An Overview of Diversity of Religion in Myanmar
There is no official state religion in Myanmar. Myanmar is the multi-religious country but termed as one of Buddhist country in terms of the vast majority population adhere to Theravada Buddhism and given special position of importance in Burmese society.
In the ancient time, Myanmar wasn’t Theravada Buddhism. There were Nat worship, other tribal religious belief in the ancient time. Theravada Buddhism took root in around the 11th century, by the first Bagan empire-builder King Anawrahta. His Majesty met the Priest travelled from Mon Nation, and got admired. Then He, himself converted to Buddhism by priest and aided Bagan and all other regions for the raise of Theravada Buddhism. That is the beginning of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar. During the golden age of Bagan, the successive kings devoted to Buddhism too and built vast numbers of Buddhist stupas and temples – which can be seen Bagan plains and around the country.
Even today we can see Buddhism as dominant and important part in the society. There is monthly festivals year around and all of them are more or less related to Buddhism. "Shinpyu pwe" is one of the must-done ceremony for every Burmese boy aged between 10 and 20 to enter a monastery as a novice monk for at least a short period of his life to get well understanding of Buddhism. In Myanmar, monks and nuns are termed as the most respectful people in the society. It is part of Burmese culture; people donate food and alms to them as a respect or merit.
Under the name of Buddhism, there are also people who worshipped Nat (spirits) as well. Actually, Nat worship has an even longer history in Myanmar than Buddhism. Because of King Anawrahta abolished Nat practices, Nat worshipping become less. But we can still see Nat worship and Nat pwe in Mount Popa. There are also people who are both Buddhism and worship Nat.
There are other minority religions who worship and believe in their own religions then live harmoniously with others.
After Buddhism, Christianity is practiced by nearly 8 % of the population, especially by Kachin, Karen and Chin races and Eurasians because of missionary work in their respective areas. About the four-fifths are Protestants and others are Roman Catholic. Christians were the fastest growing religious group in Burma for the last 3 decades and still growing.
Most Hindus in Myanmar are Burmese Indians and only about 1% of the population practiced Hinduism. Most Hindus live in the center of big cities like Yangon and Mandalay. Ancient Hindu temples are located in other parts of Burma, such as the 11th-century Nathlaung Kyaung Temple exist in Bagan.
There are the Sunni group, Burmese Indian Muslims, Rohingyas and Panthay Muslim groups and they are spread across the country in small communities. British Indian-descended Muslims live mainly in Yangon.
There are also people who believe in their own religious, the tribal religions still exist in rural areas and the increasing numbers of no religious as well.
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