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Manau The Myitkyina Manau is a Manaw which takes place semi-annually in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar, and is one of the largest Manau in the world. It is an event of importance for the Kachin community of Myitkyina and is currently held at the Kachin National Manau park, Shatapru, which has permanent shadung pillars installed in the centre.

According to Kachin mythology, the original dancing of the manau was first performed by nats, or spirits, and birds were afterwards invited to participate in the dance. But legend also has it that it was the birds that developed the artistic expression of dance which man later emulated and gave the name manau, literally meaning “milling around”.

Manau is a communal dance form deeply rooted in animist culture and its enactment reflects both social and religious sentiments. Being a communal event, only a chief or collective leadership could summon the people for such a gathering.

In olden days, the Jaiwa, or prophet of the highest religious authority, would be required to officiate. Given its social and religious significance, a manau is always a major undertaking. 

Preparation usually takes months, gathering rice, livestock, and liquor for the festivities. Every villager volunteers in creating the dance floor and designing and erecting the ceremonial manau pillars. This has always been a labor of love and the greater the manau, the more elaborate and intensive the preparations. A grand manau could last a marathon stretch of 8 days and financial costs naturally run very high despite the outpouring of contributions from guests.

Traditionally there are 8 types of manau. While the general dance pattern is similar, the meaning, mood, and message are quite distinct one from the other.

Manau festivals are commonly held over multiple days and involve large-scale formation dancing. It is, therefore, helpful to have at least some idea of the shape and colour of the public performances. Manau are held in areas of northern Burma (in the Kachin and Shan states), in southwest China (in some areas of Yunnan), in northern Thailand (in Chiang Mai province) and in northeast India (in Arunachal Pradesh). Some are annual events while others are held less frequently and reserved for specific special occasions.

The Manau poles (Manau Shadung) are the central feature of the Jingpo Manau and are arguably the key symbol of the Kachin groups (Jinghpaw, Jingpo and Singpo) across mainland Southeast Asia. Different Manau grounds have different numbers of poles and the patterns etched and painted on them also vary somewhat across Southeast Asia.