Festival Time at a Nat Shrine
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Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Festival Time at a Nat Shrine

By Aung Lwin Oo AUG, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.8


A village celebrates its invisible rulers.


Text By Aung Lwin Oo and photos by Olivier Pin-Fat


Burma’s biggest nat festival takes place every August in the village of Taung Pyone, original home of two of the 37 original names in the nat pantheon.


For five days each year Taung Pyone village becomes a fairground.


Taung Pyone, 14 km north of Mandalay, has about 7,000 nat shrines, nearly 2,000 of them elaborate ones dedicated to the village’s famous sons—the brothers Shwe Phyin Gyi and Shwe Phyin Lay.


They are said to have been executed by the 11th century Pagan ruler King Anawrahta for failing to help in the construction of a chedi to enshrine Buddha relics. The story is kept alive today by the symbolic absence from the ancient chedi of two bricks which the two brothers were instructed to contribute.


According to traditional lore, the spirits of the brothers appeared before King Anawrahta and begged for pardon. The king granted their wish and allowed them to rule over Taung Pyone, whose villagers still hold the two in awe.


But not only the villagers keep the memory of the brothers alive. Thousands of pilgrims from all over Burma travel to Taung Pyone every August to commemorate the two nats in a spectacular week-long festival that begins on the eighth day of the waxing moon of Wagaung in the Burmese calendar.


The festivities are arranged and led mostly by the so-called nat kadaw, women “married” to nats.

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