Update: 2015-08-26 01:41 AM -0400


Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism


Maung Htin Aung. Printed and published by U Myint Maung, Deputy Director, Regd: No (02405/02527) at the Religious Affairs Dept. Press. Yegu, Kaba-Aye P.O., Rangoon, BURMA. 1981.

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Contents of this page
Feast of the New Year
Visit of Thagyamin
Ceremonial hair-washing
Explanations of the visit
Feast of the Thingyan

UKT notes
Festivals of Lights Lance of Victory more boisterous than men Old Tagu and New Tagu shampoo Tabaung festival Thagya's Era of Buddhism Thingyan time eater

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03. The Feast of the New Year

UKT: The New Year Festival is known as {thn~kran}. See my notes.

Visit of Thagyamin

Since the beginning of March the weather has been hot and dry and the whole countryside lies parched and barren. The harvest has been gathered and celebrated at the festival of the full moon of Tabaung {ta.paung:} in March (this Tabaung festival is a Buddhist festival now, but in the remote past it used to be a harvest festival). It is now nearly the middle of April, and the Burmese cultivator, like his paddy field and his plough-oxen, find the weather trying and the enforced holiday monotonous. But there is excitement in the air, for the Feast of the New Year is swiftly approaching. The astrologers have published broadsheets in which the details of the New Year are given. The king of the Gods, Thagyamin {thi.kra:min:}, is coming down to the earth on his annual visit. He will come and spend the last two days (sometimes three) of the old year in the abode of the human beings, and the exact moment of his departure will bring in the New Year. The Feast lasts for three days (sometimes four), and the day of his arrival is known as the Day of Descent, the day of his departure the Day of Ascent, and the day in between (sometimes two days in between) the Day of Sojourn. During these three days (or four days) elderly people fast and keep the Eight Precepts of Ten Precepts and go to the monasteries and pagodas to offer alms-food.

UKT: Prediction for 1330 B.E. Thagyamin {thi.kra:ming:} coming down to the earth riding an ogre {Bi-lu:} with a flaming torch in his right hand and with his left hand on his stomach -- The Burmese year 1330 B.E. which spanned from April 1968 to April 1969, for which the prediction was given, proved to be a year of strife and unrest which began with the students' riot at SEAP games held in Yangon in the year 1969.

At home, the housewife prepares cooling drinks and sweet cakes to be sent as presents to the neighbours. The children are warned to be on their best behaviour, for the King of the Gods, Thagyamin, brings with him two big volumes, one [{p024}] bound in dog-skin, the other in gold, and he records in the dog-skin book the names of those who have committed misdeeds during the course of the year, and in the gold book the names of those who have performed acts of merit. The exact times of the arrival and departure of the god, which have been calculated and proclaimed in the broadsheets, will be signalled by the booming of cannons and firing of guns under the supervision to the relevant administrative official of government, and on the front porch of every house there stand the New Year pots filled with special flowers and special leaves to welcome the visiting god. At the exact time of his arrival the head of the household lifts up the pots towards the sky as a gesture of homage, and at the exact time of his departure the head of the household pours out slowly the water from the pots on to the ground with a prayer for good fortune, good rainfall and good harvest for the coming year. As both the husband and the wife are joint heads of the family these ceremonies are performed either by the husband or the wife or by both, and are performed simply and quietly.

But outside the house there is very little quiet, for the Feast of the New Year is also the merry Festival of Water. Since dawn, teams of young men and young women have been occupying strategic points on the roadsides with pails and buckets of water.  Groups of young men and young women are also to be found in the gaily decorated temporary structures which have sprung up almost overnight at every street corner, in which, in addition to pots and cans of water, there are all kinds of sweet cakes and cool drinks for all the passers-by and the merry-makers. No passer-by will escape the drenching, no matter whether he or she is a Buddhist or non-Buddhist, Burmese or non-Burmese. Only the monks and the sick and the infirm are spared the deluge. Gaily dressed young men and young women in decorated cars or carts drive round the town or village, throwing water and getting drenched in return. Sometimes a band of young men will challenge [{p025}] another group of young men or a group of young women to throw more water on them by shouting slogans and singing songs. In this merry-making the equality between sexes fn025-01 is forgotten and the advantage is given to the young women, who, therefore, tend to become more boisterous than the men. A team of young women is permitted to 'capture' a young man who throws water upon them, and when he is caught his face is blackened with oil and soot and his hands are tied together, and he is given ducking after ducking until he admits defeat by performing the 'monkey dance.'

After three days of boisterous water-throwing and hectic merry-making, peace and decorum prevail on the day following the Day of Ascent, which is commonly called New Year's Day, although technically the New year has begun at the actual moment of the god's departure. People now wash their hair with a sweet-smelling shampoo specially prepared from a tree bark, bathe themselves in scented water, and, putting on their finest silken clothes, they go to the pagodas and monasteries to worship. Many buy live fishes, meant for killing by the fishmongers, and set them free in nearby lakes and rivers, with prayers for long life. Gifts of flowers, fruits and candles are taken in person to one's parents, elders, and teachers. This new Year's Day and the actual period of the Water Festival, notwithstanding its riotous merry-making, are considered very auspicious, and people endeavour specially not to break the Five Precepts, and also to refrain from cutting down trees and plants, assaulting people and beating animals, weeping and wailing, blood-letting, eating oil and spices, transacting in goods and money, and sending out heralds, envoys, agents, and messengers.

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Ceremonial hair-washing

Until a few decades ago the ceremonial washing of hair was as important as the throwing of water. For purposes of [{p026}] the ceremonial hair-washing people were divided into three classes, those who were born on the same day as the Day of Descent, those who were born on the same day as the Day of Ascent, and others -- i.e. those born of five other days. For example, if in a particular year the Day of Descent fell on a Tuesday and the Day Ascent on a Thursday, the three classes would be 'Tuesday-borns', 'Thursday-borns', and others. People who fell in the first category were considered likely to meet misfortune during the course of the New Year unless they performed the hair-washing ceremony, and they had to perform that ceremony on the Day of Sojourn, which meant that if there were two Days of Sojourn they had to perform the ceremony on both days. People who fell in the second category were believed to be of good fortune for the coming year, but their good fortune would be greater if they performed the hair-washing ceremony. Such persons were known as ' Time's-Eaters', or 'Time's Servicemen', in the same way as the King's Servicemen were known as 'King's Eaters' because they were 'Eaters of the King's Rice', i.e. living on the salary granted by the King. These Time's-Eaters performed the hair-washing ceremony on the Day of Ascent. People in the third category were considered likely to have neutral luck (neither good nor bad luck) for the New Year, but their luck would be good if they performed the hair-washing ceremony, which had to be done on the Day of Descent. Thus the third category of people performed the ceremony on the first day, the second category on the last day, and the first category on the middle days of the feast. For the Burmese King the ceremony of hair-washing was one of the most important in the palace calendar, and he drove out in state to the bank of a river or a lake and performed the ceremony. The importance of the hair-washing ceremony waned with the passing of the Burmese kingdom in 1886, and nowadays everyone performs the ceremony on the New Year's day.

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Explanations of the visit

There is still remembered a centuries-old explanation of this annual visit of the Thagyamin {thi.kra:ming:}, the King of the Gods. When this earth first came into being there was no life on it. Some Brahma gods {brah~ma}, from their own abode, saw the newly-formed world and, coming down to inspect it, they found the soil so sweet-smelling that they ate one or two lumps. As the soil was so tasty also, they ate more and more, and suddenly found themselves losing their supernatural powers. They could no longer see their palaces in their own world far away, and they could no longer fly back to their own abode. But they went on eating the sweet-smelling soil. Soon the celestial rays of light from their bodies disappeared, and in the total darkness that followed they lamented and cried out in fear until the King of the Gods came down to console them. Then, at his intercession, the gods of the planets decided to make themselves visible from the earth, and so the sun, the moon, and other planets were seen on the horizon to the delight of the earth-bound gods. Then vegetation appeared, and animals appeared. The earth-bound gods were instructed and taught many things by the King of the Gods, who then went back to his own abode, promising to come again at the end of one year. Thus, the Thagyamin has been annually visiting this earth since that time. The story is based on the account of the genesis of the universe as given in the Buddhist scriptures, according to which this earth dissolved and then re-evolved, when it was peopled by luminous beings with supernatural powers; they lost their luminous rays and their supernatural powers on eating the sweet-smelling soil, and as they cried out in fear in they ensuing darkness, the planets appeared one by one. fn027-01 In the account given in the scriptures, however, the Brahma gods did not come direct from their own abode, but they 'died' and were 're-born' as luminous beings on the [{p028}] newly-formed earth and, moreover, the King of the Gods was not mentioned at all.

There exists another story which continues the above tale. Years passed and generation after generation of their descendants came and went. One day an old man, having the ability to fly in the air as the result of meditating and performing mental exercises, flew to the walls of the universe and learnt by heart all the result of  astrology written thereon. Flying back to this earth he watched the planets and knew that his death would take place in a few minutes. Desperately looking round he saw a young man and his wife walking along a forest path, but at that very moment a snake suddenly appeared and bit the young man so that the latter died. Swiftly approaching the dead young man he sucked out the snake-poison with his mouth, and turning to the distraught young woman he soothed her by telling her to wait near her husband until he came back with some medicine. He walked some distance along the forest path and then, by his supernatural powers, let his soul enter the young man's body even as his old body died. The young man's body with the old man's soul now stood up and, pretending not to know anything about the old man, said to the young wife, 'Beloved, I know I was bitten by a snake, and yet I do not die.'

'A kind old man sucked out the poison from your body,' explained the wife, 'then he went to fetch some medicine, and I was awaiting his return.'

'We must follow him and thank him,' said the young man.

He led his wife some distance along the forest path and soon reached the dead body of the old man. 'Poor old man,' sighed the young man, 'he died so that I might live.'

Cutting down some branches from the trees he built a funeral pyre and burnt the dead body of the old man.

The wife never guessed the truth regarding her husband. Settling down with his young wife in a nearby town he earned his living as an astrologer. His fame soon reached the four [{p029}] corners of the world and he came to be known as 'Kawarlamaing' or 'the Light of Wisdom'. fn029-01 When the King of the Gods came down to the earth for his annual visit he heard of the great astrological predictions of the Light of Wisdom and decided to go and play a prank on him. Assuming human form, he went to the front porch of the astrologer's house and sat on a stump of a tree, with one leg dangling and one leg folded. Then, placing the left hand on his hip, and the right hand across his mouth so as to hide his laughter, he asked, 'Great astrologer, this fellow, the King of the Gods, where is he now?'

The astrologer, without looking up, worked out some formulas and replied, 'He is not in the abode of the gods.'

'Then if he is not there, where can he be?'

The astrologer again worked out some formulas and replied, 'He is on this earth.'

'What is he doing?'

'He is sitting on a tree-stump with one leg dangling, the other leg folded, left hand on his hip and right hand across his mouth hiding his laughter.'

How many miles is he from this house and in what direction?'

The astrologer worked out some more formulas and looked up in surprise and said, 'My science tells me he is here right in front of my house and so you are none other than the Thagyamin himself.

The god admitted his identity and praised the astrologer for his wonderful knowledge of astrology.

UKT: The story of Mahapeinn or the Burmese Ganesh -- In the following sections Dr. Htin Aung recounted the Burmese version of the story of Ganesh.

The following year as the King of the Gods was making ready for his annual visit to the earth, the Red Brahma (or the Arthi Brahma) came and discussed an astrological matter. The King of the Gods held the view that although there were eight days in the planetary week, fn029-02 for all other astrological [{p030}] purposes the number of days in a week should be taken as seven. The Red Brahma insisted, however, that for all astrological purposes the week must be considered to contain eight days. The King of the Gods and the Red Brahma nearly came to blows until both decided to refer the matter to the human astrologer, the Light of Wisdom, making a bet that the one who was proved to be right should cut off the head of the other. So both gods went before the astrologer and asked him to settle the dispute without fear or favour.

The astrologer sighed, and said, 'Great gods, can you not cancel your bet first?'

We gods never go back on our word,' replied the gods indignantly.

'Then, I give you this my decision,' adjudged the astrologer. 'The contention of the King of the Gods is right, because it is clearly written on the walls of the universe that for all astrological calculations, a week has seven days.'

In the silence that followed the astrologer's words, the King of the Gods, with his thunderbolt, cut off the Red Brahma's head, and it rolled down on the ground. Swiftly picking up the Brahma's head the King of the Gods explained, 'Great astrologer, I had to cut off his head, because otherwise he would have lived on in shame as a god who dishonoured his bet, and for the same reason I cannot put his head back on his body. On the other hand, I cannot let him die. Moreover, I cannot leave his head on this earth, because if I do so, it will burn up all living things and all vegetation in a few minutes; if I throw it into the sky, no rain will ever fall again, and if I throw it into the ocean, all the waters of the oceans, seas and rivers will dry up, for the head is burning hot and only a god can gold it.'

After some thought the King of the Gods gave his golden sword to the astrologer and instructed, 'Go at once towards due north and bring me the head of the first creature that you may find.' [{p031}]

The astrologer, taking the sword, ran swiftly towards due north and the first creature he happened to meet was an elephant which shone like gold. The astrologer cut off the head of the elephant and brought it to the King of the Gods who, placing it on the body of the dead Brahma, sprinkled some water on it, and lo, the Brahma was alive again with a red body and a golden elephant's head. As the Red Brahma he had a red and angry-looking face which frightened people away from him, but now, with a benign-looking golden elephant's head, he looked kindly and good-natured, and from that day onwards he was loved by human beings, who changed his name and called him Maha Peinne or 'the Great Delight'. As he was restored to life on this earth he now had a special regard for human beings, and since that day he has helped human beings to overcome difficulties and dangers and achieve their successes and victories. But the King of the Gods was still busy with the problem of the red head of the Brahma, and finally he called seven goddesses to come down to the earth, and he appointed them guardians of the red head; each was to carry the head in turn for a period of one year. Thus, at every Feast of the New Year, the goddess who has been carrying the head for the year which is ending passes on the head into the arms of the next goddess, who lifts up her hands to receive it. The time of the arrival of the Thagyamin coincides with the time when the goddess makes ready to pass on the head; the time of the Thagyamin's sojourn coincides with the time when the two goddesses are holding the head together, and the time of the Thagyamin's departure coincides with the moment when the first goddess lets go of the head, leaving it entirely in the care of the next goddess.

The above story has features which show that a Buddhist coating has been given to a Hindu original. It is obvious that the story originally was a creation myth, but in the new version, any reference to the universe having been created is carefully avoided. The Red Brahma is a Hindu and not a [{p032}] Buddhist conception, because in the Buddhist modification of the Hindu world of gods, Brahmas are beings far superior to gods and do not interfere either in the affairs of gods or in the affairs of men, and the idea of a Brahma having a wager with the King of the Gods is alien to Buddhism. Also, in the popular Burmese world of gods and goddesses, the Brahmas are too pure and supramundane to take leading parts. The Red Brahma who changed into the God of the Great Delight is none other than the elephant-headed god of the Hindus, Ganesh.

In Hindu mythology there are four versions explaining how this god Ganesh, the son of Siva himself, came to be with an elephant's head. According to one version Saturn, or the god of the Saturday planet, came too closely and looked at the newly-born god and the glare from Saturn's face was so bright that the head of the new-born god shrivelled into nothing. According to another version, the newly-born god was so beautiful that a jealous goddess by a great curse shrivelled the head of the god into nothing.  In the third version, the god's head was cut off by Siva himself, not knowing that the fierce god who was guarding his consort Chandi's [UKT: Sandi {saN~i}] bed-chamber was his and her own son. In the fourth version, the head of the god was cut off by demons in a great battle. Curiously enough, the Burmese version is not known in India. Ganesh was never mentioned in the earlier Burmese chronicles, unlike Vishnu, but a few of his images have been found at Pagan in recent excavations. At the present time, next to Vishnu, Ganesh is the most popular among the few Hindu gods worshipped as Burmese gods.

The idea of a soul being transferred from one body to another is again alien to Buddhism, which does not recognize the existence of a soul, but Burmese magical beliefs before Buddhism no doubt would have considered such a transfer possible, for even at the present day, Burmese magic and witchcraft recognize the possibility of a dead body being [{p033}] made to seem to come to life again by an evil spirit entering it. For example, it is believed that unless offerings have been made to the guardian-god of the forest or unless some magical charms are carried, a huntsman will often find the deer that he has killed and whose head he has cut off, get up and prance away.

The Thagyamin, the King of the Gods, is none other than Sakra. In Hinduism he was Indra, the god of the thunderbolt, but he was adopted by Buddhism as its guardian-god under the name of Sakra. When Prince Siddhata, the future Buddha, after renouncing his family and his kingdom, cut off his hair to become an ascetic, Sakra received the hair in a golden bowl, and taking it to the abode of the gods he built a pagoda over it. According to Mahavamsa, the standard chronicle of Ceylon, he was charged by the Buddha to see to the establishment of Buddhism in Ceylon and to act as its special guardian there. According to a Burmese belief, when the Buddha was nearing his death he thought of ordaining that his religion should last 2,500 years, but Sakra begged him to increase the period to 5,000, promising to guard it with his thunderbolt during the second 2,500 years. Although this Burmese legend is not found either in the Pali Canon or the Commentaries, many Burmese still insist on referring to the present era of Buddhism as 'Thagya's Era of Buddhism'. fn033-01

The early chronicles mention that Sakra acted as one of the seven celestial builders of the city of Prome, because Buddhism was destined to flourish in the Pyu kingdom, and that he specially assisted Anawrahta's father to gain the throne of Pagan, as Buddhism was destined to flourish in the new Burmese Kingdom. When Anawrahta had succeeded his father on the throne further help from Sakra was unnecessary, because Anawrahta had received from his father the Lance of Victory [{p034}], fn034-01 which the latter had obtained from Sakra. This Lance of Victory, wielded by Anawrahta, has become famous not only in Burmese legends and chronicles, but also in the legends and chronicles of the neighbouring countries. For example, the Thai Chronicle of the Emerald Buddha mentions Anawrahta's coming to Thailand astride his flying Lance of Victory. Thagyamin was also mentioned in the chronicles as assisting in the building of the Shwezigone Pagoda sand other famous pagodas at Pagan.

The name 'Thagyamin' means 'the Lord who knows and hears everything', and a twelfth-century fresco depicts him with two pairs of eyes, two pairs of ears, and two noses. 'Thagyamin', of course, may be just a Burmese derivative of the name Sakra; all the same, the Burmese belief that the god records the names of good and bad people in his Golden Book and Dog-Skin Book respectively, fits in with the title, 'the Lord who knows and hears everything'. That Sakra keeps a record of good deeds done by men is found in the Pali commentaries, but the details of how this record is kept differ very widely from the Burmese legend; the Four Guardian Gods of the Earth and their followers visit the earth on every Sabbath day and they write down in a golden book the good deeds done by human beings, and they later hand the golden book to "Sakra's musician, who in turn gives it to Sakra's charioteer, who submits it to Sakra; Sakra then reads out the details of the good deeds to the assembly of gods, who rejoice and say thar-du {tha-du.}, meaning 'good', 'well-done', 'wonderful'. It may be noted that the Commentaries make no mention of a Dog-Skin Book for evil-doers.

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Feast of the Thingyan

The Feast of the New Year is also known to the Burmese as the Feast of the Thingyan {thn~kran}. The word 'Thingyan' is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning the entry of the Sun to any of [{p035}] the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac {ra-thi}; the Feast of the Thingyan is called in Burmese astrology the Feast of the Great Thingyan, because it marks the movement of the Sun from the Sign of Pisces or the Fishes {main ra-thi} to the Sign of Aries or the Ram {maith~tha. ra-thi} and it therefore marks the end of one solar year and the beginning of another. In the Burmese calendar, which is a lunar calendar, it is a movable feast, but it is fixable in the solar year, which explains the fact that whereas it falls on different Burmese dates in different years, it falls usually during the period 13th to 16th April or 14th to 16th April in the western solar calendar.

It may be mentioned that in computing the year the Burmese do take into consideration the movement of the Sun, so that Ta-goo {tan-hku:}, the first month of the Burmese calendar, becomes divided into two parts, the first half belonging to the old year, the second to the New Year, and with the names 'Old Ta-goo' and 'New Ta-goo'. The Burmese make the adjustments between the lunar and the solar calendars by the introduction of leap years containing an intercalary Waso {wa-hso}, the fourth month of the year, calling the regular month the First Waso and the additional month the Second Waso. fn035-01 The time of the arrival of the Thagyamin is the time when the Sun moves out of Pisces, the period covered by the days of his sojourn is the time when the Sun is passing through a sort of no-man's-land between the two Signs, and the time of his departure is the time when the Sun enters Aries. In contrast to the Burmese, who begin their New Year from the time when the Sun completely enters the Sign of Aries, the Tamil Hindus and the Sinhalese mark their New Year from the moment the Sun moves out from the Sign of Pisces.

From these facts it can be clearly seen that the original purpose of the Feast of the New Year, like the Hindu [{p036}] Festival of Holi, the Chinese Festival of Ching Ming and the pre-Christian Festival of Easter, was to celebrate the vernal equinox, but owing to the precession of the equinoxes the feast and the equinox no longer coincide. In Burma, as in the case of the other countries of south-east Asia, the heat of the sun does not fluctuate much during the course of the year and there is no winter, and for that reason, perhaps, there seem to have been no Burmese feasts of midwinter, midsummer and autumnal equinox. However, the spring equinox was celebrated, because it more or less heralded the coming of the rains.

The Burmese seem to have in primitive times two festivals to celebrate their three seasons, namely the Festival of the Vernal Equinox, marking the approaching end fn036-01 of the hot season and approaching beginning of the rainy season, and secondly the Festival of the Lights in November {tan-hsaung-moan:}, marking the end of rainy season and the beginning of the cool season. In my opinion, the merry-making and the boisterous throwing of water during the Feast of the New Year at the present day originally belonged to that primitive seasonal Feast of the Vernal Equinox, and the magical purpose behind them was very probably to make rain. I do not think that the throwing of water was originally a purification ceremony because of the horseplay and merry-making that accompanied the water-throwing.

On the primitive feast of the equinox was later grafted the ceremony of the worship of the Sunday planet {ta.nn~ga.nw groh-ming:}. The broadsheets issued by the astrologers annually (issued under the authority of the king before 1886 and now issued by the Guild of Astrologers) are really almanacs giving general predictions for the year; in these, the god who descends and ascends during the Thingyan period is definitely stated to be the god of the Sunday planet, and the colour of his dress, the [{p037}]implements of war or agriculture that he carries, and the animal he rides indicate the general characteristics of the year. Thus, if the god wears a reddish-gold dress, carries in one hand a king's sword {than-lyak-Da:} (commonly known as {than-lyak} and in another a sickle, and rides on the proper vehicle of the Sun planet, namely the galon {ga.Loan} bird, the year will be a normal year, neither too fortunate nor too unfortunate. If he wears a dress of gold, carries in one hand a bunch of flowers and in the other hand a pot of drinking water, and rides on a bull or a buffalo, the year will be an unusually peaceful and prosperous one. If he wears a flaming red dress, carries a burning torch in one hand and a spear or a broad sword or a battle-axe in the other, and rides on a Naga dragon {na.ga:} or an ogre {bi-lu:}, the year will be full of bloodshed and disaster.

UKT: King's sword -- a short double-edged sword -- an insignia of kingship.

The most important part of the ceremony of the worship  of the Sunday planet was the purification ceremony of washing the hair. The Chronicles mention that the king publicly performed the ceremony of hair-washing at the time of the coronation and at the feast of every New Year, and a less elaborate and private ceremony of hair-washing was performed at the time of the other eleven Thingyans when the Sun entered in turn the remaining signs of the Zodiac. The custom of setting free live fishes had a reference to the fact that the Sun had left the Sign of the Fishes, but when Buddhism became the official religion of the country this custom came to have a Buddhist flavour. In addition, the customs of keeping the sabbath, offering alms-food to the monks, and visiting the elders with offerings and gifts were also introduced. Above all, the Thingyan-Min or the God of the Thingyan, namely the Sunday planet, suddenly changed into Thagya-Min the guardian God of Buddhism, the Lord Sakra.

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fn025-01 In Burmese society, women have equal legal and social rights with men. fn025-01b

fn027-01 Digha-Nikaya, translate by T.W. Rhys Davids and J. Estlin Carpenter, vol. iii, p. 84. fn027-01b

fn029-01 It may mean, also, 'the Wisdom of the Farmers'. fn029-01b

fn029-02 See Chapter 2. fn029-02b

fn033-01 The 2,500th Anniversary of the Buddha's death occurred in 1956, according to Burmese reckoning. fn033-01b

fn034-01 It was also known as the Lance of Punishment. fn034-01b

fn035-01 I have given only the basic principle of the adjustments. The details are more complicated. For example, some leap years have, in addition to the intercalary month, an intercalary day. fn035-01b

fn036-01 'Approaching', because the monsoon will break only some three weeks later. fn036-01b

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UKT notes

Festivals of Lights

There are two lighting festivals: one in October and the other in November. The first is {thi-ting:kywat} signifying the end of the Buddhist Lent or the Rain-retreat of the Buddhist monks. The second is {tan-hsaung-moan:}. The Hindu Devali falls in between the two.

Go back fest-lights-note-b

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Lance of Victory

Since the weapon is not used for <thrust>, but for throwing it is a <spear> or more properly a <javelin>. Its name is {a.rain~da.ma} meaning <foe-taming>. As a child, when I heard the story of Anawrahta flying through the air astride his spear, I had imagined that he must had looked like a witch riding a broom!

Go back lance-vic-note-b

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more boisterous than the men

The young and not-so-young girls of the village would group together under the direction of one of two older women usually with loud voices, and they would challenge the young casanovas  to a water-fight. In one incident which actually happened in my native town, the women-leader with a handful of wood-ash in her hand threatened to pluck out every strand of the pubic hair of the male loser. Such was the neighbourly good will in small towns and villages when I was young.

Go back more-boisterous-note-b

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Old Ta-goo and New Ta-goo

The solar new-year usually falls in the Burmese month of {tan-hku:} splitting the lunar month into two. The first part is known as {U: tan-hku:} meaning "{tan-hku:} which precedes" (the Sun transit or new year), and the second part as {nhaung: tan-hku:} or the "{tan-hku:} which follows".

Go back old-new-tagu-note-b

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The shampoo is usually made from a vine {ta.rau} (Grewia polygama -- Shin Nagathein Pictorial Herbal Dictionary 2 p18 or G. tiliaefolia) and acacia pods {king-pwan:} (Acacia concinna -- ibid. 1 p96). The vines are pounded and mixed with the water-extract of the pods. The shampoo so prepared is non-alkaline and has strong dispersing power, and is excellent for removing dirt and oil from the head.

Go back shampoo-note-b

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Tabaung festival

The pagoda festival {bu.ra: pw:} held during the last lunar month Tabaung {ta.paung:} of the Burmese-Myanmar lunar year. It usually falls in March. Though my old teacher Dr. Htin Aung supposed it to be a harvest festival, I will have to disagree with him because the rice harvest has long been over at this time of the year. The time is the time of the Spring Equinox, when most of ancient peoples of the Northern Hemisphere celebrate their respective new years. Though the day-to-day Myanmar calendar is lunar, the years are solar-years. Due to the precession of the Earth, a correction is made every year to mark the exact time and day of the passage of the Sun into the Constellation Aries {maith~tha. ra-thi} from Pisces {main ra-thi}. And in the broadsheets published by the astrologers (at least at present), it is the {ta.nn~ga.nw groh-ming:} or the Sun God, not the Thagyamin, who is mentioned. However, the non-astrological minded would only know of the story mentioned by my old teacher.

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Thagya's Era of Buddhism

The Burmese term is {thi.kra: tha-tha.na}, made up of two words {thi.kra:} and {tha-tha.na}. The word {thi.kra:} meaning <know and hear>, is the same as {thi.kra:ming:} . On the other hand, the word {tha-tha.na} means <religion> or "guidance of Buddha". However, here it means "guidance of {thi.kra:ming:}" . King as he is, {thi.kra:ming:} is expected to enforce his guidance with his thunderbolts.

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According to Pali-thak-Dict p348, the word {thn~kran} is derived from Pali {thn~kan~ta.}, meaning "transition". In Sanskrit it is {thn~kran~ta.}. It also refers to the monthly hair-washing ceremony of the king. It should be noted that the Burmese kings have long hair which was never cut. It was oiled daily but washed only once a month.

It should also be noted that to a Burmese-Myanmar head-hair is an item of the body which must be treated with utmost respect, and in time of Burmese kings, only the king had authority or ownership of a person's life and hair {thak-U:hsn-peing} meaning that the king could take away a person's life or pull his/her hair.

If I remember correctly, there was a "criminal case" during the reign of King Thibaw, when a school boy happened to touch the hair of his classmate who happened to be a prince - fellow classmate and almost the same age. Both boys were attending a Christian school ({thn-t: kyaung:}) in Mandalay. The matter was treated as "pulling the hair", and the offending boy was sentenced to death. I cannot remember whether the sentence was carried out or not.

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_New_Year 080912

The Thai New Year (Thai: สงกรานต์ Songkran, from Sanskrit sankrānti "astrological passage") is celebrated every year from April 13 to April 15. It coincides with the New Year of many other calendars in South and Southeast Asia.

[UKT: Compare the Sanskrit given by Wikipedia, sankrānti , and by Pali-thak-Dict, {thn~kran~ta.}. Notice that the pronunciation of the word initial is IPA [s] in Thai, and IPA [θ] in Myanmar. Because of such instances, I feel that Thai, is more under the influence of Sanskrit (sibilant) than Burmese-Myanmar where Pali (thilibant) has dominance.]

The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. If these days fall on a weekend, the missed days off are taken on the weekdays immediately following. If they fall in the middle of the week, many Thai take off from the previous Friday until the following Monday! Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand; thereafter 1 April was used until 1940. 1 January is now the beginning of the year. The traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then.

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Twelve Signs of Zodiac {hs.nhic-ra-thi sak}

01. {maith~tha.} <Aries, the Ram>; 02. {praith~tha.}; 03. {m-htoan};
04. {ka.ra.kaT}; 05. {thaih}; 06. {kan}
12. {main} <Pisces, the Fishes>

Individually they are usually referred to by adding the word {ra-thi} as a suffix, e.g. {maith~tha.ra-thi}. They form a circle along the celestial equator diving it into 12 divisions each spanning 30 degrees of arc. The Sun's transit from {main} to {maith~tha.} is the beginning of a new year.

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End of TIL file