In amidst all the revelry, loud music, heat and water throwing, as an outside observer it’s easy to forget that Thingyan is a very special, spiritual and beautiful time in Myanmar.
Take for example the abundance of flowers, that you will see adorning temples, taxis, houses, stalls, and well pretty much everywhere. This Thingyan flower, the bloom of the Padauk tree provides a wonderfully colourful hue to the celebrations.
In many cultures the appearance of flowers is very symbolic, the arrival of colour representing the end of a long hard grey winter, or as here in Myanmar to celebrate the coming of the rains and the end to the dusty dry season.
The Padauk, often referred to as the ‘national-flower’ of Myanmar, is very striking and at this time of year you cannot miss the distinctive sweet scented blossom cascading down from the leaves, showering the pavements below with a carpet of gold all across the city.
The flowers are said to delay their appearance until the first drops of rain arrive after the hot dry season, however as you will have noticed they are already beginning to show across Yangon. The tree is prevalent throughout the country, and you can imagine the relief the sight of its flowers must have brought to farmers over the centuries. It’s almost a miracle, as other trees remain stubbornly dusty and dry, the Padauk comes back to life, demonstrating that life continues, and that life does indeed go on. In the Myanmar month of Tagu, the magnificent sight of the delicate golden sprays of little flowers radiating through the bright green leaves are the perfect illustration of a new year – a new beginning.
The first blooms are offered to Buddha, and then further flowers are used as decorations or made into Thingyan crowns for young women to wear.
In the event that you cannot get hold of any, plenty of plastic garlands are available to buy to brighten up your day, one benefit of this of course is that they are completely waterproof!
A version of this article appeared in MY Yangon Magazine – April 2015