Skip to Content

Colorful Shinbyu Festival in Myanmar Celebrates Novice Monks

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.

Shinbyu Myanmar festival

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.

Shinbyu Buddhist ceremony

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.


Photographing this Myanmar festival

Capturing real life and authentic moments – such as this Buddhist ceremony with its procession of colorfully-clad Burmese rural women in the valley of Bagan – requires spontaneity as a photographer, but also integration into the local environment.

Photos like these are the ones we like taking best.

Read more: See Peta and Ben’s story on The Magic of Bagan, a Photo Essay

Pin this Myanmar festival post to Pinterest!

The Colorful Shinbyu festival in Myanmar celebrates the initiation of novice Buddhist monks.

Photo credits: 3 to 5 Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

About the authors

After their four sons went off to college, Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bel quit their jobs and started their nomadic adventure. They chronicle their travels on their blog, Green Global Trek.

Peta and Ben

Tuesday 27th of March 2018

Thanks Janice and George for featuring two of our favorite photos from our travels to Myanmar. We look forward to following your blog.

Welcome to you, and your readers, to our Green Global Trek!

Peta and Ben

Janice and George

Wednesday 28th of March 2018

And thank you Peta and Ben for sharing your lovely photos! You were so lucky to see this procession :-).

Kathryn Burrington

Thursday 22nd of March 2018

What beautiful photos. i love all those colours. No wonder that first one caught your eye. Does seem tough on such young boys to have to fast like that. I must check out Peta and Ben's blog - they sound an interesting couple!

Janice and George

Thursday 22nd of March 2018

Yes, those poor little tummies not being able to eat for the afternoon and evening!

As for Peta and Ben, it's interesting how they kick-started a bamboo reforestation project and eco-housing business in Nicaragua, which led to the largest bamboo processing factory in Central America. How to do good and travel the world at the same time :-).


Thursday 22nd of March 2018

What a beautiful ceremony! Loved the story, and all the color in the photo!

Janice and George

Thursday 22nd of March 2018

It's touching how the local people go all out to celebrate the occasion of young boys going into the monastery for a while to study and learn. A happy time!