Today is a religious holiday in the lead up to Thingyan, the water festival that marks the start of Myanmar’s Buddhist new year. So there are many of us who have taken the day off our normal work and are helping to collect timber in preparation of the next biggest Buddhist holiday in Inle, Thadingyut in Octobers. This particular festival is considered by the Inthar to be just as important as Thingyan, if not, more important.
The volunteers who are helping to transport timber are able-bodied men from Eaint Daung Kyi village. We are transporting 30-feet lengths of solid timber on long-tail boats. The timber is very heavy and it takes more than 10 of us to lift these out of the water. We flip the timber logs from one boat and then float them over to another part of the village where we will start to build longer ceremonial long-tail boats for the Thadingyut festival races.
Each village on Inle does this every year. It’s an honour and a chance to show off our skills when we build a new long tail-boat that is better than the previous years’. We don’t want to lose face against the other villages so we put in as much effort as possible. We race by the traditional style of Inthar leg-rowing during the Phaung Daw Oo festival during Thadingyut – it is a cultural tradition that has happened as long as anyone can remember. It is a very sacred ritual and very important to us. It is also a matter of pride that each village can build its own boat and that we can get as many people together to race one another.
Villagers pool their money together so that we can build the best boats possible. This year we need a bigger one, to fit at least 140 people on board. Everyone pitches in with donations, to try and raise K20,000 a month so we can keep building. The average earnings that people make here is about K150,000 a month. That’s not very much, but everyone does their part as best they can.
Ko Kyaw Win Si
Eaint Daung Kyi