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Kyaukse Elephant Dance (Bamar)
Watch or Listen About it - 1

Dancing Elephant Festival is also another famous festival in Myanmar.

Location

It is held in Kyaukse, near Mandalay.

How to Make

It is a marvellous performance of two men together to dance in rhythm. A huge elephant figure is crafted from a bamboo frame covered in cloth, paper, and foil. The elephant costumes are further decorated in glitter, gold foil, satin, ribbons, and glass gems to create a true work of art. Workshops respect the artist's mastery and each artist keeps his construction methods top-secret.

How to Dance

Men take their places inside the figure and dance around the town to the accompaniment of Dobat and Drums. The elephant dancers circles three times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda. It is a dance that requires precise rhythm and timing in order for the elephant dancers to maintain unity inside the elephant figure.

Time

The festival is celebrated every year at the end of Buddhist Lent, which coincides with October's full moon day at the end of the rainy season. The festival lasts all day and includes both a parade and a dance competition. The day starts with a parade around the marketplace, with the elephants circling the market three times so that everyone can get a good look at the beautiful artwork. The competition begins in the morning and is judged by prominent town officials and distinguished local persons.

How to judge

The elephants are judged on various details including the precision and harmony of the dancing, the teamwork of the dancers, traditional costume style, elaborate decoration, and the music and singing involved. Dancing can involve impressive acrobatics—imagine two people acting out an elephant standing on its front legs with its hind legs in the air. Winners are announced in the evening and the next morning pilgrims climb a nearby 975-foot-hill to offer cakes and fruits to their spiritual protectors.

History of the Kyaukse Elephants Dance

The Kyaukse Elephant Dance festival is a fun and impressive show. However, the festival is also steeped in history. King Anawrahta (1015-1078) is one of Myanmar's most famous rulers and is considered the father of the Burmese nation. He is also the founder of Kyaukse.
King Anawrahta obtained several Buddhist relics on a trip to China; upon his return to Myanmar (Burma), he decided to build a pagoda to house the precious relics. He strapped the relics to the back of his elephant and told the elephant to choose a suitable spot for the new pagoda. The elephant walked straight to the hill east of Kyaukse and knelt. At this spot, the King built Shwe-tha-lyaung Pagoda, which is still there today.
To honor the royal elephants a festival is held every year at the foot of Thar Lyaung Mountain.
The tradition of creating elephant costumes for the Elephant Dance competition was started in the early 20th century in the town and has grown very popular with local families.
The festival has also grown in popularity among the growing number of foreign tourists visiting Burma. Judg Jougg, a Frenchman, said he was such an admirer of the traditional festival that he was visiting it for the third year in a row. "This is the third time I came to the Elephant Festival. It is so fascinating," he said. "I have concerns for our security, but I just love to see this next year too. I believe this tradition will be maintained and I want to tell Burmese people to conserve this tradition and to love the tradition."

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