Rangoon Lights Up as Tazaungdaing Starts

Lawi Weng The Irrawaddy

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RANGOON—As Tazaungdaing, Burma’s Festival of Lights, got underway on Wednesday, Rangoon’s streets were teeming with people and festivities, while throngs of visitors crowded the large grounds of Shwedagon Pagoda to pray and hold Buddhist ceremonies.

Whole families, dressed in their finest traditional Burmese sarongs and with small children and elderly family members in tow, flocked to the pagoda to make donations and pray, while some stayed to meditate in the cool shade of the temple.

The huge pagoda grounds were so filled with people on Wednesday that entry through its eastern stairway, which usually takes no more than a few minutes, took most visitors close to 20 minutes to complete.

“We believe this place here is good for meditation and to make donations, especially because it is the only full moon day of Tazaungdaing. This is why our family came here,” said Khin Ohn, 60, who had come with her family from the city’s Insein Township.

Tazaungdaing is held on the first full moon after the Buddhist Lent, which comprises a retreat for Buddhist monks during the rainy reason followed by a month-long period called Kathein during which lay people bring offerings to the monks.

Khin Mya, an 84-year-old ethnic Mon woman from Ye Township, said it was an auspicious day to be at Shwedagon Pagoda.

“I’m very lucky to be able to join on Tazaungdaing full moon,” she said. “I have wished to come here for a long time in order to pray and make a donation. I am happy to be here, it’s a great coincidence to visit during Tazaungdaing.”

Photographers at the pagoda meanwhile were enjoying brisk trade, with one photographer boasting to a colleague that he could earn between US $35 and $60 per day during the festival.

In the city, shops and market stalls closed down, and candle lights were placed on the streets, Buddhist stupas and pagodas, while festivities were organized on street corners. Throughout the capital, people handed out food and drinks, and youths paid respect to the elderly before going to local dances organized on the street.

Like everywhere else, South Korean rapper Psy is massively popular in Burma at the moment and his song “Gangnam Style” could be heard echoing through the streets of Rangoon well into the evening.