Travel Myanmar Festivals >> Taungbyone Nats or Spirits Festival
Taungbyone Nats or Spirits Festival:

Taungbyone is a small village located about 19 miles north of Mandalay. During the month of Wagaung (August/ September) every year, the streams and rivers are swollen. Overhead the sun and the clouds play hide-and-seek as the hot humid breeze blows in from the south. The little village becomes alive as it holds the week-long annual pagoda festival of Hsu Taung Pyae (wish fullfilling) commonly known as Taungbyone Nat Festival. And the nearest point of eminence from where you can watch the faithful and the revellers coming to pay respects is from the top of the Mandalay Hill where you can also enjoy a bird's eye view of the whole flat plain.

At the height of the festival a long line of vehicles ranging from de lux saloons to World War II vintage buses move haltingly along the narrow road that leads to the village. Revellers, some on the roofs of various vehicles and some at the back foot-boards, crack jokes at each other hurling such homespun epithets: mother-in-law at the elderly women, brother-in-law at the young men and at the fair maidens - how come they visit the festival leaving the crying toddlers behind.
Travel Myanmar Festivals - Taungbyone Nats or Spirits Festival

Travel Myanmar Festivals - Taungbyone Nats or Spirits Festival
The Nat festival reaches the climax on the fourth day when the faithful observe the bathing ritual of the two Nat princes: in the past the nearly life-size statues of the princes were carried on palanquin followed by a train of procession to the Shwe Ta Chaung stream (the Golden Stream) which runs close to the west of the village.

Starting from that fourth night the propitiation ritual dances, accompanied by Natchin ritual songs. are performed throughout the night. The true believers convey their wishes through the spirit-mediums who dance in front of the statues in various state of abandon, trance, and possession. Some light-hearted revellers, perhaps spurred on by the influence of liquor and by the wild rhythms of Nat music, mimick the spiritmediums frolicking in their own rapture.

Adjacent to the shrine of the two princes are the makeshift booths of the spirit-mediums with various Nat figurines on the shelf where the faithful come to place their offerings and to hear the spirit-mediums read their future. Around the outer precincts of the pagoda are the food stalls, shops displaying their local wares and Zat Pwe (song and dance troupes) entertainment serving the visitors throughout the night.

Taungbyone is arguably the biggest Nat festival in the country, so the faithful make it a point to attend the festival annually from wherever they are at that time. And on the last day of the festival, the Fullmoon Day of Wagaung month, the beautiful moonlit night is matched by the mood enveloping the revellers, and when dawn breaks in the eastern horizon the small village again sinks back into its quiet routine.

Written by Yay Chan (Mandalay), Today Magazine Volume 8, September 16-30, 2001

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