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Myanmar is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world. About 89% of the people in Myanmar are Buddhist. People in Myanmar practice the Theravada Buddhism, which is more austere and harder to practice than other branches of Buddhism. It is estimated that there are about half a million monks in Myanmar. Monks hold the highest status in the society of Myanmar. Among monks, there are no economic or class divisions. The identical robes, the communal dining and the head shaving are all there to emphasize the equality that exists between them.


Monks receive two meals each day, breakfast and lunch and they are not allowed to eat after 12:00 noon. Early in the morning they go out carrying a bowl to get offerings like rice, curry or other food. It is a ritual that provides a bond between the monks and the ordinary Buddhist and gives the locals the chance of doing the deed of dhana to acquire merit. (Sometimes a monk has his own family in the area so he goes there every day to get food.) The person donating the food must not touch the bowl and must put hands together and bow after donating the food. People are not permitted to touch the monks.


Every child must enter the monastery for a 3 day trial. There is an entry ceremony during which they are dressed in their finest clothes and then a procession is formed with their family following them – we were fortunate to witness a procession in Magwe. The children are taken into the monastery, stripped of their finery, their head shaved, and clothed in a robe. They have 5 possessions – robes, shaver, bowl, sleeping mat and water filter. It's customary for a male in Myanmar to enter a monastery twice in his life. Once as a samanera, a novice monk, between the age of 10 and 20, and again as a hpongyi, a fully ordained monk, sometime at the age of 20. Some might remain a monk for just a few days, while others stay for life.

Myanmar Facts



Nats are spirits worshipped in Myanmar in conjunction with Buddhism. There are 37 Great Nats (human beings who met violent deaths) and all the rest are spirits of trees, water, etc. There are two types of nats – lower nats are dewas of the lower six heavens, while higher nats are in the upper six realms.

Much like sainthood, nats can be designated for a variety of reasons, including those only known in certain regions in Burma. Nat worship is less common in urban areas than in rural areas, and is predominantly practised among ethnic Bamar.  Many houses contain a nat sin or nat ein, which essentially serve as alters to the nats. Villages often have a patron nat. A coconut is often hung on the main southeast post in the house, wearing a gaung baung (headdress) and surrounded by perfume, as an offering to the Min Mahagiri (Lord of the Great Mountain). 

The most important nat pilgrimage site is Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with numerous temples and relic sites atop a mountain 1300 metres, located near Bagan. Various annual festivals are held, such as natpwe, during which the nats are appeased. Kadaws (a role often fulfilled by transvestite men) dance and embody the nat spirit in a trance.