November 13, 2016

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Festivals of the month “Tazaungmon” Part I

Tazaungmon the 8th month in Myanmar lunar calendar approximately corresponds to November. It is the first month of Myanmar cold season covering four month period Tazaungmon [November], Nattaw [December], Pyatho [January] and Tabodwe [February]. If the climate is clement, rain has withdrawn and open season begins in this month with clear blue sky and cool north-east wind from the icy land of the north turns the entire Myanmar land into a chilly breezy state. So Tazaungmon is the most favorable month for holding festivals of all nature and kind. There is a folk song or nursery rhyme that bespeaks the festivals of this month:-
အဘုိးႀကီးအုိ၊ ခါးကုန္ကုန္
Old man bent and double
မေသပါနဲ႔အံုး
Don’t die so soon,
ေနာင္ႏွစ္ခါ၊ တန္ေဆာင္မုန္း
For watch again the pwes [Festivals] at next
ပြဲၾကည့္ပါအံုး
Tazaungmon’s fullmoon.
Astrological name of Tazaungmon is Bjeihsa [Scorpio. Vrischika] Scorpion is its zodiacal sign. A particular creeper species called in Myanmar Kha wei [angular luffa plant] with gold colour fragrant blooms and tender sweet fruits either grows wild or cultivated for vegetable is the designated flower of this month. At mid night in the clear blue firmament an asterism Kyattika shines astride with the Moon.
Festivals held in this month may be classified into three categories- pre. Buddhist, Buddhist and post Buddhist. As the month is clear of all kinds of pollutions [mist. snow, haze, clouds, smoke ဆီးႏွင္းျမဴ တိမ္သူရိန္ မီးခုိးညစ္ မ်ိဳးကင္းကြာ လတ္ေဆာင္ မဟာ] all heavenly bodies are visible to naked eyes. In the pre-Buddhist time. Myanmar people worshipped natural phenomena. Heavenly bodies were believed to exercise their influence upon human life and career. They were therefore propitiated for favour. The festival of propitiation of constellations and planets including the Sun and the Moon known as Net Khat Thabin was held in Tazaungmon. Light festival of Tazaungmon originally was the Net Khat Thabin festival —lights were lit to dedicate them to all heavenly bodies. There are 27 constellations, according to Myanmar astrology, which all come out in the sky of Tazaungmon. These 27 are as follows:-
1. Asavani
2. Barani
3. Kyattika
4. Rohani
5. Migasi
6. Bhadra
7. Punnaphusshu
8. Phussha
9. Assalissa
10. Magha
11. Pyubbaparagunni
12. Uttaraparagunni
13. Hassada
14. Cittara
15. Swadi
16. Visakha
17. Anurada
18. Jettha
19. Mula
20. Pruppasan
21. Uttarasan
22. Sarawun
23. Dhanasiddha
24. Sattabhissha
25. Pyuppabadrapaik
26. Uttarabadrapaik and
27. Revati.
It is believed that these Net Khats are guarded by devas. On the full moon night of Tazaungmon, Net Khat feast was held at which, fruits, flowers, juice, honey. milk rice cakes and incense were offered to heavenly bodies, followed by illumination of light. musical and dance entertainments and all kinds of celebration.
The name Tazaungmon for this month is derived from the festival of constellations and planets. Ta-zaun means illumination by oil lamps. “Mon” means to embellish. So Tazaungmon is the month in which Net Khat Thabin is embellished by lights.
In one of Buddha Jataka stories called Ommadanti we have the full account of a state festival of Net Khat Thabin on the full moon night of Tazaungmon. The following is an abridged story of Ommadanti Jataka and Net Khat Thabin Light Festival.
“Ommadanti was an extremely beautiful girl born of a wealthy noble family. The fame of her beauty spread to all directions- praising that her beauty deserves her to become a queen. When King Thiwi of Arihtapura kingdom heard of that fame he sent his wise brahmans to her to confirm if she had the queenly qualities. At the dinner given in their honour. upon seeing Ommadanti, all brahmans became so bewitched by her charming beauty that they made a mess of everything at the dinner. So annoyed by their ill manners Ommadanti ordered her servants to throw the boors out of her house. Ashamed and humiliated the brahmans reported to the king that the lady was unworthy to be a queen. The King believed their report.Ommandanti was married to the king’s General Abiparaka. Although Ommadanti was faithful and devoted to her husband she could never forgive and forget the slight the king had given her. With a feminine pride, she harbored vengeance upon the King.
On the full moon Tazaung mon night the whole capital city was illuminated to celebrate the Royal Net Khat Thabin. A royal pageant around the city was prepared with the general Abiparaka in charge of the King’s security. Before he went to his duty the general told his wife Ommadanti not to come out and show herself when the royal coach with the king passed by their house for he knew that her beauty would do harm to the king. But Ommadanti had made up her mind to make the king go crazy about her by means of her charming beauty. When the royal coach turned up in front of their house, she made her appearance at the open window of the balcony and with a captivating smile she threw fragrant flowers at the King who looked up only to get a glimpse of the feminine idol in perfect beauty because Ommadanti rushed in and closed the door, leaving the King in a state of extreme desire and love mania. The King cut short of his city tour and at the palace he shut himself in his chamber, refusing to hold daily audience but suffering alone. The General knew at once what had happened to the King. So the General told the King that he consulted the guardian god of the Bannyan Tree whose oracle told him that the King was infatuated with Ommadanti. The General magnanimously offered his wife Ommadanti to the King. Ashamed and repented the king was brought back to his senses. He recovered from his love mania. He ruled his kingdom justly till his old age.
Ommadanti Jataka is the favorite story which is played at the Tazaung mon festival. It befits the occasion and its plot and characters appeal to the Myanmar youths and adults alike.
But with the introduction and spread of Buddhism to Myanmar, Tazaung mon festival assumed religious features and characters. Lights are illuminated and a variety of fun making is carried out but the festival of Net Khat Thabin recedes to the back ground. Kahtein festival takes over its place. The word “Kahtein” is a derivative of a Pali ward “Kathina” meaning ‘Firm’ or ‘durable’. Monks who receive Kahtein robe and monks who express their appreciation at the offering and receiving of Kahtein robe by uttering “Sadu” [well done] three times, gain five durable merits. The five durable merits are the privileges of enjoying relaxation of certain rules of Vinaya [Priestly Disciplines governing the monks]. These five are as follows;
1. Monks can go out to the house of the donor who invites them for offering food, without informing the other monks nearby. even if the donor has in advertently used improper language in inviting.
2. Monks who have resolved to practice the Ti-civara austerity [possessing a robe of 3 garments only] are allowed to go out without carrying the resolved robe with them.
3. Robes received can be worn by monks without performing certain religious procedure.
4. Even if and when an invitation for food offering comes in an improper manner, at least four monks and above can accept it.
5. Monks of the monastery where Kahtein robes are offered for the Sangha [the entire Holy Order] can wear these robes.
The donors of Kahtein robes attain the following merits.
1. There shall be no danger or disturbance wherever the donor travels.
2. The donor shall have plenty of good and healthy food. He shall never suffer from food poison.
3. The donor’s possessions are safe from destruction, robbery or theft.
4. The donor shall recover the long forgotten or lost property.
5. The donor shall get wealth without much difficulty and
6. The donor shall have a good look.
No religious restriction regarding robe offering to monks. Donors may offer one piece or the whole set to any monk at any time. But regarding Kahtein robe there are religious rules to abide by. The Kahtein robe offering period is from the first waning moon day of Thadinkyut [October] to the full moon day of Tazaung mon [November]. Both the donor and the recipient monk must observe this time limit.
One or the whole three pieces of robe can be offered as Kahtein robe. The donor must have good and sincere intention and he must donate Kahtein robe out of his voluntary will. The donor offers Kahtein robe not to individual monk or monastery but to the Sangha [all members of Buddhist Holy Order] as a whole. Monks must never request anyone, even his parents, relatives or friends directly or indirectly to donate them robe. According to Vinaya [Priestly rules of Monk Discipline] if monks in need of robe and if there is no donation of robe. they must collect discarded clothes, wash them clean. dye them with bark, piece and sew them togather to wear as robe.
Recipients of Kahtein robe are selected in accordance with the rules pertaining to Kahtein robes. Not any monk and not all monks are eligible to receive Kahtein robe. The deserving recipient monks are those monks who have;
1. Observed Purima Wa or first lent First waning moon of Waso [July] to the full moon day of Thidinkyut [October]
2. Performed Pawarana [confession of monks to one another on the full moon day of Thidinkyut]
3. Have not record of breach of lent vow
4. Shortage of robe
5. Being the most senior monk among those who are in real need of robe.
The selection of the deserving recipient of Kahtein robe is carried out by an assembly of monks in the Sima [Ordination Hall]. The Kahtein robe is offered to the monk or monks who have the above mentioned qualifications. The recipient monk has to discard, the piece of robe he is wearing which is corresponding to that of Kahtein robe offered him. Then he has to say in Pali the acceptance of the Kahtein robe offered him. He makes a mark on the accepted Kahtein robe. Then declares in Pali “that the Kahtein robe has been offered and accepted in accordance with the rules of Vinaya laid down by Lord Buddha. Then he requests all monks present to share in the merit by exclaiming word of appreciation “Sadu- [well done] three times.
Kahtein robe can be donated by anyone. lay or monk, men or women, adult or youth. But each monastery is entitled to one Kahtein robe offering a year. Kahtein robe must be untainted, clean, new, not borrowed one or second hand one. It is a pure religious offering by voluntary will of the donor.
The origin of Kahtein robe offering dates back to the life time of Lord Buddha. While Lord Buddha was residing at Jetavana Vihara at the city of Savatthi, thirty Buddhaveggi monk from Paveiyaka came to pay homage to Lord Buddha. It was a long journey. They could not reach Savatthi before the commencement of lent. So they stayed at a small town Thakayta during lent. After lent when they continued their journey a heavy rain came down soaking them wet and damaging their robes. Since they were practicing 13 classes of austerities, they did not have extra robes to change. When they arrived at Jetavana Vihara, Lord Buddha on seeing their plight allowed offering and receiving of Kahtein robes, laying down rules and procedures and expounding the merit gained from this religious deed.
Stone inscriptions, chronicles and literature bear evidences and account of Kahtein robe offering festival in Tazaungmon since the time of ancient Bagan or even earlier.

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