One of the first things we saw in Mingun was a ten-year-old boy in heavy makeup and a purple satin outfit.
The Buddhist equivalent of a bar mitzvah is the novice ceremony. Almost all young Burmese Buddhist boys become monks – though they may only remain a monk for a few days. Buddha himself was a Hindu prince who became a monk, so the boys start the ceremony dressed as a prince (circa 500BC), then shave their heads and don the austere robes of a monk.
In the town of Mingun, we ran a across a boy in one of those prince costumes. We got a few pictures in front of the enormous never-finished temple there, then followed him to the pagoda where they were about to start the first phase of the ceremony initiating a couple of dozen boys as new monks. There was a live band playing as loud as any rock concert. As usual, they tried to share their food with us. The steps to the pagoda were lined with uniformed ladies handing each attendee a cigarette(?!). I wasn’t exactly sure why there were a couple of dozen girls in costumes similar to the boys. Some girls do become nuns, but I don’t think that’s what was going on. But the boys were whisked away and the girls stayed around for a few more pictures.
Ordinarily, there’s more variety in the prince costumes. This ceremony was unusual because it was sponsored by a single family, who provided for costumes and monk-supplies for the whole group (I assumed maybe the others were from poor families). The two kids in yellow were – as best we could tell – the son and daughter of the couple financing the whole affair.