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June 06, 2018

light festival in River — Floating lamps shine on the Shwegyin River

Locals float lamps in the Shwegyin River to mark the end of Buddhist Rains Retreat.
Locals float lamps in the Shwegyin River to mark the end of Buddhist Rains Retreat.

DESPITE a sudden half hour downpour in the afternoon the annual festival of the floating of the lamps on the Shwegyin in eastern Bago Region on Thursday was a complete success, attracting thousands of local residents and visitors from afar.
On this day each year people are invited to float lamps on the Shwegyin River. The event takes place during the nine-day long festival and occurs after the Full Moon Day of the Thadingyut, in October marking the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat.
Even before the lamp floating visitors were lining the bank of the river to enjoy boat rowing contests and spectacles such as dance performances by troupes on boats. The entertainment is known as the “festival on water”.
Meanwhile, shops and a traditional theatre are set up in town to complete the festival; this half is known as “the festival on land”.
On the final day the river bank is crowded with spectators, boats carry visitors up and down the river to enjoy the entertainment and to float their lamps.
When the sun sets a decorated barge, themed in the image of Ashin Uppa Gutta tours along the river for public observance whilst lights are set in the water on the bank.
It is the 164th  year of the festival but the number of contests such as boat rowing competitions are lower than that of 10 years ago said U Win Lwin, 54.
‘No leaders of the country were present on this significant day of this year. Perhaps they are busy with the election” said a retired banking officer, “that’s why we do not see as many traditional contests now as there were in previous years.”
The festival, about 10 years ago, boasted at least40 entertainment troupes performing on decorated boats and bamboo rafts in the river but this year the number was not more than 10, said U Hla Shwe, a retired education officer of the Shwegyin Township Education Department.
His visit to the event brought back fond memories of festivals past, the 63-year old education officer said.
To see the performance of group dance on boats is exciting, fantastic! Those were the words of Ko Thet, 30 year old staff member of a private school in Bago.
He also appreciated how locals have preserved the traditional festival, now for more than 160 years.
Visitors witnessed the capsizing of a boat full of festival goers on Thursday, a rescue boat rushed to the scene and there were no reported injuries.
U Aung Myo Min, a visitor and private teacher from Bago said they did not hear of anyone suffering injury during the capsizing though it was a serious concern for him.
“The river with all the floating lamps is very nice at night but darkness increases the risk of accident for boats on the river,” a local man said.

Performance of group dance on the boat in the Shwekyin River.
Performance of group dance on the boat in the Shwekyin River.


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