The nats are spirits worshipped in Myanmar and neighboring countries in conjunction with Buddhism. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest.
Nat worship is less common in urban areas than in rural areas, and is practised among ethnic minorities of Myanmar as well as in the mainstream Bamar society. Every Burmese village has a nat sin which essentially serves as a shrine to the village guardian nat called the ywa saung nat.
The most important nat pilgrimage site in Myanmar is Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with numerous temples and relic sites atop a mountain 1300 metres tall located near Bagan in central Myanmar. The annual festival is held on the full moon of the month of Natdaw (December) of the Burmese calendar. Taungbyone, north of Mandalay in Madaya Township, is another major site with the festival held each year starting on the eleventh waxing day and including the full moon in the month Wagaung (August). Yadanagu at Amarapura, held a week later in honour of Popa Medaw (“Mother of Popa”), who was the mother of the Taungbyone Min Nyinaung (“Brother Lords”), is also a popular nat festival.
Mingun Nat Festival (or Shwe Kyun Pin Nat Pwe) pays homage to the brother and sister of the Teak Tree, who drowned in the river while clinging to a trunk. This fascinating festival takes place from the fifth to 10th days of the waxing moon of Tabaung. After harvest time, hundreds of farmers, wearing colourful dresses, arrive with their beautifully decorated bullock carts at the Myatheindan Pagoda. They build a big tent as temporary housing for the nat images. During these days the mediums perform Nat Dances in order to be granted a good harvest for the next season and to the delight of hundreds of spectators.
Taungbyone pwe or Taungbyone Festival is biggest spirit festival in Myanmar, held annually in honour of the Taungbyon nat brothers or the two brothers of Taungbyone village. The festival starts from the eight waxing day to the full moon of Wagaung, lasting eight or nine days altogether, each of which has its own commemorative event. During the festival, you can watch folk dramas, ceremonial dance and find opportunities to gamble, socialize and drink.
If you are planning to discover Myanmar and assist to one of these festivals, please contact our team for more assistance.