Guest contributors Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell have been on a nomadic journey for 12+ years now. In Myanmar, they came across this colorful Shinbyu procession.
Once virtually forbidden to the outside world, Myanmar (Burma) is a special place.
Its temples are quite magical – and the people are welcoming, though shy, especially in the countryside.
The Shinbyu Buddhist ceremony
We were visiting the temples of Bagan in Myanamr.
After an early morning walk through the majestic valley of temples, we went looking for street food for breakfast with Burmese farmers.
A flash of color and the sound of wagon wheels stopped us in our tracks.
Young women in the village, wearing local textiles and holding parasols in every color of the rainbow, were leading the villagers in a Shinbyu procession.
Buddhist ordination ceremony
Shinbyu is the Buddhist ceremony which celebrates boys, some as young as three years old, joining the monastery as novice monks.
In Burma, it’s customary for young boys to enter a Buddhist monastery to learn religious scriptures, collect alms and, hardest of all, master fasting from noon until dawn.
Some stay for just a short time, perhaps no more than a week, but many stay for a few years. And some go on to become fully ordained monks.
The Shinbyu begins with the procession to the monastery with the young boy dressed in dazzling gold silks to look like a royal prince or king.
He’s led on horseback, shielded from the sun by a colorful umbrella.
Once at the monastery, the monks shave the boy’s head and his princely clothes are exchanged for a simple saffron robe.
This Myanmar festival is a highly ceremonial occasion, and it’s believed that good karma will come to families whose sons enter the monastery.
Read more: See Peta and Ben’s story on The Magic of Bagan, a Photo Essay
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Photo credits: 3 to 5 Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell