Thingyan (Water Festival) is the Myanmar New Year and it is the most unique and colorful festival in Myanmar. People celebrate for a total of four days but the dates are calculated according to the Myanmar lunar calendar and change from year to year. In a leap year, people celebrate Thingyan festival for an extra day.
Both young and old people celebrate Thingyan, which means “transition” and comes from the Sanskrit word thinkanta or sinkanta. Water throwing is the main feature of the festival and people believe that Thingyan water has the power to wash away bad habits, evil and sins of the previous year.
During Thingyan, people all over the country party at pandals (mandat) and throw water on each other.
The decorated pandals are built along the streets such as Pyay Road, Kabaye Pagoda Road, in downtown areas and so on. Some pandals use powerful water pipes and some have traditional dance performance.
Some groups of families and friends ride on open-top jeeps and pick-up trucks. They drive from pandal to pandal to play in the water and to see the dances and performances by the local singers.
On the other hand, it is also a time for religious activities. People go to monasteries to do perform merit-making and offer food and other essentials to monks.
Some young people go to the temple for several days for praying and volunteer work with hopes of redressing their sins from the previous year.
The history and legends surrounding the festival is interesting too. People used to believe that a kind of celestial being Thagyarmin descends to the Earth on the first day of Thingyan to observe the humans. He records good deeds on parchment made of gold and bad deeds on one made of dog skin.
When the festival ends, people start out their year by doing various good deeds to get merit. These activities include washing the hair and cutting the nails of the old people, releasing animals such as fish and birds, and donating to temples and monks on New Year’s Day.