Discovery >

Get Your Act Together with a Burmese Nat-Pwe

January 7, 2014 by Khiri Travel | Filed Under: , ,

This man in woman’s clothes is a ghost’s spouse, a Nagadaw, carefully rouged and about to get drunk, surrounded by his (or her if you wish) aides. They are equally stunning looking young men dressed as women, dancing in circles around their master. Many spectators come to attend this Nat-Pwe: a ceremony intended to enhance the goodwill of the ghosts. Some bottles of Johnny Walker are shared among the audience (the calling of the ghosts requires certain measures to support the belief in them). The orchestra performs music that requires several sips from the whisky bottle in order to endure it.

Today, a rich businessman from Mandalay – a gold trader – called on the Nagadaw. In return for a large amount of money he will try his (her) best to persuade the famous nat Ko Kyi Kyaw (in Myanmar’s spiritual world he is responsible for business and gambling) to bless the gold trader’s business with even more success in the future. If one’s business is doing well in Myanmar, people believe it is because of Ko Kyi Kyaw’s mercy. If business runs bad, one should quickly go to the Nagadaw to start a Nat-Pwe in order to win Ko Kyi Kyaw’s support.

Hence, the ghost’s spouse starts his dance dressed as Ko Kyi Kyaw. During the ceremony – which can last a full day – he (she) changes his clothes several times, depending on which nat the audience wishes to call. Today, Ko Kyi Kyaw is followed by Ko Myo Shin, the “Lord of the nine towns”, who is said to be the patron of all Shan people and travelers. All nat were human beings in their previous lives, but all share the same experience: they died a cruel death and then became a nat. Before Ko Kyi Kyaw became a nat, he spent his days being drunk, watching cockfights and, of course, gambling. He died being struck by a falling tree and has been a nat since then.

While the Nagadaw performs his dance as Ko Kyi Kyaw, the audience gets drunk, and every now and then someone steps into the center and hands some money over the ghost’s spouse. In the evenings, after many bottles, the aides will put all the cash that has been collected in large baskets, and at least for one participant this was a successful day – businesswise.

For more information on nats and how to include a nat performance in an itinerary, please contact [email protected].

Latest post

Cycling to the Wall of Giants

While searching for off the beaten track attractions to explore during our Lao trip last month, we noticed ‘Kampaeng Yak’, a wall supposedly made by giants, just outside Thakhaek…

Read More

Penti Ritual in Indonesia Combines Chanting, Martial Arts & Animal Sacrifice

The sound of a gong signals the start of the Penti ceremony, an annual tradition to offer thanksgiving for the harvest and pray for prosperity and good health to the members of the community.

Read More

Hoi An Lantern Festival

Travelers to Vietnam’s central region in the middle of the month, should try to make it and spend the evening of the 14th in the historical town. Every 14th day of the month, Hoi An welcomes visitors with its “Lantern Festival”

Read More

The Good Life in Batticaloa

Enjoy the good life at this homestay in Sri Lanka with a local Tamil family, whose hospitality and generosity will remind you that travel is not about the sights, but about the people.

Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Our B2B newsletters are for industry professionals




*We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time.