What is Bawgyo Pagoda?
King Anawrahta, after conquering several petty kingdoms, unified the country today called Myanmar by creating a national identity surrounding the Buddhist religion in the 11th century. Seeking to supplant the ancient animist traditions that thrived in the jungles, plains, and coastal regions of ancient Myanmar, Anawrahta created a series of shrines and temples to infuse the land with Buddhist practices, monks, and shrines.
His subjects were reluctant to give up their old gods, and clung to their beliefs of jealous spirits that inhabited ancient places of power. Relenting to his people’s superstitions, he enshrined a pantheon of 37 nature spirits, called Nats, who governed aspects of life such as debauchery, penitence, or fortune as Buddha’s vassals.
As Anawrahta’s influence grew through conquest, he started traditions of religious merit-making through temple building, scholarship in monasteries, and the giving of alms to red robbed Buddhist clergy. Later rulers would continue spreading Buddhism across ancient Myanmar through the 19th century. The great teakwood temples and monasteries they created alongside golden bell-like shrines expanded the Pagan Kingdom’s influence to ever more remote regions.
These splendid religious icons became the center of both ancient Myanmar’s identity and economy. To this day, farmers and merchants form long processions of ox-drawn carts that wind through the countryside to reach the vibrant, carnival style festivals that take place across Myanmar throughout the year.
The Bawgyo Pagoda Festival, and the numerous other pagoda festivals that center in the ancient shrines and temples throughout the land, provides the monks who perform the plethora of important religious rituals the resources sustain themselves over the next year. The temple grounds fill with merchants, food vendors, and farmers selling their wares. Fresh produce, grains, delicious treats, household goods, and religious charms and iconography all change hands.
As part of the festival, attendees are expected to present alms to the every priest in attendance in a ceremony. A long, snaking line of red robed monks slowly filters throughout the Bawgyo Pagoda accepting donations that range from handfuls of rice and grain to wads of cash from the devout in exchange for blessings of good fortune and religious merit.
When is Bawgyo Pagoda?
Harvest festivals like the Bawgyo Pagoda Festival fall between February and March. Myanmar uses an ancient Burmese Lunar calendar to determine religious festival dates. If you’re interested in attending one of Myanmar’s numerous pagoda festivals, it’s best to speak with one of our Travel Specialists so they can determine exact dates and incorporate the logistics of a visit to your luxury tour of Myanmar.
Bawgyo Pagoda Highlights:
The Bawgyo Pagoda Festival is the modern continuation of the ancient religious and political reforms of the ascending Pagan Empire’s conversion to Buddhism. The customs, rituals, goods, and foods available at the rambling carnival-style event have changed little over the centuries. The festival is a wonderful opportunity to view a piece of living history that we recommend to all of our guests.
Where is Bawgyo Pagoda Celebrated?
The Bawgyo Pagoda Festival is held in Myanmar’s Eastern Shan State in the city of Kyaukme.
Modest dress is recommended when visiting Buddhist temples, shrines, or monasteries. Areas within the compound may also require visitors to remove their shoes at the entrance.