Myanmar undoubtedly is the “Land of Festivals” because the festival takes place throughout the years. If you travel in Myanmar during late April – early May, it is advised to head to Mrauk U, a beautiful town in northern Rakhine state to learn more about the unique festival of ethnic people here: Shitthaung Pagoda Festival. This festival is not only about culture, history, but also amusement.
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Shitthaung Pagoda or Shaitthaung Pagoda, also known as "Pagoda of the 80,000 Buddhas", is a famous ancient pagoda in Mrauk U, northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. The pagoda was built by one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty.
History of Shitthaung Pagoda
The pagoda was built in 1535 - 1536 by King Min Bin to commemorate his conquest of Bengal. It is located on the western face of Pokhaung Hill, north of the Royal Palace, and adjacent to the Andaw-thein Temple. It is typical of the many Buddhist temples found in Burma: a central bell-shaped stupa, surrounded by four smaller stupas at the corners, and a multitude of even-smaller stupas surrounding them. At the east of the temple, there is a recent (though about 75 years old) addition of a flight of stairs and tazaung.
This pagoda is famous for its central hall at the heart, which can be easily accessed. Hundreds of Buddha statues line the main hall, some of them in their original positions, others moved from nearby excavation sites. However, the most prominent feature of the pagoda is the three layers of maze-like corridors that encircle the main hall. The three corridors contain countless reliefs of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Kings of Spiritual abodes, Devas, guardian spirits, the 550 Jatakas, Arakanese culture, and animals, both real and mythical.
Shitthaung Pagoda Festival
Shit-Thaung pagoda festival is held on and around the full moon day of Kason, the second month in the Myanmar calendar, usually falls in April or May. This most popular festival among Rakhine people lasts for 5 days or 8 days.
The festival is celebrated on the land and in the rivers and streams. There are traditional wrestling competitions, boat races and water splashing. The boat racing really is amazing and you join with local people on that traditional game. At night, you will be able to join Zats, a colorful round dance with singing and performances, as well as Anyeints, open-air performances which last the entire night!
People also go to the pagoda to light candles and offer flowers to pay their respects so it is also an opportunity to learn more about the ancient temples and pagodas of the old Mrauk U Dynasty.
From Bagan, you can either take a 20-hour bus ride or take a flight to Sittwe Airport, then take a 3-hour drive by private car to Mrauk U Town. Although it is a long journey, the festival is worth visiting.
Shitthaung Pagoda Festival
Recommended places to visit when you are in Mrauk U
When you are in Mrauk U, you can also visit fortresses such as Htaukkhan-Thein Temple, Andaw Temple, Ratanabon Stupa, and Laungbanprauk Pagoda (Plate Pagoda) or museums such as Mahabandola Monastery, Sakyamanaung Pagoda, and Ratanamanaung Pagoda. There are few villages nearby like Thet Village where you can see the women with large holes in their ears due to the traditional earrings; Kreik Chaung village, Pambaung village, Cho May Chin village where you have the opportunity to meet older women in the Chin tribes with intricate patterns tattooed on their faces.