September 17, 2016

Bamboo and Myanmars, always together

Maha Saddhamma Jotika dhaja
Sithu, Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt

According to American Heritage Dictionary “Bamboo is any of various mostly tropical grasses of the genus Bambusa, having hard walled stems with ringed joints. The hollow woody stems of the bamboo are used in variety of construction crafts and manufactures”.
Tropical country, Myanmar is home to this indigenous flora which plays a predominant role in the life of its people in all aspects. Regarding Bamboo there is a Myanmar saying as follows: –
စားအတူတူ . . . We eat togather meaning bamboo
အိပ္အတူတူ . . . We sleep togather meaning bam-
boo  mats
ေနအတူတူ . . . We live togather meaning bamboo
ေသအတူတူ. . . We die togather meaning bamboo
shrouds and coffins
Though Myanmar has different climates, bamboo of different species grows profusely across the country. All Myanmar ethnic nationalities have been using different species of bamboo for different uses and purposes since times immemorial. Bamboo shoots are eaten raw, cooked or pickled, dried and preserved with salt for eating on a long journey in Winter. Bamboo shoots make dozens of dishes for both vegetarians and meat eaters.
Tender bamboo shoots are sliced, salted and dried in the sun and stored in bottle or earthern pot for consumption in winter for warmth and medical properties. Natural mushrooms that spring up in bamboo bushes 0g;½HkrdI are much sought after by humans as well as animals particularly elephants and some snakes because they are tender and delicious. All Myanmar ethnic nationalities eat bamboo shoots and bamboo mushroom in a variety of dishes. Hence, bamboo and us— we eat togather.
Among different species of bamboo Kya Khat Wa is a thorny type which is used for fencing. Wa Bo is a large and long hollow bamboo used in construction. Kat Moe Wa is good for roofing. Hta Yan Wa is for walling, Kyan Khin Wa is used for flooring. Hpyao Wa for making mat and Hnyee Wa for tying or making string or rope. Tabu Wa is used for teeth and tongue brushing and cleaning. Hence, bamboo and us — we sleep togather.
It is interesting to note that bamboo as well as rattan or cane [which is also Myanmar forest product] is most resilient fiberous flora. If in tough with water it can prove stranger than metal chain. Hence bamboo scaffoldings are used in construction till to-day, not only because they are easily available and comparatively cheap but also because bamboo is resilient and much safer than iron or steel scaffoldings. High rise monuments and buildings in Myanmar were built, maintained, renovated, white washed or gilt by means of bamboo scaffolding. Heavy objects like bells, stone or meltalic statues are conveyed, lifted, hung or placed by means of pullies and ropes made of bamboo or rattan. They are carried on bamboo rafts tied by rattan and floated down river and stream in Monsoon. Within a short time a bamboo house is built using no timber wood, nail or metal roof-only bamboo. A bamboo house can last nearly three years, giving warmth in winter and coolness in summer. In the countryside hollow bamboos are used as water pipes to bring fresh water from falls and streams to your kitchen and bathroom and toilet. Hollow bamboos are used for making fire rocket to burn enemy’s camp, ration and ammunition in warfare of old days war canes made of bamboo and lacquer were small, light and easy to curry on back and hide in the bush, on tree, in water or underground. They were water-tight. Lacquered bamboo shields were used by Myanmar warriors in old days and to celebrate light festival in October and November in Shan States.
Bamboo is used for making domestic and agricultural implements and utensils. Cooked rice containers, medicre, cigar, pickled tea, betel nuts containers, whip, yoke, conical cover of bullock cart, bamboo goblets and cups for rice beer, country spirit, fermented toddy juice are popular uses of swains in the country side. The most extraordinary utility value of bamboo is that it is used to shroud the corpse and to intern it in bamboo coffin and to post an epitaph on the grave. Hence, bamboo and us, we die togather.
Bamboo plays no small role in Myanmar history, Buddhism and Myanmar literature visual and performing arts. King Narapatisithu [1173-1210 A.D.] of Bagan dynasty had a very pretty queen named Wei Lu Wadi [Bamboo Queen] because she was born in a bamboo bush. The 15th in the Order of 28 Buddha (ESpfusdyf&Spfql) was Sujata Buddha who attained enlightenment under the shade of Kya Khat war [bamboo with thorns] [Bambussaarum dinaccea]. One of the residential monastery of Gotama Buddha was called Weiluwun Vihara because at was built in the bamboo forest.
In Myanmar visual arts, bamboo is one of the basic materials used. In lacquer ware making bamboo, cow dung and lacquer are must materials. In performing arts bamboo is used in varieties. We have bamboo slappers, bamboo flutes, bamboo oboe, bamboo Xylophone and many other string, wind and percussion musical instruments. In Myanmar musical timing Si and War [small metal cymbols and a small bamboo clapper are very essential timing instruments for singing dancing and acting and all theatrical arts. Traditional marionette theatre stage is built of bamboo, rattan and thatch. No timber wood no metal materials are to be used. Musical instruments of all Myanmar ethnic nationalities are mostly mads of bamboo. Light breeze wafting through bamboo groves produce a religiously mysterious whispering not. Buddhists are recommended to choose the shade of bamboo bush for meditation. At temples and shrines, dwarf decorative bamboos are found enpelted at the entrance.
The following Myanmar folk song epitomises the importance of bamboo in Myanmar culture.
ခေလာက္ကေလးရယ္တဲ့ ဒုိးဒုိးေဒါင္
Bamboo bells around the
ပ်ိဳတုိ႔ေမာင္ယာ မလုပ္တယ္
Oxen’s necks rattle
My lover swain has no farm to till
ႏြားညီေနာင္ စီေအာင္ကြဲ႕ ေဖေက်ာင္း
He drives twain handsome cattles,
to cut and bring bamboo on that hill
Long Live Bamboo!


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