Marking the day Buddha returned from spending lent in heaven, Thadingyut Festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for three days during the month of October throughout Myanmar. The final day is the climax as the festival goers release balloons into the sky and shoot off fireworks at night.
This festival coincides with the festival of light and goes on until the day after the full moon. Visitors come to pay homage to the great Buddha, carved out of a single enormous block of marble in the pagoda at the foot of Mandalay hill. The pagoda is surrounded by a fair of local crafts and food with magic, puppet and dancing shows.
On the first day, crowds gather to see pairs of men dressed in giant, highly decorated elephant costumes made of papier-mache perform choreographed dances accompanied by small groups of musicians. Prizes of gold are awarded to the best dances and most beautiful ‘elephants’. On the second day, gifts are given at the temple.
Kyaik-Hti-Yo Pagoda spire sits on top of an enormous rock, covered in gold leaf, perched on a cliff edge. It is customary for pilgrims from all over the country to join the ceremony in which 9,000 lamps are lit around the rock to celebrate the New Year and to offer thanks to Buddha for his peaceful philosophy and wisdom.
Visitors come from around central Myanmar to this famous pagoda with its distinctive egg-shaped dome to pay homage to the 56-foot solid marble Buddha housed inside. Many travel in a caravan of traditional bullock carts and camp in the pagoda compound under the trees, and sell local crafts and fabrics from their villages.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda lies in the middle of the Inle Lake and is home to five gold leaf-covered statues of Buddha. Every year, four of the Buddhas are placed in the royal barge which is led by boats driven by leg-rowers. The barge procession visits the surrounding villages and the statues are housed in the monasteries overnight.
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