Reading through our itinerary I kept asking myself what are Nats and why do they have shrines. So here is what I found on the subject.
Nats are the spirits worshiped uniquely by Burmese. They are the equivalent to catholic saints in that they were once human, but meant sudden deaths and are now consider guardians. The Nat tradition is thoroughly woven into Burmese daily life. In many home you will find a large unhusked coconut with a red turban that is hung and given offerings daily. This is the most common form of Nat worship. However, there are 37 different Nats that are divided into two classes. The higher-class Nats consist of eight historical characters such as kings that meant untimely deaths, but now aid worshipers in managing specific request. Mt Popa, which we will visit on Day 10 of our journey, is believed to be their home along with other ancestor spirits. Nat shrines are common in wooded area in some villages. The Nat worship precedes the introduction of Buddhism and has become a hybrid incorporating Hindu and Buddhist entities into its tradition