Nat Festival is a big festival held in Taungbyone, Myanmar. It is a colorful festival that you should take part in your Myanmar trip. The festival is celebrated around the full moon week in August and attracts thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every year.
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About 20km far from Mandalay, you can go to Taungbyone by road or boat. There are some Nat or spirit festivals are held across Myanmar on a year but the most sacred festival is Taungbyone Nat Festival. Many pilgrims come to Taungbyone at that time to pray for good luck, relax and enjoy the festival. In Nat festival, the performers, called as “nat kadaw”, are often transvestites and transgender so many locals and foreign tourists call this “LGBT Festival” or “GAY Festival”.
In Burmese history, there are 37 nats (as known as spirits) who had come from gruesome deaths. Their spirits could not rest in peace so they wander to bless for those who propitiate them and bother who neglect them. According to the legend, 2 sons of Popa Meday are two heroes but they were blamed and executed when building the temple in Taungbyone near Mandalay. They became two very powerful Nat and the body has been sent back Taungbyone, where the main festival is held every year in the month of Wagaung (August).
In Burmese belief, everyone who is married must join in the festival or send a representative by hiring a nat kadaw to connect with the Nat. Nat kadaw often dance to bass from early in the day, they drink alcohol and hold some traditional instruments or big candles to show their respects to the nat. Many stalls are opened around the festival, they often sell food, sweets and offerings.
The main festival starts in the late afternoon, when the temple door is opened, a huge number of people rush in and try to become the first one who reach the coconuts hanging above. After that, they will bring grilled rabbit and alcohol to the stages where nat kadaw are dancing to connect with the Nat. In each stage has different nat kadaw dancing, visitors will come to their favorite nat kadaw’s stage to watch and give them money, flower, food, etc.
The crowd of people is often out of control so tourist must be careful and look out pickpockets when take part in Taungbyone Nat Festival. Tourists also have to bring sun protection, hat and water to avoid sun stroke when you join in the crowd of festival in the hot weather.
Image source: Internet