November 14, 2016

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Festivals of the month “Tazaungmon” Part II

Festivals of the month “Tazaungmon” Part I
There are other religious and socio-cultural festivals associated with Kahtein lobe offering of Tazaung mon. In the life time of Lord Buddha, his foster mother Gotami marked a robe for him. It was of finest cotton skillfully woven at the palace by master weavers. Gotami herself participated in the weaving. It was finished ovetnight. The robe came to be known as Matho-Thingan, which literally means nonstale robe, because it was woven to the finish within the period of night. With pomp and ceremony Gotami took the Matho-Thingan to offer to Lord Buddha at Nijorda Vihara. Myanmar Buddhists following that precedent, perform the festival of weaving Matho-Thingan on the full moon night of Tazaungmon Myanmar Kings held this festival without fail and Myanmar Buddhists till today hold Matho-Thingan weaving competitions on the full moon day of Tazaung mon.
There are also two other types of robe offering either to Buddha Images or monks in Tazaungmon namely “Pant Tha Ku’’ robe and “Kya Thingan”. Pant Tha Ku is a Pali word meaning clothing, food, money or anything discarded on the ground for anyone to take. During the first twenty ordained years of Lord Buddha there was no donor of robe. Lord Buddha and his disciple monks had to collect clothings discarded on the ground for making robe by themselves. Such robes were called Pant Tha Ku robes meaning robes made out of old clothings discarded on the ground. Later Pant Tha Ku came to acquire a wider meaning—any offering by an anonymous donor to an anonymous recipient. Greater merit is gained by making Pant Tha Ku offering, because no personal attachment is involved as both the donor and the recipient are anonymous and unknown to each other. On the full moon night of Tazaung mon robe or any priestly utensil, or dry ration, or money is placed by the donor on the ground in the neighborhood of monasteries or nunneries. The monk or nun who finds it. takes it to the superior monk who decides whether it is a Pant Tha Ku offering or lost property. Usually the donor attached a letter card “Pant Tha Ku offering- to his offering. The monk or nun who finds Pant Tha Ku offering is entitled to use it.
Kya robe is lotus robe woven with threads made out of lotus stems. Lotus flower is the symbol of Buddhism. Four lotus blooms represent four Buddhas already revealed and one Lotus bud represents the 5th upcoming Buddha. Lotus robe is fine and light, making the wearer cool in summer and warm in cold season. Lord Buddha had worn lotus robe in his life time. In the Shan State, Mon State and Rakhine. State of Myanmar lotus robes are made for offering to Buddha statues and reputedly learned head monks on the full moon day of Tazaungmon.
Shin Ma Lei festival is another religious event commemorated on the full moon night of Tazaung- mon. This event and festival originated in post Buddha’s time. Shin Ma Lei was a great monk who resided in a village monastery in Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. Legend has it that by means of supernormal power he gained through intense concentration of mind [Samatha meditation] he went up to Tavatimsa the Celestial Kingdom] to worship Sulamani Pagoda in which the hairs of the head of Prince Siddhartha and the sacred tooth relic of Lord Gotama Buddha were enshrined. There, he met a deva who was the future Metteya Buddha. The deva requested Shin Ma Lei to preach to the people the Vessantara Jataka [The story of the last human life of the future Gotama Buddha on every full moon day of Tazaung mon. Shin Ma Lei consented and when he returned to earth he preached the said Jataka with one thousand Pali poems to the people on every full moon day of Tazaung mon. To commemorate this event, one thousand fruits, one thousand lotus blooms, one thousand fistfuls of cooked rice and one thousand light of oil lamps placed on a Hlaw Ka boat are offered to Shin Ma Lei. One thousand represents his one thousand Pali poems, and the Hlaw Ka boat represents the ferry boat [the Dhamma or the Teachings of the Buddha] to salvage the sentient beings from the whirl pool of rebirths [Samsara] to the Land of Nivirna [the end of all sufferings].
There are two traditional practices Myanmar people perform on the full moon night of Tazaungmon. They are Me Zali Salad feast and Kyi Ma No Pwe. Both are associated with Net Khat Tabin Pwe [The festival of constellations and planets]. Legend has it that on the full moon night of Tazaungmon when the constellation Kyattika and the moon shine togather, the guardian gods of all medicinal herbal plants and trees and creepers come togather to attend on the guardian god of Me Zali tree [Cassia Siamea]. Another version says that it was on the full moon night of Tazaung- mon that the guardian god of constellation Kyanika which is also Fire god, used to come down to earth and stayed with the guardian god of Me Zali tree. The guardian gods of all medicinal herbal flora gathered at Me Zali tree to pay respects to Kyattika god. So it is believed on this full moon night of Tazaungmon all medicinal, curative powers and properties of herbal flora are concentrated in Me Zali tree. Me Zali tree grows in any part of Myanmar. Its leaves, buds and flowers are edible Myanmar Treatises on herbal medicine recommend that Me Zali is medicinal. This is the reason why Myanmar people eat slightly bitter but appetizinGet Zali salad made out of its buds boiled and seasoned with ingredients like pea nut, fried garlic, sesamum, fresh pealed onion. cooking oil, salt and fresh lemon juice. You are cordially invited to Me Zali salad eating party on full moon night of Tazaungmon.
Kyi Ma No festival is in fact a customary prank played by youths. Literal meaning of Kyi Ma No festival is that it is a performance held before crows wake up. It is sometimes and at some places, known as “Thief’s Night”. On the full moon of Tazaung mon when all heavenly bodies appear, Sawya Net Khat or Thief’s constellation also appears, which exercises its influence upon the youths who thus suffer temporarily from kleptomania on that night. Kleptomania is a kind of psychological madness- irresistible desire to steal anything. So at midnight of Tazaung mon’s full moon, youths play their pranks. Individually or in group they “steal” anything found in the house compound [not from inside the house] –pots pans, clothings, baskets, skirts, women’s under wears, braziers, chamber pots etc. and leave them at the public places, road crossings. Skirts, under wears, braziers and chamber pots are hung up on tall trees. The following morning everyone is amused and moved to laughter to see the owners looking for their missing properties only to find them at public places. Male youths laugh heartily when old ladies come out to reclaim skirts, under wears or braziers on behalf of their real owners who being young are inhibited by their feminine modesty.
Midnight picnic is held on full moon night of Tazaungmon. It is famous for its chicken curry cooked by male youths. In Myanmar it is called Kyet Tha Kala Tha Chet [Chicken curry cooked by male youths]. Live chicken pinched from any house compound is killed and cooked with any vegetable easily available mostly gourd. No oil no spices, just water salt and green chilly. Cooked in a big pot and male youths by turn eat with cooked rice directly from the pots. No plate, no spoon. They use any long wooden ladles. Communal cooking and eating having been done, they now turn to communal courting with any musical instrument, usually wind instrument flute or oboe or string instrument harp or banjo or mandolin they serenade in the neighbourhood or in front of the houses of local belles performing love music and singing love songs. Parents and old people pretend to be asleep.. While young girls switch off all lights and open the windows to listen and watch their courtiers.
Today, with the booming of Tourism, Kyet tha kalatha chet is becoming the favorite of foreign tourists. They would like to join the serenade as well.
It would not be complete if the most important commemorative day of Myanmar National Day in Tazaungmon is left out. It was on the 10th waning moon of Tazaung- mon in Myanmar Sakarit year 1282 [1920] that the Yangon University Boycott broke out. The immediate cause of the Boycott was the passing of the Yangon University Act by the British Government regardless of the public demand for some amendments of the Act. But the principal motivating force behind it was Myanmar dislike of colonial education which trained the youths only to become servants of the British colonial administration. Myanmar people wanted national education which would nurture Myanmar youths in national culture. history and literature and train them in vocational subjects.
The boycotters set up their headquarters on Shwedagon Pagoda platform and formed the council of National Education to open a National College and National Schools throughout the country.
The British Government gave in and later recognized national schools by granting them financial aid. The success of this Boycott was so important and its effects were so far-reaching upon Myanmar struggle for national freedom that the date of the Boycott was chosen as National Day which Myanmar people have been commemorating annually ever since.
Tazaungmon light festival in Taunggyi Southern Shan State is the tourist attraction. You can enjoy spectacular displays of fire works- lanterns of all sizes, balloons and rockets of local make flying in the sky and Satuditha feast given gratis to all corners to eat glutinous rice seasoned with coconut cream, sugar and peanuts plus fresh orange juice and to participate in communal singing and dancing.
No other month of Myanmar calendar has more festivals than Tazaungmon.

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