Once virtually forbidden to the outside world, Myanmar (Burma) holds a special place in our hearts. Its temples are quite magical – and the people are welcoming, though shy, especially in the countryside. We’ve visited twice, the last time on a leisurely river cruise from Yangon to Bagan.
This photo, taken by Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell of Green Global Trek, caught our eye not only for its color, but because we wanted to know where all those lovely ladies were heading in Bagan! Turns out it was to the monastery.
We’ll let them tell the rest of the tale…
Peta and Ben’s story about the Shinbyu procession
“After an early morning walk through the majestic valley of temples in Bagan, 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 is the 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 is a highly festive occasion, and it’s believed that good karma will come to families whose sons enter the monastery.
Capturing real life and authentic moments – such as this 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.”
Double the pleasure
Because sometimes one photo isn’t enough…
READ MORE: The Magic of Bagan, a Photo Essay
About Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell
Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell are empty nesters on a green global trek, currently living on the tropical South Asian island of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India. They’re now in the 10th year of their nomadic global adventure, which started in Granada, Nicaragua, after their youngest son left home in Chicago for college. They have since chronicled and photographed their journey in Green Global Trek, covering over 30 countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
A native South African, Peta is a photographer, painter, animal lover/advocate and yogi. Ben, a dual French-US citizen, is a business strategist, pianist, sculptor and passionate about animals too. They use their camera and iPad as a way to communicate and interact with locals, especially when they don’t have a verbal language in common.
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