Experiencing a Spectacular Buddhist Shinbyu Procession in Myanmar
After our time spent in Hsipaw we drove to Mandalay to spend the night before flying to Bagan the following morning. During the ride Fabio and I talked about the passing scenery, the countryside, the people and how the driving habits differed. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on a beautiful farm growing strawberries, dragon fruit and mangos among other produce & raising dairy cattle. We enjoyed mustard leaf & vegetable soup, brindle which turned out to be delicious stir fried eggplant and watercress with beautiful mushrooms and rice. Lunch cost about $8 for the two of us and we could have ordered less. After lunch we continued on toward Mandalay and suddenly traffic slowed to a halt. We crept along slowly and were finally able to see the cause of the jam. There was what looked to be a parade of decorated horses, cows, elephants and chariots carrying young men and women dressed in elaborate costume. Our driver became very excited and motioned that he was going to pull over so we could get out and take pictures. He tried to explain what the "parade" was and we finally understood that young boys were on their way to become monks.
Before writing this post I did a little research and figured out that the "parade" we saw is part of a Buddhist Shinbyu ceremony, called a shinlaung hlè pwe, the procession of young boys and girls to the monastery to become novice monks and nuns. According to Wikipedia Shinbyu is the Burmese term for a novitiation ceremony (pabbajja) in the tradition ofTheravada Buddhism, referring to the celebrations marking the samanera ordination of a boy under the age of 20. It is deemed the most important duty that parents owe to their son by letting him go forth and become among to embrace the legacy of the Buddha at least for a short while. The parents in return are believed to receive much merit or good karma for allowing their son to become a monk.
The procession symbolizes Prince Siddartha's departure from the royal palace with its sensuous pleasures and luxuries at the age of twenty nine, leaving his wife and newborn son in search of the Four Noble Truths. Behind his horse follows the family, his proud parents carrying the monastic robes and other eight requisites, called pareihkara shippa (ပရိက္ခရာရှစ်ပါး)and his sisters or young village maidens carrying ceremonial boxes of paan (ကွမ်းတောင်ကိုင် kundaung gaing) and lotus blossoms (ပန်းတောင်ကိုင် pandaung gaing) all in their best silks with the rest of the joyous party completing the procession.
Watch the video below to really appreciate the procession.