We were on the short boat ride from our hotel to the five-day market (in a different village every day for five days), when passing the pagoda we saw a boat decorated as though for a wedding or such. Our guide said it would be for an initiation ceremony (Shinbyu) of a young novice; we promptly pulled over and went to see what was happening. As Twe Twe explained, this ceremony is a very important rite of passage both for the young boy and the family. For parents, it is deemed the most important duty that they owe to their son by letting him go forth and embrace the legacy of the Buddha at least for a short while, perhaps longer, if not for the rest of his life. Therefore, those that don’t have sons of their own, will often seek an orphan or a boy from a very poor family in order to receive this special regard by the Buddha. Many believe that allowing a son to spend some time in a monastery, even only a week (although they can become novices on more than one occasion), is the best religious gift the parents can give.
Evidently the first Shinbyu occurred two and a half millennia ago, when the Buddha’s own son asked for his inheritance, and he was stripped of his princely garments and given the robe of an ascetic, head shaved and sent to the monastery.
We could walk from the pagoda to the market, which was vibrant as most markets are and with a wonderful array of vegetables, spices and everything else imaginable.