The Thadingyut Festival, also known as the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, is held on the full moon day of the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut. As a custom, it is held at the end of the Buddhist sabbath (Vassa) and is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival (New Year Water Festival). Thadingyut festival is the celebration to welcome the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

Thadingyut is also one of the most magnificent lantern festival in Asia

The legend of Thadingyut

Known as the Festival of Lights, Thadingyut is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival.

Maya, the mother of Buddha died a week after Buddha was born. She was reborn in the Trayastrimsa Heaven as a god named Santusita. To honor his mother, Buddha ascended to the Trayastrimsa Heaven and preached from the Abhidhamma texts to Santusita for three months.

The full moon of the month Waso (Dhammasetkya Day) marks the ascent by Buddha and the start of the three-month period of Buddhist Lent, when the monks retreat to their monasteries. During this time, monks dedicate themselves to meditation and study. During Buddhist Lent, marriages are forbidden and many people give up meat and alcohol. Buddhist lent often coincides with the rainy season in Myanmar.

The full moon in Thadingyut marks Buddha's return to earth and signifies the end of Buddhist Lent.

Thadingyut is called the festival of lights as the followers of Buddha lit up their houses and temples to mark the return of Buddha. Towns and villages across Myanmar will be illuminated in honour of this auspicious event.

How to celebrate Thadingyut Festival?

During Thadingyut, pagodas and homes throughout the country are decorated with electric lights, colorful paper lanterns, candles and even small ceramic saucers filled with oil in which wicks are lit. Major religious sites such as Shwedagon Pagoda are packed with pilgrims who light candles to pay homage to the Buddha and gain merit. Each light adds to the incredible spectacle of thousands of small flames burning in the night. Out on the streets, meanwhile, some people light fireworks or launch small hot-air balloons, which silently ascend and drift across the sky before burning out.

Thadingyut is also a time for street fairs, one of the most popular of which is held along several blocks of Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Yangon. For three days the air is thick with the aroma of fried food, and street vendors urge passersby to throw their money away on blue jeans, wristwatches, sunglasses and the latest hip-hop gangsta-wear from China. There are impossible-towing ring-toss games, as well as sketchy Ferris wheels that are spun manually by acrobatic, death-defying carnies. Signboards are erected along the upper block of 50th Street and decorated with cartoons drawn by local artists, a tradition that dates back to 1932 when cartoonist U Ba Gyan set up an exhibition of his work on 13th Street in Lanmadaw township. After his death in 1953, young artists carried on the tradition in different locations around the city.

Thadingyut is also associated with paying homage not only to the Buddha and his teachings (dhamma), but also to the order of monks (sangha), parents, teachers and elder relatives. In this way, laypeople are able to emulate the gesture of gratitude that the Buddha paid to his mother during his sequester in Tavatimsa. Visits are made to parents and elders to present gifts and to give thanks, and some people hand out food donations (satuditha) to friends, family and strangers alike. In a ceremony known as pawarana, monks ask their monastic brethren to reprimand them for any sins they may have committed. 

Several areas around Myanmar have their own unique way of celebrating Thadingyut. At Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda in Mon State – popularly known as Golden Rock – pilgrims offer 9000 lit candles and 9000 flowers to the Buddha. In Shwe Kyin in Bago Region, located along the banks of the Sittaung River, the day after the full moon day is marked with a decorative boat competition and the launch of a Karaweik barge carrying images of the Buddha. After darkness falls, thousands of lotus-shaped oil lamps are lit and set afloat on the water.

Shwethalyaung Pagoda in Kyaukse, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Mandalay, hosts an elephant dancing festival on the full moon eve and the full moon day. The dancing is not done by genuine pachyderms, but rather by teams of two competitors dressed in colorful, homemade elephant costumes, who bust their moves to the beat of live drum music as they seek to out-perform the other contestants.

Thadingyut also marks the beginning of Kahtein (Kathina in Pali), a month-long period leading up to the full moon day of Tazaungdaing in November during which people donate new robes or other supplies to local monasteries. These offerings can include anything from fans, alms bowls and books for learning the Pali language, to tote bags, towels, and soap. They are attached to wooden frames called padethapin (trees of plenty) that are set up throughout the country by business owners, schools, hospitals and even groups of trishaw drivers who congregate on street corners waiting for customers.

On a designated day toward the end of Kahtein, the trees are taken to the monastery for which the robes, supplies and money have been collected. The donation day is cause for celebration in neighbourhoods and villages throughout Myanmar, and everyone participates. There are music and dance performances, and food is prepared to hand out to all comers. Everyone congregates at one spot, such as a community centre or the village headman’s house, from where the colourful Kahtein procession sets out on foot or by vehicle to take each padethapin to its designated monastery.

One significant aspect of this festival is that donors do not make offerings to a particular monk, but rather to a monastery in general. To decide who gets what, the monastery holds a lottery starting with the most valuable item and moving down the list to the least valuable. The gathered donors watch, applauding when the names of their favourite monks are called. The most valued prizes are the new robes, and the monks who get them are considered to have received a special honour.

Regional traditions

  • Dawei - Dawei locals hold a thabeik hmyaw pwe, in which alms bowls filled with offertories (e.g., flowers, water, oil lamps, candles and joss-sticks) are set adrift at sea to Shin Upagutta. 
  • Shwegyin - Shwegyin locals hold a mi hmyaw pwe, in which colorful oil lanterns are set adrift into the Shwegyin River to Shin Upagutta. The tradition dates back to the Konbaung dynasty, established in 1851 (BE 1375).

Where to experience Thadingyut Festival?

The Thadingyut Festival is best seen in larger cities like Mandalay and Yangon, but you can also witness quieter versions in small villages, as the entire country celebrates.

Consider it luck if the power goes out in Yangon on the actual evening of the full moon of Thadingyut. The occasion becomes even more spectacular when blinking electric lights get replaced with more traditional glowing lines of candles in windows, up rooftops, on verandas, and even along the ground.

At the south base of Mandalay Hill, the big temple festival at Kyauktawgyi Paya builds for two weeks beforehand. One day before the full moon, Kyaukse (25 miles south of Mandalay) has its famous two-man 'Elephant Dance' competition.

When is Thadingyut Festival?

The Thadingyut Festival takes place each year during the full moon of the seventh month of the Burmese calendar. It means it moves around from year to year.

Here are the dates of Thadingyut Festival until 2024 for your reference

Year Date Day
2020 29 Oct to 2 Nov Thu to Mon
2021 20 Oct Wed
2022 9 Oct to 11 Oct Sun to Tue
2023 28 Oct to 30 Oct Sat to Mon
2024 16 Oct to 18 Oct Wed to Fri

Similar Festivals of Light in Asia

Loy Krathong & Yee Peng Festival (Thailand)

Loy Krathong

Also known as Thailand’s light festival, Loy Krathong (or Loi Krathong) is a three-day festival that takes place on the evening of the full moon in the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In Chiang Mai, it’s also celebrated concurrently with Yi Peng or Yee Peng Festival.

During Loy Krathong, locals will gather around lakes, rivers and canals to release beautiful lotus-shaped rafts that are decorated with candles, incense and flowers. The word krathong refers to the decorated raft while the word loy means to float.

While there are different tales about the origins of Loy Krathong, many celebrate this ritual now to pay their respects to the Goddess of Water and to ask for forgiveness for causing pollution.

Krathongs were traditionally made with organic materials like banana leaves, banana tree bark, spider lily plants and bread but you can find different variations now using styrofoam, glossy paper, and plastic. Avoid adding on to the pollution by getting the ones made using natural materials!

Here is the detail about Loy Krathong Festival

Yee Peng

In North Thailand, the Loy Krathong festival coincides with Yee Peng or Yi Peng festival and they’re often celebrated together. During Yee Peng, locals will release paper lanterns into the sky to welcome a brighter future. Many will recognise it as the Tangled-like lantern festival!

The sky lanterns, also known as khom loi, are made using thin rice paper, bamboo and fuel cells. Many make a wish before releasing their lanterns and it’s been said that if it stays lit until it’s out of sight, your wishes will come true!

Here is the detail about Yee Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Hoi An Lantern Festival (Vietnam)

In the Hoi An Old Town, you just don’t want to miss the Hoi An Lantern Festival. Lantern Festival is one of the most unique attractions of Hoi An and in fact all throughout Vietnam. It is one of the main reasons thousands of both domestic and international visitors flock every year, for a chance to witness such a beautiful scene that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

Lanterns are lit every night in Hoi An regardless of whether it is the Lantern Festival or not. Candles are placed and burned at the bottom of the colorful paper lanterns, creating a glowing atmosphere in the twinkling moonlight.

The Hoi An Lantern Festival will be held once every month. The lantern festival has become popular enough that even if your visit isn’t on the full moon date, you can still participate in the Hoi An traditional full moon festival most nights of the week. There are many things to do in Hoi An beside the festival, but if possible, you should arrange a time to see Hoi An Lantern Festival which has been long regarded as one of the best things to do whilst visiting Hoi An!

Here is the detail about Hoi An Lantern Festival

Boun Lai Heua Fai (Laos)

Every October, the little UNESCO town of Luang Prabang lights up for the festival of light, Lai Heua Fai, in celebration of Boun Awk Phansa, the end of Buddhist Lent. The city becomes impossibly beautiful, illuminated by wax candles melting to pagodas and crepe paper lanterns hanging from temple roofs and the windows of local homes.

Here is the detail about Boun Lai Heua Fai

Tazaungdaing festival (Myanmar)

Surprise? Not at all, the Burmese loves festival and light, so they have 2 festivals of light per year to celebrate.

The full-moon night of Tazaungmon, which occurs in the eighth month of the Burmese calendar (usually near the start of November), represents the ending of the rainy season in Myanmar and the beginning of a time to offer new robes and donations at monasteries. It also stems from an act involving Buddha’s mother, in which she spent all night weaving yellow robes for him to wear as he entered into his renunciation of worldly matters.

If you’re sticking around Yangon for the Tazaungdaing Festival, an annual robe-weaving competition held at the Shwedagon Pagoda is worth getting tangled up in. But, if witnessing one of Myanmar’s craziest and likely most dangerous gatherings sounds more appealing, head to Taunggyi in Shan State for its famous candle-lit hot air balloon competition.

Thrill-seekers should be cautious when attending the “fire balloon” festival in Taunggyi, as watching flaming balloons hover and shooting off fireworks over large crowds of people isn’t necessarily the safest thing to do.

As if witnessing the launching of “fire balloons” or neighborhood firecrackers doesn’t already seem thrilling enough, the chance to experience a human-powered Ferris Wheel may be had at Taunggyi’s celebration, or even at one of Yangon’s street fairs.

Here is the detail about Tazaungdaing festival

Bon Om Touk (Cambodia)

Bon Om Touk is a celebration of the end of the rainy season on the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk. The full moon is considered to bring good luck that can lead to an abundant harvest. On the Western calendar, Bon Om Touk falls either in October or early in November.

The heavy monsoon rains cause the Mekong River to reverse course and backflow into the very large Tonle Sap Lake far upstream. This causes the lake to overflow its normal bounds, which provides plenty of water for Bon Om Touk’s main event, the annual Pirogue longboat race. Once the Mekong and the Tonle Sap River, which connects the Mekong to Tonle Sap Lake, again start flowing toward the sea, you know it is almost time for Bon Om Touk.

Here is the detail about Bon Om Touk Festival

Diwali Festival (India)

Diwali, or Dipawali, is India's biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians.

Over the centuries, Diwali has become a national festival that's also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities. For instance, in Jainism, Diwali marks the nirvana, or spiritual awakening, of Lord Mahavira on October 15, 527 B.C.; in Sikhism, it honors the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment. Buddhists in India celebrate Diwali as well.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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