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Updated on June 30, 2020 From Myanmar Times

Mandalay cancels annual Taungbyone festival in August

Mandalay will not celebrate the traditional Taungbyone Festival, one of the most popular events in the country, as the government slowed the reopening of the country due to the persistent rise of COVID-19 infections.

U Kyaw Kyaw, head of the festival organising committee, said the event attended by tens of thousands of people each August will be cancelled as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In 2017, the government also cancelled the Taungbyone Festival celebrations to prevent the spread of the H1N1 disease, which caused several deaths in the country during the rainy season.

The festival, celebrated at the same time as the festival of the Su Taung Pyae stupa built by King Anawrahta at Taung Pyone Gyi village in Madaya township, is held during the full moon in August.

“We cancelled the festival due to the COVID-19 situation,” U Kyaw Kyaw said. “We would have been inviting bids from businesses by this time, but it’s just out of the question to hold the festival this year.”

According to legend, the Taungbyone guardian spirits were two brothers who were stepsons of King Anawrahta, the founder of the first Myanmar kingdom.

The brothers failed to contribute their part of carrying a brick and a handful of sand during the construction of the pagoda at Taungbyone so they were ordered to be executed by the king.

After they were killed, they became guardian spirits, or nats, which people have worshipped since then.

“Traditionally we hold brief events, such as worshipping the spirits or making offerings to the Buddha on the full-moon day,” U Kyaw Kyaw said. “We are waiting for the ruling of the regional or township Sangha Nayaka committee.”

Some people come to the festival for knowledge and entertainment, while others go there to pray for wealth, health, or solutions to personal problems.

IMAGE: Worshippers hold flowers, coconut and bananas in front of the shrines at Taungbyone festival, near Mandalay in 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE
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