Learn Myanmar Culture and Tradition before traveling to Burma Myanmar ( Burma ) known as the land of pagodas. Accordingly there are many Buddha images and they can be seen at every pagoda and at the houses of all Buddhist, who worship at their family altars. So Buddha images are one of the most intriguing and can be distinguished according to the position. The forms of the images vary from one period to another. In Myanmar, Bagan dynasty was the time when art was most flourishing in monument buildings, especially the religious ones. In that period from the king to the people, donated and built Temples, Stupas and Images to worship. All the donors believed and considered that the making and donation of images to be a particularly meritorious deed. In this way many images come to be made. When Buddha attained his Nirvana, there were no Buddha image to worship and only symbolic to worship. It is assumed that the custom of sculpture and worship of Buddha images started from the Kushan dynasty in India (1st AD) where the Buddha attained his enlightenment. At the later period of Kushan dynasty, the Iconography arrived together with the Buddhism from Amaravati to Srikshetra of Pyu Dynasty. So that the images in former Bagan period were influenced by the style of Pala dynasty. In Bagan, there can be seen the Buddha images made with bronze, sand, stone, wood, and other materials. First are standing or sitting positions on the lotus throne. All the terra-cotta tablets, which were found in Bagan, have marked the names of the donors, from the king to the normal people, is a common custom. Among the Buddha images of Bagan, the handiworks of casting bronze images were the ideal from of those days. In standing position, the bronze image is from 11th century. In these images of the Unisha, the hair-knot over the head of Buddha with curly hairs can be seen obviously. The ear lop are not touching the shoulders and it is the difference from nowadays. The face is oval to triangular and well formed fore head, downcast eyes, aquiline nose, small mouth and pointed chin. The body with broad shoulders and chesty tapering to a narrow waist and high-cheek bones. The limbs of the Body and even the navel can be seen clearly. The robe is in the transparent form, so that the images is wet in appearances and effeminate aspect, clothing appears to be clinging to the body, folding of the gown is confined to the periphery. A line below the navel marks the lower garment and the double wavy line at the ankle level shows the hem. Hand positions, the right hand raised to line up to the chest and all fingers directed up- words and it is called the Abya mudra. The left hand is placed downward with the palm turned to the front and holding the lapel and it is called Varada mudra. Abaya mudra means for the assurance of protection from danger and Varada mudra signifies the bestowal of benediction by the lord .The auspicious circular marks are on both hands, and the length of the fingers are not the same, it is difference from today. I assume that the beautifully molded fingers with the graceful hands are lead to the zenith of the sculpture of the image. It is assumed that the style of Buddha images, sculptured with clear body to reveal the distinctive body features of theBuddha. Now, we come to the sitting Buddha images most are seated on the lotus throne and with Bhumipassa mudra. These images also made with bronze from Bagan at 11th century. This image of the body style like as the standing one. The hand is in Bhumipassa. The right hand rests on the right knee with palm inside the fingers touching the earth while the left palm turning up words rests on the lap. This mudra illustrates that while Buddha attained his Enlightenment, Mara, the evil attacked him to occupy the seat. So the lord Buddha vowed and called the goodness of the earth to prove the meritorious deeds done in his circle of rebirth to become a Buddha. Lines of the clothing shown by the diagonal line form left shoulder passing under the right breast and arm. The sitting position on the form of lotus petal, it reveals two soles and auspicious circles can be seen on it. But some of the images are ornamented with coronation regalia such as crested headdress. Summing up, the Bagan Buddha images, influenced by the workmen ship of Pala dynasty, were mixed with the Indian and western styles. The western styles is favored the material cultural. The face are looked like the European style, because of the Iconography started from Greece and in some sand images even the nipple can be seen clearly. After the Bagan period, the features of robe cover the body because regards as it could be the sensual effect. But the images changed to the form and style of nowadays in course of time. Because of the images are largely depending on the own style of the artist and his way of life. No matter whatsoever, actually, the images of the Bagan period not only shows the Iconography but also the beliefs, prosperities, spirits, standard of art and living, and can be known how they did meritorious deeds. They are historical evidences and on the other hand images are cultural and tradition of Buddhism of Bagan dynasty.
Bullock Cart DecorationsIn rural areas of Myanmar, village people still use bullock-carts for transporting themselves today. Whenever they go to auspicious ceremonies or festivals, they decorate their bullock carts to match the occasions they attend. Bags are cut into the desired size and stuck with paper and then velvet or a cloth is stitched onto it for two strong and stout bulls decorations and two bulls are put on their horns, knees and the tails. Bullock carts interior are also decorated with pillow and velvet or cloth in order to make the people who ride in them be more comfortable and at the same time match them up to the occasion they attend.
Naga Traditional Costumes and DancesIt is in traditional dances performed at the New Year Festival. Here comes the Lai-naung Naga youths in traditional attires. Lai-naung Nagas live mostly in central Lahe’. By tradition, they are farmers and the dances are presented in descriptive of their livelihood. You can see Kham-nyu-ngam Naga youths in their traditional costumes. Kham-nyu-ngam mostly live in Lahe and Khamti townships. The dance also depicts toiling at farm work throughout the year. Another one is Ma-Khu-ri Naga dance. The Ma-Khu-ri mostly inhabits Layshi Township. They are also good at handicrafts apart from farming. The dance depicts spinning of yarn and work at hand loom. Among the Nagas, Kung-wam is good not only in farming but also at craftsmanship. They made mostly agricultural tools. In the dance, you can notice the traditional dress plus mimicry of smithy work. Next one is the Tangkul Nagas with fantastic dress. They live mostly in Le-Shi and Hommalin townships. The dance itself is to show off the beauty of their costumes. The Tangkuls are also good livestock raisers. Hai-mye’s Nagas dwell mostly in Nam-yung and Khamti townships. They grow crops and breed livestock. A cosy rest between hard works with traditionally brewed wine is a welcome thing for them. They are driving home that message in their fantastic dance. The Kun-nyat Nagas in their fantastic attires. They live mostly in the western part of Lahe’. They grow crops, breed livestock and good at handicrafts. In the dance, they are depicting their work for livelihood. Lastly but not the least, the dance of Para Nagas in their beautiful costumes. Para Nagas mostly live in Le-Shi. They are good at farming and handicrafts. Recently, they’re also been growing perennial plants, hoping it to become commercial one day. Here, in the dance, they are depicting the harvest of perennial plants.
Unforgettable Traditions of PaO NationalIn eastern Myanmar, Bamar, Shan, Innthu – Innthar, Danu, Taung Yoe, Pao and other nationals are residing peacefully. If you’re interested in customs and traditions of Pao nationals who love to wear long blue-black dress and trouser. Well! All these unforgettable things can be found in Katku village, of Shan State. Katku village consists of 40 households. Pao traditional house was built with thatch roots, walled and floored with bamboos. When you climb the house up the stairways, you’ll discover a small veranda where you can put off your shoes. As soon as you enter the house, you can feel the hospitality and friendliness of sweet smiling Pao family members. It is also learnt that this small veranda is a good place to chat together in free time. Simply protecting the cold weather, every house has only one very small window. There is a group of the strange thing you will discover is one side of the roof is longer than the other side of the roof. Some houses have a barn plus motor and pestles under the same roof. When damsels work in smooth timing the motor works wonderfully. In the yard, there’s another building with high roofs but no walls. It is a place to dry the harvested crops. You can also find a hand-made two-part wooden motor. Just by turning the central axle firmly left and right, it’s amazing to find the husked rice come out.Katku village clearly depicts not only beautiful traditions and customs but also the village life of Pao nationals. Come and see for yourself.
The Unforgettable Bonfire Dance in Naga New yearThe month of January is the coldest time in Myanmar. The cold is more severe in mountainous region like Lahe`. Lahe` in the Naga Hills of north-western Myanmar is 4,313 ft above sea level and 25· 40′ north latitude. The fit and healthy Naga nationals brave every odd of weather and terrain. This year, delegates from far and near converge on Lahe` against the odds. Some from Layshi walked for 15 days along the mountain footpaths and those from Namyung ten days to join the celebrations of Naga traditional New Year Festival. Bonfire dance is an important event in the celebrations of the New Year. The evening of January 15th was very cold, but it was transcending with beauty. Ten thousand Naga nationals and honorable guests including hundreds of tourists converged on the venue. Visitors gazed at the colorfully attired Naga nationals, over awed by their simplicity and straight forwardness. There are over 80 clans in Naga region, but tribally they may be grouped in eight major groups. As the bonfire is lit at the centre of the festival ground, groups of Naga nationals take turns systematically to dance round the bonfire, singing happily traditional songs. The dances are rhythmic and lively. Spectators are enthralled to join the dance. Rice wine is a plenty at the dance. Roasted myth on, bison and boar meat and fish are served with wine. The sharing of rice wine is the sealing of goodwill between friends and strangers alike. After all, the festival itself is celebrated to bring friendship, unity and amity. Naga national traditions, including the bonfire dance, are preserved through the tests of time. It is a rare opportunity to observe ancient traditions unspoiled. Naga Traditional Handicrafts In connection with Naga New Year Festival, Naga traditional handicrafts and cultural showrooms were opened at Lahe’ Sports ground. The handicrafts showroom displayed blacksmith, woodcarving and traditional crafts of bamboo, rattan and fur. There are various shapes and types of knives for various uses. The smithy or workshop consists of bellows employing twin bamboo cylinders and charcoal is used at the furnace. Iron rods are heated and then made into knives of sorts. Knives are kept in sheaths or hung on the loincloth. They are for various uses to bear in festive occasions varying in shapes and types. Just look at the knife borne by the middle dancer. In woodcarving, human figures were sculpted since early times leaving behind Naga statuettes. A demonstration of baskets and mat weaving by Naga nationals is also very interesting. Household articles made of bamboo and other crafts are also shown. Naga New Year Festival is celebrated annually. The festival is always great event for Naga nationals to celebrate their achievements to ponder over the future tasks a0nd forge unity and amity. There are areas of interest to be discovered. All are invited to come and see for yourself at your convenience.
Shan Traditional Noviciation in Northern Shan StateMyanmar is well-known as the land of festivals. Every month, different kinds of Buddhist ceremonies are celebrated. These festivals depict the pious and generosity of the Myanmar people. Noviciation ceremonies, which are usually held during the summer holidays, stages in grand style with traditional customs throughout the country. In Northern Shan State, Traditional Buddhist Noviciation ceremony is held for 5 to 7 days. According to the custom, the age of novices-to-be are form 9 to 16 years. Novices-to-be are dressed as like royal princess and whom are carried in processions, around the town every day during the ceremony. In towns as well as villages, traditional noviciation ceremonies are held communally. Each novice-to-be has two single men and two single women., and a married couple looking after him. Together with the parents, the guardians take care of him during the novice hood. It shows the intimacy and unity in the community, which brings joy and happiness. The duration time of novice-hood last 7 or 9 days. If they get more holidays and free time, the novice-hood lasts longer. During the ceremonial days, the house of the host is lively through day and night. The success of the ceremony and the host’s generosity is composed into a song. And the honorable traditional song is blowing in the air. There is hustle and bustle on the day of noviciation. All the relatives including novices-to-be, parents, guardians of the novices-to-be and guests are dressed for the occasion carrying various kinds of alms, and parade around the town. The procession satisfies all. So, I would like to invite you to Myanmar and share with us, our joyful occasions.
Safari in StyleMyanmar nationals have various modes of life peculiar to respective locality. Chin nationals also have fantastic customs. Chin nationals are adept in safari. They’ve astounding zest and zeal in this field. Even when looking at Chin national folk dances, one can notice some enactments at hunting. Chin traditional safari is the embodiment of zest and zeal, tenacity, cooperation and unity. Whenever there is opportunity for such an event, men folk muse, talk and prepare excitedly. They sharpen their knives, spears and arrows, excitedly discussing ways and means of the hunt. And also seek the advice of village seer. The seer consults powers that be through an egg. The egg is cleansed then six vertical lines are made with a sharp knife top to bottom. A good piece of bamboo is lit and the amber pressed against the egg making cracks. The seer is competent, it is believed, to predict from the nature of the cracks on the egg. The seer accompanies his predictions with instructions and warnings to be observed in the outing. He also gives them amulets taken from the bamboo piece used in the prediction. The hunting party then leaves with confidence and in high spirit. Daily chores of a Chin woman include un-husking rice or millet with wooden mortar and pestle. Chin nationals are fond of traditional fabrics woven by handlooms. The favorite colours are blue, red, green, black and white. Water fetching is also part of daily chores. Containers made of dried gourds are used to fetch water. In the evening, the Safari party returns. Stopping a while on the approach to the village, they let the whole village know their good luck by shouting and hullabaloo. On reaching the village, an appropriate slice of the hunt is forwarded to the seer. The whole evening, a chorus of recount on the day’s feat goes on and on, over a large pot of millet, wine of course.
Traditional PaO DanceThe northeast region of Myanmar is home to a number of national groups of the country: Bamar, Shan, Intha, Danu, Pa-O and others, each with its own culture and language, but all living side by side in harmony. Next to the Inthas, the Pa-Os constitute the second largest group in the Inn lay region. This is the Pa-O traditional dance being performed by a large group of pretty Pa-O damsels. The dance depicts the various activities of (hillside) cultivators as they begin their planting tasks. The lyrics of the song they are singing as they dance are: Come, come, Young Lads and Maidens: Mind not, the terrain you have to traverse: uphill, or down, or along steep slopes! Mind not the weather either: come rain or shine! Let’s just be at our task of tending our crops. Let’s put in all we can. Let’s get everyone involved in this undertaking. Let’s work so that our crops will be lush and green. Let’s work so that there’ll be a rich harvest to share. Come; let’s create a happy world for all of us! Look at the dark dresses the damsels are wearing. These are made from a hand-woven fabric woven on a back -strap loom. And look at their complexion— so soft and fair! And last but not least, look at their graceful movements as they sway to the strains of the enchanting music to depict an aspect of cultivation work of the Pa-Os.
Unique Style of Kachin DressKachin State, the northern most part of Myanmar, consists of scenic snow-cape mountain. Kachin State is also rich in high artistic qualities. The lifeblood of Myanmar, the Ayeyarwaddy River flows down from this region. Kachin nationals such as jing phaw, Saiwa, Lawa, Lachate, Rawun and Lisu inhabit the region together. With other national dresses which they themselves made in traditional ways. I can see a hand loom called Jakhoke. It is made basically of wooden bamboos easily move for place to place, weaving is done with the wooden blade. The significances of Jingphaw traditional dress is with the adornment of silver symbols along the back and front, along the wrist line, rings made of cane are carried at the ankle and the traditionally woven red stockings are also added to it. Lachate traditional dress is basically similar to Jingphaw dress; buttons and shells adorned are marvellous even today. Rawun traditional dress is made of natural jute fibres. This dress depicts the beauty of creativity, simplicity, durability and bravery. Lisus adorn their dress with buttons, beads and fancy pearls in fantastic designs. So, the Kachin nationals weave and made their traditional dress with tenacity, creativity and unique style, which made them prominent.
Early Myanmar Burial Offerings at Nyaung-gan Bronze age Burial SiteThere are many evidences of early Myanmar Bronze age Burial sites in central Myanmar especially in Monywa, Salingyi, Budalin, and KyaukPaDaung townships. Myanmar Anthropologists and Archaeologists recently excavate one of those Nyaung-gan bronze age sites in Budalin Township. Nyaung-gan bronze age burial site is located 1 ½ miles to the North-West of Nyaung-gan village in Budalin township of Sagaing division, central Myanmar. It is near the well-known crater-lake called Twin-taung, an extinct volcano. The site is a farmyard measuring 600′ * 250′ and is a hillock, sloping westwards .The surface soil is clay mixed with tiny pebbles. The site was excavated from 29-1-98 to 18-3-98. 15′ * 15′ square grids were excavated. Bronze age Early Myanmar skeletons were found. Those were buried offerings such as potteries, bronze weapons, stone rings, beads, lead sheets and heads of cattle. Bronze age Early Myanmar skeletal remains were found at every square. Those were identified as 9 males, 5 females, 1 child and 13 incomplete skeletons. Here, it would be the burial site of Early Myanmar sedentary life in Bronze Age at Nyaung-gan. The skeletal remains are found at the maximum depth of 2′-10″ from the surface and some are shallower. The skeletons are placed head towards North. Only the two are oriented towards South. Here, orientation seems to be aligned to the Pole Star. Such burial system is seldom found and it may show the high thinking power of Early Myanmar i.e. they know how to use the Pole Star. The length of the skeleton measure 3′ to 5’8″ ranging from child to adult. The majority would be of 5’7″ in height. According to anthropometrics measurements, their head indexes are mostly monocephalic. So their round head show the Mongoloid feature. Most of the skeletons are buried in extended position. The head and body are resting on the ground while the two hands are tested on their thigh. Many skeletons are found side by side. Moreover, a few skeletons are buried on upon another up to 3 layers (pit no.4). Normally, primary burial practice prevailed at Nyaung-gan site. But secondary burial practice also occurred (pit no.1). Here, the skull is placed on his Jaw in normal correct position. It is fended by a row of 5 red pots. It would be a kind of ritual style. The teeth of that skull are more decayed than other remains of the site. Most of other skulls have complete teeth in a good state of preservation. Therefore, that skull may be earlier than others and may belong to their ancestor or tribal chief. This can be a kind of Nyaung-gan Early Myanmar ancestor worship. Bronze Age Nyaung-gan Early Myanmar buried different kind of burial offering along with their dead body. Those include pot vies such as round pots, convex based pots. Oil lamps, plates and lastly crucibles. The diameter of the largest pot is 22″ while that of the smallest is 1.5″. The majority of the pots are medium sized, round based pottery. A peculiar type of earthenware is a plate having 3 knobs on it. Some pots bear three or four string-holes attached to the body. In some cases, small pots once filled with something are put inside a large pot and small crucibles were buried near the head or at the foot of the dead body (pit no.4). They used potter’s wheel and mostly are plain-wares. Those were seemed to be specially made for the burial purpose only. The most striking burial offerings of Nyaung-gan early Myanmar are the socked bronze weapons, polished stone-rings and cylindrical beads in association with their dead bodies. Some of the Bronze weapons are found placed in the hands of the skeleton, which shows that those weapons were buried together with the user at the time of their death. Most of the Bronze weapons are spearheads in different size and shape. The largest socked (with reinforcement) bronze spearhead measures 2″ wide and 11″ long. The smallest bronze arrow-head (without socket) is ½ ” width and 2″ length. Here, a peculiar socked bronze hatchet that has a strange flaring edge (like shoe) is also found. The other interesting burial offerings at Nyaung-gan site are polished stone rings. Those are found put on wrist-bone of the skeletons. Those bracelets were made of greenish solidified rock and fine grain sandstone in oval, circular, triangular and square shapes. The outer edge diameter varies from 4″ to 7.5″ and the inner whole diameter varies from 1.5″ to 2.3″. Here, some stone-rings were broken into two halves, which are punctured with small holes at each end. Those eyelets are seemed to be drilled for binding purpose and may be attached by a string. Those stone-ring were probably the insignias, showing the owner’s social status and probably wishing for prosperous life after death. Nyaung-gan Early Myanmar buried their ornamentations such as cylindrical terra cotta and stone beads and gastro pot shell beads. Those are found very close to the neck bone of the skeletons and might be strung into necklaces. Moreover, the rolls of lead sheet (½ ” width) for making earring, amulet and heads of cattle, deer and dog also were offered to the dead body wishing for prosperous life after death. Therefore, according to buried insignias and other elaborate offerings, Nyaung-gan Bronze Age Early Myanmar may be high class and lived in kin group of sedentary life at the place of recent Nyaung-gan village round about 3000 years ago.
Way of a Buddhist monastery construction in Myanmar monarchIn the time of Myanmar monarch before 1885, the wishful donor needs to apply permission directly to the monarch for the new monastery construction. The monarch granted construction after inquiry about the monk who is going to accept new monastery regarding his level of education in Buddha teaching and moral and probity from the head of a religious order. The permission was granted in accordance with customary rules and regulations, restrictions and limits. If new monastery was for the monk who had perfect education in Buddha teaching and practice that grant 4 main entrances and 4 staircases to be assembled in two type of building which were grand and large monastery similar characteristic to ZayTa Wun Monastery existed in Buddha life time and other one was prototype building of royal crown prince. If new monastery was for the monk who is also a regional head monk, that monastery was granted to assemble decorative device in a row of upright leaves around ground foundation of monastery. The regional head monk and deputy have had position in privilege of using palanquin, golden umbrella and a white writing tablet made of palm leaves (Parabaik). During those ancient times, there are cases of death sentence decided by royal authorities and head monks are able to request to donate life of prisoners not to be killed but it is very rare story because there should have a reson why the one should not be punished. If a new monastery was for the monk who had not good education in Buddha teaching and became a monk at old age after his retirement from household affairs that grant one main entrance and one staircase to be assembled in small size building regardless of how the donor willing to donate in big amount. That is a reason among the monks to distinguish level of education and moral in Buddha teaching and practice, so monks could pay respect each other in accord with their devoted life in Buddhism. There were also customary rules and regulations for donor of a new monastery. If a donor was not from Royal family and royal authorities such as Mayors, Ministers and the gazetted wealthy people, the size of monastery was in accord with monk level but not allow decorating carvings and other ornaments on intervening structure between successive and tiered roofs. Construction of Sale monastery is noted as an example; Sale monastery has 4 staircases of Royal building type. In our history, crown princes used to donate his house in royal palace compound to their teacher monk when he attain supreme power of Country. So some donor construct a monastery as prototype of royal crown prince house. King granted construction permit in scripture on a white writing tablet made of palm leaves. Donor of SaLe monastery is U Bo Kyi who is a gazetted wealthy man of export and import company, therefore, he was allowed to decorate carvings and other ornaments on intervening structure between successive and tiered roofs in main building, an also wood carving sculpture at handrail POSTs. With that permit, teak woods belong to the king can be cut free of charge for monastery construction. If teak woods in excess of construction when monastery is completed, donor may construct more building or add more decorative carving for a reason of excessive teak wood not to be in vain that is a way leading to disobedience of King order. In 17 century of Nyaun-yan period, a donor was punished by flogging for building monastery bigger than permit allowance. In the same way, each level of people from the ordinary firmer to royal crown prince has to construct in permitted design. Among mayors, some mayor can use elephant for travel and some were allowed to use only horse depend on their power. If a mayor who was not allowed to use elephant will construct a portico approaching a size of elephant that is rather dangerous situation if the king noticed it. In summary, monasteries and lay people houses were different in size, design and level. There are some monastery designs go by contraries in way of natural science point of views even today.
Kachin people’s Fastivals are called Manaw Ceremonies. There are several types of Manaw ceremony, and manaw dance is celebtated only in five most important occasions. – To celebrate victory in war. – To gather the clans in order to meet and settle accounts, make plans for the future. – To commemorate a death of an elder. – For a housewarming. – To bring good fortune to new farmlands and cultivation. Manaw ceremonies are very expensive as everyone is invited. The feasts need months of preparation to ensure enough food for the guests. The dishes will include buffalo meat, pork or wild boar, beef, chicken, rice and pots and pots of rice wine. Nowadays Manaw festival is celebrated for the New Year or a good harvest or the unity of the different tribes and clans who will gather to feast and dance together. In one festival, thousands of people from all villages in the region will be present in their tribal finery. In the manaw grounds, high totems painted in traditional patterns in red, black and white tower over the dancers. In front of them are hung the two instruments essential for the dance: a huge, long drum and a brass gong. The young people meet and fell in love at the dance, but it is not at all like what would spring to mind on hearing the word. It is a gentle and slow group dance without touching even of the fingertips. The girls wave handkerchiefs and the boys may be allowed to hold the other corner: he cannot get closer than that. The Jingpaw women wear red skirts and black velvet jackets hung with bosses of silver. Their silver jewellery is intricately made, and handed down from one generation to another.