A Novitiate Monks’ Parade in Bagan

This is our entry in The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Surprise.

As we were being driven to a temple in Bagan, Myanmar, we came across a parade. In the middle of the parade were musicians, a loudspeaker, and this dancing guy. This parade was not put on for tourists and was a very pleasant surprise.

Dancing in the Novitiate Monks’ Parade


This “parade” is part of the Shinbye, or novitiate ceremony, of Theravada Buddhism, that occurs only once a year for the ordination of boys under 20.  The dancing man with his mustache and umbrella represented the clown U Shwe Yoe.  The procession, called the shinlaung hlè pwe, ends at the monastery for the ordination ceremony.

Novice-to-Be Monk

These novice-to-be monks walk at the head of the parade and are followed by parents, young women in their finery, and children who will be expected to participate in their own parade when they are older.

Beautiful Young Women in the Novitiate Monks’ Parade

The very young children in the parade are there to please their grandparents, in case the grandparents should die before the grandchildren’s official parade. At least this is what we were told, because it seemed to us that every child and parent in the village was in this parade. The young boys are dressed lavishly, as princes, and shielded by golden umbrellas, to symbolize their departure from sensuous pleasures and luxuries.

Distant Future Novice-to-Be Monk

There was the usual dichotomy of wealth (or indebtedness) exhibited in this parade, with the least expensive (and most modest) transportation in the front (e.g., walking, followed by horseback riding) and the most expensive bringing up the rear (horse-drawn carts followed by oxen-drawn carts). This was the most lavish cart at the end of the parade, and was hired for the occasion from another town.

The End of the Novitiate Monks’ Parade







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