An Arakanese Pagoda Festival through the Lens

Steve Tickner The Irrawaddy

Located in Arakan State in western Burma, Mrauk U was once the capital of the Mrauk U kingdom, the most important and powerful Arakanese kingdom, which held dominion over the region from 1430-1785. The one-time capital in Arakan’s north also boasts a rich collection of temples and pagodas, second only to the central Burmese town of Bagan.

Every year, the Arankanese host pagoda festivals in the former capital, and the Shite-thaung (also spelled Shitthaung)Buddhist temple festival is popular among visitors for its traditional long boat race and wrestling activities. The festival usually falls on May 23 and lasts five days. This year, to festival-goers’ dismay, there was no all-night traditional dance troupe performance due to an evening curfew in the area that has been imposed since the outbreak of communal violence between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas several months ago.

The Irrawaddy’s photojournalist Steve Tickner recently traveled to the old capital and documented how locals still managed to enjoy the festivities.