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Burmese mark fest with water fights at temple

By EMMELINE TAN, The Star, April 14, 2005

PENANG, Malaysia -- The grounds of a temple in Burma Lane here became the scene of ?water fights? as the locals joined the Burmese community to celebrate the Thingyan Water Festival.

<< A SPLASHING GOOD TIME: People dousing each other with water from hoses, buckets and bottles at the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple in Burma Lane Penang, Wednesday to celebrate the Thingyan Water Festival. Those at the periphery were not spared either, thanks to the far reach of the motor-powered hose from the Penang Municipal Council. Traditionally, sprinkling scented Thingyan water is a respectful and polite gesture to bless elders and friends during the Burmese New Year.-Starpic by Goh Gaik Lee.

The festival was held in conjunction with the Burmese New Year at the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple. Jets of water from a Penang Municipal Council truck parked on the temple grounds made certain those within reach were thoroughly drenched.

Traditionally, sprinkling scented Thingyan water is a respectful and polite gesture to bless elders and friends.  But nowadays, people let loose with water in buckets and from hoses as they enjoy the festival.

Around noon, many people gathered in quiet groups as others paid homage in front of a statue of Buddha in the temple. When bronze statues of the Buddha were brought out, both young and old people rushed to pour flower-filled water over them and collect it. 

Jayanthi Nagappan, 20, whose grandmother is a Thai, said she would bring the water to her grave later for prayers. The crowd sang Thingyan songs of happiness and unity like Myanandar and Tupo Tupo. 

Cymbals, drums and bamboo halves brought by musicians added to the sounds of merrymaking.  The commonly accepted legend about Thingyan is that the year begins each time there is a change of guard among the celestial maidens.

The maidens have custody of the severed head of Arsi, the king of the abode of Brahmas who had lost a wager with another celestial king.

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