time. By the term 'white'
rice cakes, it meant that the rice dough had not been mixed
with palm sugar, for then it would be called a 'red' rice cake.
from many monasteries are invited and alms bowls full of food are
ceremoniously offered to them on the morning of the Full Moon Day.
There are devotees from other towns who come every year and the nearby
jetty is packed with boats of those who travelled by the Ayeyarwaddy
offer rice at the temple on the same morning that they offer
alms bowls to the monks. Previously, the huge alms bowl in front
of the main shrine of Manuha Temple was filled with cooked rice,
but later, only a small amount is cooked and offered to the
shrine and the rest of the rice kept aside to be donated to
monasteries, rather than have the cooked rice go bad by evening.
Old people of the village are also honoured in a ceremony and
gifts presented to them.
Once upon a time, villagers would parade their ox carts with
tableaux of figures acting out scenes from the Jataka Tales,
Lives of Buddha.Young men and girls of the village would take
part as kings or queens, nobles and ministers.
that tradition had ceased but it does not mean that they have less
fun during the two days of festivities.The most enjoyable part for
the young people is when papier mc1che figures are displayed by groups
of creative people. The art of fashioning paper figures is called
Sut-b'ji, and its uses are varied.Traditionally, the Sut-b'ji figures
or pavilions made of bamboo frames over which paper is glued were
used in elaborate funeral rites of revered monks. These decorations
were burnt when the body of the monk was cremated, but nowadays such
occasions are rare: they now take place only with the passing of the
most famous abbots in the country. Another mode of this same craft
is making temporary pavilions out of paper and gilt for weddings and
One favourite scene is from the story of a country girl Mai U who
was sitting at her loom when a tiger pounced on her and took her away.Each
village or neighbourhood or even a group of friends try to outdo each
other with how detailed and life-like they could make their dolls
or what novel figures they could come up with, including figures of
people never before seen in Bagan. As Korean soap operas are sweeping
across SE Asia including Myanmar to much acclaim, fans would be very
excited to know that one actor made his debut at this festival, if
only made of paper. He is not known by his name but by the name of
the character he was first seen in Myanmar, Director Yin, and the
girls of Bagan would surely be happy that he joined them in paying
homage at this unique festival.
at the Manuha festivities take place in the afternoon until
early evening of the day before the Full Moon Day. People
march up to the temple holding up bigger-than-Iife- sized
papier mache figures. Fashioned in all shapes and gaily coloured,
they usually number nearly a hundred. Some are animals such
as tigers, horses, crocodiles, or even a gigantic rabbit braving
it out among creatures that are more ferocious. Some represent
Spirits, who might be riding on horses but in this case the
horse is often of made of paper but a real-Iife dressed up
child is perched on its back.