The Kathina Robe Ceremony – Myanmar Style


Myanmar Buddhists Turn the Kathina Robe Ceremony into a Celebration


Theravada Buddhists all over the world celebrate the Kathina Robe Festival every year. It’s generally held in the month of November. But, in Myanmar the ceremony has taken on some traditions that make it Myanmar’s own celebration of the spirit of giving.

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The traditions stem from a specific rule laid out in the Buddhist Vinaya, the list of rules all Buddhists must adhere to in order to maintain the precepts of Buddhism. This rule addresses the act of donating cloth and other non-food items.

Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
The procession starts in the morning hours and ends around noon.
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The Kathina Tree

The rule specifically states that only one donation can be made by a single Buddhist. The way the Buddhists of Myanmar have gotten around this rule is that they typically form teams. These teams can be composed of residents of a single neighborhood or an entire village.

Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
People take great pride in their creative Kathina trees.

The teams all construct what they call Kathina ‘trees’. These trees are composed of numerous articles of cloth and household items such as cleaning products. The trees are formed into elaborate shapes and each tree is considered to be a single donation.

Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
The procession is held in every city in Myanmar as they all make their way to the local pagoda.

The Kathina Tree Parade

Each team takes pride in their tree. They dress in matching colorful uniforms and form a procession in the morning hours on the day of the Kathina Robe Ceremony and parade their trees along city streets all over Myanmar.

The mood of the parade is jubilant as the celebrants dance to music and the color and pageantry of the parade has become something that every Buddhist in Myanmar looks forward to.
Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
Jubilant singing and dancing makes for a riot of color and noise.

The destination of every parade is the local Buddhist pagoda or temple. Once they arrive at their destination, an army of volunteers is on hand to break down the Kathina trees into their individual donations and divide up the donations between the Buddhist monasteries.

Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
The teams enjoy dressing up in elaborate costumes.

The Logic behind the Kathina Trees

The donations are intended for the 93 Buddhist monasteries all across Myanmar. By creating these trees, the Buddhists of Myanmar are able to increase their donations, and in turn, provide enough donations to satisfy the needs of the thousands of monks all across Myanmar and all without violating the rule concerning donations in the Vinaya.

Kathina Robe Ceremony in Myanmar
Volunteers stand by at the pagoda to break down and divide up the donations contained on the Kathina trees.

They have successfully turned an altruistic act into a singular traditional celebration that is enjoyed by Buddhists and tourists alike and greatly appreciated by all the Buddhist monks in Myanmar.

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