The festival of yangoroathas is celebrated in the hills of the remote northwest, but in Myanmar it’s a different story.
“It’s very much like a carnival,” says Mung Shing-tung, the director of the Yangoro National Park Foundation, a local NGO.
“You can find yangoros running all over the park.”
Mung Singsun is one of the few guides to the event, and he says it’s “an amazing opportunity for people from all over”.
“They come here to celebrate with their family members and friends, and I think it’s wonderful to see the passion of people from different backgrounds.”
The Yangoratha Festival takes place in the spring each year, and it’s one of only two festivals in Myanmar that has a national name.
The other is the Yidaw Buri Festival, which celebrates the rebirth of a Buddhist monk, the famous Buddhist monk Shunpao.
The Yidas Buri festival celebrates the life of Shunpo, and commemorates his legacy by naming the festival after him.
Mung says the name “shunpo” is a pun on “shin” – the Buddhist symbol of the mind – and that the festival is a symbol of peace.
It’s a celebration of peace, happiness and hope, but there’s also a heavy focus on ritual.
“There’s so much emphasis on this Buddhist concept of ‘yidaw’ or rebirth,” Mung explains.
“This festival brings people together, because the theme is about peace, harmony, happiness.”
Mng Singsunn says he has experienced first-hand the impact of the festival on people.
“When I went to the festival, I was overwhelmed by the sense of joy that was flowing around me,” he says.
“I felt as though I was in a magical land where everything was going according to plan.”
This year’s festival also sees a new focus on health and wellness, with health and beauty being central to the programme.
Mng Sung says people are encouraged to take their time in the sun, and to eat locally.
“People have to eat well, and they have to have their blood tested, so they can check if they have cancer,” he adds.
A huge amount of time is spent on ceremonies and activities at the festival.
Meng says the main purpose of the ceremony is to “show respect” to the Buddha, and the tradition is “very important”.
“You have to give a deep bow to your ancestors,” he explains.
He also says it is important to make sure that the Buddhist people do not forget their heritage, and do not feel as though they are under-represented in the community.
“The whole concept of Buddhism has been around for over a thousand years, and our culture is very rich in our history, and we are the ancestors,” Mng says.
“When we make a ceremony, we do not just celebrate it, but we also give back to the community, because we have been part of the community for a very long time.”
Mang Singsuns life is in a constant state of change, and so he’s been preparing for the festival for the last three years.
He has travelled around the country and has spent time in many places, including places like Dhammang, Maungdaw and Naypyitaw.
He says the festival has given him a great deal of perspective.
“We’ve all been there, and now we are all doing this together,” he concludes.
“So I think that’s why I am so happy.”