People & Culture of Myanmar

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Kayan women Burma
Kayan women Burma

Language

Myanmar (Burmese) is the country’s official language, though English is spoken in large towns and by elderly folk. There are also many languages and dialects among the 135 different national races.

The modern alphabet consists of 33 letters (consonants) and 12 basic vowels (sequential extensions result in 21 vowels) which are combined with various symbols (4 in basic, 11 in total consonant combination symbols) to indicate the tones.

Population and People

Myanmar is a union of over 100 national races with their own languages and dialects, The major races are Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Kayin, Mon and Rakhine.

Myanmar embraces all the national races. The population of Myanmar is 51 million with the Bamar, the majority race making up about 70%.

Myanmar people
Myanmar people

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Religion

Buddhism is the predominant religion of Myanmar and Theravada Buddhism is embraced by about 80% of the population. The local temple is central to every community, and is also a traditional place of education.

Every male person is expected to temporarily don the monk’s robes at least once in his lifetime usually as a young man. There is freedom of worship for other religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism.

Traditional dance
Traditional dance

Neat and respectful dress should be worn in all religious shrines. It is not considered polite to visit religious monuments in shorts, miniskirts or hot pants. Though shoes can be worn in temple compounds, they should be removed before entering the chapel of the principal Buddha image.

Indeed, all Buddha images are regarded as sacred, regardless of size, age or position, and should all be shown due respect. Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by a woman, or accept anything from a woman’s hand.