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At the Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay (central Burma), girls dress up for the coming of age ceremony known as Shinbyu. This ceremony initiates young boys into the Sangha, or monastic community, while their sisters undergo an ear-piercing ceremony.

The big day starts early with a procession to the monastery called the shinlaung hlè pwe, the young boy dressed in resplendent silks embroidered with gold as a royal prince or king, shielded from the sun by a gold umbrella and led on horseback by an orchestral band headed by a clown with a moustache called U Shwe Yoe holding a parasol and dancing merrily. This ritual symbolises Prince Siddhartha Gautama's departure from the royal palace with its sensuous pleasures and luxuries at the age of twenty nine, leaving his wife and newborn son in search of the Four Noble Truths. Behind his horse follows the family, his proud parents carrying the monastic robes and other eight requisites, called pareihkara shippa and his sisters or young village maidens carrying ceremonial boxes of paan and lotus blossoms all in their best silks with the rest of the joyous party completing the procession. The novice-to-be may be the centre of attention, but his sister may at the same ceremony have an ear-piercing with a gold needle, dressed up as a royal princess herself.

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