- A festival in honor of the nats (spirits) of traditional Burmese religion. It involves their invocation, customarily through the playing of loud music, and has the object of securing their blessing. The spirit comes down to Earth and enters a nat-gadaw ("nat wife"), usually a male transvestite (less commonly nowadays a woman), whose role is similar to that of a shaman who enters an ecstatic trance. The nat-gadaw (or nat-kadaw) is said to be "elected" by a patron nat for a lifetime role as spiritual intermediary. While possessed by the nat, he or she dances and behaves outrageously, transgressing Burmese social norms. Ordinary persons are also sometimes possessed by nats at these festivals and have to undergo rites of exorcism. In contrast to the generally calm and gentle nature of Buddhist observances, nat-pwe are loud, dissolute, and sometimes violent.Nat festivals are popular throughout Burma, sometimes held in conjunction with shinbyu ceremonies, showing the coexistence of nat worship and Buddhism. The biggest and most popular is held in summer at Taungbyone, just north of Mandalay, where thousands of devotees gather for six days of wild celebration. Mount Popa is also the site of nat festivals, in spring and winter. Like other aspects of nat worship, nat-pwe are tolerated in Buddhist Burma but are often avoided by respectable people, who find the wild atmosphere unsettling.See also Pwe.
Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). Donald M. Seekins . 2014.
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