Friday, 08 April 2016 03:30


While Thingyan is a time for closing businesses to give staff a rest, for other businesses it is their busiest season. Two weeks before Thingyan starts, the timber companies and carpenters get together to construct "pandals” (Mandat in Myanmar) throughout cities and towns. The pandals are the places for crowds to gather to splash water onto passing trucks below. The pandals feature modern lighting and sound systems where DJs keep the party going with music. Pandals are expensive to build and are usually sponsored by businesses to promote their products and the government to support the community.

Permits for pandals are issued by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC). For the security and safety of the public, YCDC will scrutinize the applications and draw up regulations that will have to be followed by the pandal organizers. One regulation that is of great importance is that the organisers must maintain a peaceful atmosphere around the pandal, prevent fights from breaking out and keep a watchful eye at all times.

The permits issued are increasing every year as well as the cost of production. At the time of writing, 23 permits have been issued to build the pandals in public areas such as Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, Sayar San Road, Parami Road plus the roads around Kandawgyi Lake. The cost for building has increased two fold this year with a large pandal costing around 200 lakhs and a mid-sized one costing 100 lakhs.

All applications are to be accompanied by a security deposit, signed design plans and details about the sponsor. All pandal constructions must be completed no later than three days before Thingyan. Penalty will be levied for building the pandal bigger than the submitted drawing. Fines are also imposed for any damage to the roadway, pavements or drains. Pandals may operate only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Once the permits are issued, organisers start selling tickets to the public. The participants are provided with seating arrangements and are served food and beverages. A large pandal normally requires up to 30 metric tons of wood. To cut down the cost, contractors hire wood and iron materials from construction companies. The use of iron posts in medium and large-sized pandal construction has become more popular.

Big and medium-sized pandals are often designed to have two decks with both levels wired with water pipes so that the participants can spray water over the trucks and people going by. The main deck is used as a dance floor where celebrities and musicians entertain the crowds. Some large pandals even have private cabins for relaxation. Smaller low budget pandals will only have one level and may have pop music blaring from sound systems rather than live musicians and dancers. Whatever the size, there are always groups of people manning the water hoses and buckets throwing water on whoever is going by.

Decorated floats with mounted orchestras and performers travel around the city visiting medium and large-sized pandals where they perform Than Gyats - a call and response performance which uses songs, dances and rhymes which comment on current political and social issues. On the last day of Thingyan, the pandals award the best performers who have performed on their stage.

The special drum beat of Thingyan, which nowadays has been adapted and converted to accommodate western pop music, can be heard on every pandal. The celebrity studded pandals draw an even bigger crowds and there are usually a long line of cars waiting to join in the wet dancing and singing.

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