© Gentl and Hyers / Offset

The country of Myanmar continues to uphold beautiful, ancient traditions despite its troubled history. Photography team Gentl and Hyers capture a Novitiation Ceremony, a crucial and precious event for children of the Buddhist faith. Also known as “shinbyu”, the ritual is believed to have originated some two thousand years ago, when the Buddha’s own son requested to abandoned his princely role and join the monastery. The custom is now an important part of Myanmar culture, all boys between the ages of 5 to 20 expected to shed their earthly possessions to become novice monks or “Sons of the Enlightened One”. 

Usually taking place in March or April, male children are dressed in princely garments of silk, sequins and other extravagant adornments. They are processed on horseback through the village streets to the temple where their parents present them to the local monks. After reciting from memory the 10 Buddhist principles, the boys’ hair is shorn and they receive traditional red robes. Spending anywhere from several days to several months at the monastery, male children study the rules of the order and Buddha’s teachings to live meaningfully and peacefully. After this period, the boys return home and may choose to re-enter the monastery at any time. Regardless whether or not these young men continue on the path towards becoming a monk, the Novitiation Ceremony remains a powerful and important part of one’s identity in the Buddhist faith.

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