Kachin Manaw Festival or Manaw Pwe is one of the most fascinating displays of ethnic culture in Myanmar. The most famous festival is held in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. Kachin State itself is centre of people’s attention due to beautiful mountain ranges, flower fields and landscapes. Furthermore, it hosts the highest mountain in Myanmar, Hkakabo Razi and a huge inland lake, Indaw Gyi Lake. Snow-covered mountains could be found in the highest area of northern part. Strange though it may seem, Manaw Festival is about worshipping the spirits regardless of Kachin people’s religion. The festival is held for offering an honour to the chief Kachin spirit, Karai Kasaug. Most of the celebrations are held in the purpose of new year, victory in battles, commemoration of the death of older people, bringing good destiny to the farming area, reunion of six Kachin sub-groups – the Saiwa, Lashi, Rawang, Lawngwaw, Jingphaw and Lisu. The largest festival ground which is a 63-acre field, is located in the southern part of Myitkyina where as Baamo and Putao have two other Manaw Festival grounds. Manaw poles in Myitkyina Manaw Field is almost 20 metres in height and are decorated with tribal motifs in black, white and red colours. They are set in the middle of festival ground. The Two fundamental instruments for Manaw dance are loud drum and a metal gong, and the festival is led by community leaders.
Both men and women join the spiritual dance queuing up behind one another. It is such a delicate and moderate group dance that they don’t touch even of their fingertips. Ladies dance gently and slowly by waving their beautiful handkerchieves. People’s national costumes (red skirts and dark velvet coats for ladies) are embellished with silver ornaments that are finely made and were relayed from one generation to another. In addition, they dance with swords, inheritances from their elders, which were not used in combats.
Manaw Festival is a costly celebration as Kachin people welcome everyone to their feast. Chicken, beef, bison meat, pork or wild hog, rice and rice wine are the main dishes provided in the festival. Taking a direct flight from Yangon to Myitkyina is a common option to visit Manaw Festival, or you can take a ferry or bus to Bhamo from Mandalay and then proceed to take flight to Myitkyina because of some restrictions on other transportation.
Kachin Manaw Festival is usually held in January and has attracted the visitors including both locals and foreigners year by year. Actually, I love to join the festival because I can witness a large numbers of tribal individuals with their innate beauty just in a single place. To sum up, a cool ethnic group from Kachin State, Myanmar, is waiting you to reveal their wonderful culture along with their generous feast.