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October 19, 2018

Anniversary of Myanmar Tatmadaw Day

By Maha Saddhamma Jotikadhaja, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt

March is Myanmar Tatmadaw Day which we annually celebrate. Tatmadaw (တပ်မတော်) is Myanmar word for all armed forces of Myanmar legally formed for the defense of the country, its entire people, its territory, its unity and its sovereignty.
Myanmar Lunar Calendar has many red letters days gazetted holidays by virtue of traditions, culture, religion, religious freedom and history. Twelve months of our Lunar Calendar have twelve traditional monthly festivals which fall usually on full moon days of the months. Dominant Theravada Buddhism also gives as special events, special occasions or special days to commemorate and celebrate. These days also fall nominally on Waxing, Waning, Full moon or No moon days. Because of religious freedom and religious tolerance of Buddhism, holidays of other religions are also red letter days in Myanmar such as Hindu Dewapani Day, Islamic religious Days, and Christmas Day. Besides each of the 135 national ethnic races has its own festival and ethnic day to celebrate.
Modern history of Myanmar brought in red letters days of political importance. In 1885, the last Myanmar King and his family were deported to India by the British army, so that year and day was “Pa-daw mu Day. The Day Myanmar King was deposed and taken to India. The years that followed 1885, were years of Myanmar Struggle for national freedom. So great events, occasions and days of these years became red letters days of political importance such as National Day, M.E 1300 Ayedawpone [1938 all-round Anti British Colonial Rule movement, Anti-Fascist movement Day 27 March, 12 February the Union Day [ပြည်ထောင်စုနေ့], 19 July the Martyrs’ Day, 4 January Independence Day, Resistance Day, Armed Forees Day 27 March, 2 March Peasant’s Day.
Modern Myanmar Army formed by Bogyoke Aung San and his 30 comrades-in-arms [Yebaw Thongaik] plus their sincere Japanese trainers underwent different names Burma Independence Army BIA, Burma—Defense Army BDA, Burma [Myanmar] Armed Forces, Tatmadaw Day, 27th March was originally marked as Anti-Fascist Day [ဖက်ဆစ်တော်လှန်ရေးနေ့]. The day on which Myanmar both military and civilian —the enteric Myanmar people turned against Japanese Fascist Rule and drove it out of the country. The name [ဖက်ဆစ်တော်လှန်ရေးနေ] Anti-Fascist Resistance Day 27th March lasted for some years after Myanmar regained independence. But time and circumstances changed and that name lost its relevance. So the name Armed Forces Day was substituted. Armed Forces Day to include Army, Navy and Air Force.
Myanmar Kings had four features [Regiments] of military strength (1) Elephantry (2) Cavalry (3) Charicory and (4) Infantry. Infantry was composed of swordsmen, spearsmen lancers and archers, gunners and artillery. Myanmar water forces are floatillas of boats, rafts and ships of different sizes for internal wars and galleons or armadas of sea going sail ships or later steam ships of different sizes locally made or purchased from abroad. Military march was always dual ရေအား ကျည်အား ချီတော်မူသည်. Military march or military progress by water and land. Being always a militia army and never a mercenary army [though Myanmar Kings, like other kings of other countries hired Portuguese free booters]. King’s army was called အောင်တပ်မတော် Royal Army of Victory.
Therefore Myanmar people and Government changed 27th March to a new name Tatmadaw Day [တပ်မတော်နေ့] which is historically right.
Military sciences military campaigns, military strategies and tactics, battles, experiences, victories and defeats were recorded in Myanmar visual and performing arts, and literatures. Buddha’s jataka stories provide us with volumes of lessens of military sciences and battle field experiences. In Myanmar traditional education monastic education had two types. (1) Pariyatti monastic education which taught reading, writing and arithmetic [3R’s] plus religious and moral education in accordance with the Dhamma teachings, civics and training of good character and good citizen.
(2.) Pwe kyaung education was taught at Pwe kyaung monasteries. Retired veteran soldiers and elderly crafts men and artisans such as black smith, silver or gold smiths, broze smiths, carpenters, sculptors, carvers, tunners, painters, architects masons, lacquerwear makers, with the permission of their wives and children, became monks. They no longer pursued Pariyatti education, Neither could they teach Pariyatti to others. But they taught theirs crafts, arts and martial art. Young ones who did not want to continue their learning at Pariyatti monasteries or who preferred active and lively training would go to Pwe kyaung monasteries. They got good training in arts, crafts and martial arts as well as herbal medicine, Therapy culinary art, architecture also in astrology, astronomy, alchemy, Vedas and other occult sciences. Products of Pwe kyaung monasteries were recruited into King’s armed forces.
Myanmar literature is rich in literary works on military science, strategies and tactics plus experiences of military campaigns and buttle fields. Literary works take three forms prose, verse and drama, which were originally epigraphs inscribed on stone, metal objects, palm leafs and folding papyrus [Parabikes]. Inscriptions on King Bayint Naung’s Bell in the precincts of Shwe Zigone Pagoda in Bagan, Inscriptions on Singu Min Bell and Thayawaddy Min’s Bell on the platform of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and Inscriptions on the Bell of Pathodawgyi Pagoda at old capital Amarapura are most outstanding records of Myanmar military campaigns in prose form Among the verse forms. Mawkuns are most prominent. Arthan Naing Maw Kun, Yakhaing Naing Maw Kun, Dawe Naing Maw Kun and Tayoke Than Yauk Maw Kun record in detail Myanmar military strategy, tactics and campaigns and battlefieds. Pyo type of verse were also composed to describe and record Myanmar military science, strategy and tactics. Letwei Thondara Amat [Junior minister] of late Konbaung Period [1 8 1 9- 1 8 85] composed three pyos [Poems of epic dimension] on Myanmr military Sciences namely Thayningabyuha Pyo, Byuha Setki Pyo and Nandithayna Pyo Maha Dhamma Thingyanm Ex-monk Maung Daung Sayadaw II composed 37 Luta poems on 37 ways of equestrian tournament and fightings, with colourful illustration. They showed swordsmanship, spearmanship, lance throwing, archery, gunnery, artillery and charioting as well as combat fighting.
Thayningabyuha kyans Treatises on military sciences were handed down to generations of Myanmar armies throughout Myanmar history. In the Second World War time, while Bogyoke Aung San was Minister of War a book မြန်မာသေနင်္ဂဗျူဟာစစ်ပညာကျမ်း [Myanmar Military Science] was compiled by Saya U Ba Thaung with a foreword by Bogyoke Aung San, the then Minister of War [စစ်ဝန်ကြီး]. In the foreword Bogyoke Aung San made references to military scientists of world repute. He also pointed out the importance and still relevance of Myanmar traditional military tactics of guarrilla warefare [ပြောက်ကြားတိုက်နည်း] or [ခြုံခိုတိုက်နည်း] because Myanmar people know well of their locality, geography, climate and environment. They know where to hide, how to survive when short of food ration, how to heal injurie bruises, how to cure aches and how to carry message or news quickly. So from the time of King Narathihapate of Bagan Period, who repulsed the invading equestrian Tartar soldiers of Kublai Khan through Manchu-Myanmar wars of Konbaung Sinbyu Shin King, right down to Anti-Fascist Resistance war of his time guarilla tactics has been always Myanmar traditional military tactics we should maintain it always.
The compiler Saya U Ba Thaung happened to be the writer’s lecturer in Compulsaing Burmese and Optional Burmese, at Mandalay University College in the years 1948-1952. The writer had a good chance of receiving as a gift from Saya U Ba Thaung a copy of that book.
Myanmar literature on Myanmar military Sciences has been translated, researched and topics and themes of Ph.D. Thesis abroad. The late Dr. Myo Myint, Director General of Research Department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, did his M.A degree with a thesis on Letwei Thonedura’s Thayningabyuhar Pyo, Nandithayna Pyo and Byuha Setki Pyo at Monarch University of Australia. With this article the writer hails the Tatmadaw Day 27th March of this year 2018.

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