I love to plan. Yep, make lists. Research. Read. Ask questions. Organize stuff. Prioritize. But sometimes the most memorable travel experiences happen totally without any of that effort
This was the case recently in Myanmar, when we had glimpses of a traditional ceremonial event in the life of young boys called Novitiation or Shinbyu.
We saw this in the Inle Lake area in Shan State. Our charming and knowledgable guide, Min Min, told us it was quite unusual during the time of year we visited—November. He explained that most of the ceremonies are held in the spring when the boys are out of traditional school.
In Myanmar it is compulsory for boys to enter a Buddhist order for a week for more. A formal Novitiation ceremony involves a parade around the pagodas on the first day with the boys all dressed up as princes. In the afternoon their heads will be shaven and they will enter the Order. On the same day or the next there will be a feast for monks and invited guests.
Myanmar people regard their lives to be incomplete if they themselves, or their sons, have not been novices.
The tradition dates back to the time of the Buddha some 2,500 years ago when the Buddha granted His son the heritage of becoming a novice. Boys typically between 9 and 12 are beautifully dressed in princely attire that can be attributed to the fact that the Buddha’s son had been a prince himself.
Because life on Inle Lake occurs on the water, the boys we saw (two different ones) were taken by boat complete with decoration and booming music. Gosh, I would have loved to have been able to participate in the whole shebang but just seeing the parading part was really fun and a fascinating look at a religious tradition in this remote country.
My sense is that this ceremony is a bigger deal in Myanmar than weddings so the whole village turns out to celebrate. Hope you enjoy these images of the slice of the ceremony that we observed.
Some of the boys will only stay their compulsory week. Others will live and study in the monastery for years. For some it is the only way they will get an education. Some become full fledged monks.