Myanmar Waso Festival
Waso Festival takes place in the fourth month of Myanmar and it falls in June and July. According to the Myanmar lunar calendar, the Waso Full Moon Day marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. The full moon day is called Dhammacakka Day because our Lord Buddha preached his very first sermon. “Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta” on the full moon day of Waso.
Full Moon Day of Waso in Myanmar is a public holiday and there are numerous traditions and practices associated with Full Moon Day of Waso. Waso is a time of flowers because many men and women pick wildflowers to offer to Buddha. There is a customary forbidden on weddings starting on Full Moon Day of Waso which implies previously and soon after Buddhist Lent, there are more weddings going ahead than expected. The full moon day of Waso is a very holy day for Buddhists. The Waso festival occurs on the beginning day of the Buddhist Lent with the main ceremony of offering the robes and food to the monks. A significant practice of Waso is the offering of monk’s robes to members of the Sangha for use during the Lent and so these robes are called Waso robes. And there are also big candles called Waso candles offered at this time of the year. In this month, local Buddhism usually invites monks from the nearest monasteries to offer an early breakfast and robes. The families would pay special homage to the Buddha’s teachings through Dhamma talk from monks.
During the Waso festival, Buddhist monks are not allowed to go outside overnight or longer and they have to stay at their monasteries. Because Waso is a compound word of Pali and Myanmar, Pali word “Waso” means ”to say” or “to tell”. So is a Myanmar word which also means “to say” or “to tell”. On the first waning day of this month, Buddhist monks say to the Lord Buddha [take vow in front of the Buddha statue] that they will stay in their respective residing monasteries during the three months of raining season. Originally there was no religious restriction of the movement of monks, who could freely move about throughout the year in all seasons. Green grass, plants cultivations, flora, fauna, insects were accidentally trodden upon by travelling monks, damaging the environment. So when cultivators busy with ploughing saw monks, they stopped their work to pay respect and offertories to the monks, thereby disturbed their daily work. When Lord Buddha heard of public complaints of such un-intentional disturbances and harm done by travelling monks, he forbade the monks to go out of their residing monasteries for overnight travels during the three months of cultivating season. Monks begin their Lent days on the full moon day of Waso and end on the full moon day of Thadingyut. It lasts for three months in total. People offer food, robes, medicine, and donate money to the monks and monasteries as the monks enter into a period of retreat to meditation, reflection, honouring of Budha’s teachings through practice. Waso traditions have long been maintained and Observed by Myanmar people.