Burma Celebrates Buddha’s Birth by Watering Banyans

Burma, Myanmar, Mandalay, The Irrawaddy, Buddhism, religion, Kasone, Full Moon Day, Buddha, banyan tree, ancient, tradition

Two girls dressed like a king and queen of the Yadana Pone Era carry a silver bowl with water and flowers as they ride a horse cart along a village lane in Mandalay. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

MANDALAY — Burmese across the country are on Tuesday commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

Each year on the Kasone Full Moon Day, people in the Buddhist-majority country carry earthen pots filled with water and flowers to offer to banyan trees, in memory of the Buddha.

Legend goes that the holiday falls on the hottest day of the year. Buddhists in Burma use water to cool off and protect the holy tree, under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

In Mandalay, at the historical Shwe Kyat Yat Pagoda, the watering ceremony is celebrated with the same traditions used by the ancient kings and queens.

The celebration is compulsory for the 10 villages located around the pagoda. Village elders were said to have missed the ceremony during one year in the 20th century due to war, and that year the villages suffered natural disasters and economic hardship.

During the ceremony, girls and boys wear clothing like the royals once did, carrying flowers and pots filled with water as they walk to the banyan trees planted in the pagoda compound.

Because this celebration is the only one throughout Burma that has maintained the ancient traditions, visitors come from near and far to witness it.

Village elders say the ceremony is different today than it was when they were young, as some participants have opted for hip-hop and modern songs rather than traditional songs played on drums and gongs.

Throughout the country, Buddhists gather at monasteries and precept halls to practice meditation and make charitable donations on the holiday.

One Response to Burma Celebrates Buddha’s Birth by Watering Banyans

  1. I think the tree is not banyan, it is peepul – the banyan tree has bigger and oval leaves, while the peepul tree produces the ‘Bodhi’ leaf type leaves with elongated tailike end.

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