August 19, 2016

Sacred Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda-hill (Part II)

Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda seen from a far. Photo: Ma Kywe Kywe
Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda seen from a far. Photo: Ma Kywe Kywe

There are two versions regarding the foster mother of Tha-ma-lah and Wee-ma-lah. The first version resembles the legend of the first founders of original Rome in Italy. The legend has it that “Romulus and Remus two newly born brothers were floated down the River Tiber. When a female wolf, coming down to the river to drink water, she saw the two babies crying for milk. Her motherly instinct made her feed the babies her breast milk and take them to her den where she fostered them. The two baby boys grew up into two strong young men with their foster mother she-wolf. The court found out that they were royal sons and therefore took them to the court. At the very pathetic parting of the foster mother she-wolf and adopted human sons, she-wolf suddenly died of broken heart. Today at one International Airport at Rome is set up a bronze statue of a motherly she-wolf feeding two human baby boys suckling her breasts.
Similarly in the case of Tha-ma-lah and Wee-ma-lah two newly born baby brothers, they were floated down the river. A female buffalo coming down to the bank to drink water, heard the crying of the babies for milk on a raft afloat. She felt motherly kindness to them. So she fed them her breast milk and took them to her den. The babies grew up with their foster mother she-buffalo. They became strong young men playing with their buffalo playmates learning their tactics of buffaloes fight. They could walk or run on the sharp horns of buffaloes. Later when the throne was vacant and the court learnt that the two royal sons abandoned in the river were alive and grown up, they were taken to the court. The foster mother she-buffalo, parting for good with her two adopted sons died of broken heart. She became Nan-Karine Meidaw Gyi nat-spirit – a buffalo headed female Nat spirit whom the Mons, the Kayins and all people of Pegu region worship and propitiate with the offering of buffaloes food — green special grass and a variety of watery vegetable in an earthen basin filled with clear water, placed at the entrance door of every house.
The second version is that Nan-Karine was the name of either a Mon or Karen woman who owned herds of cattle and buffaloes. Today there is a big village or becoming an almost little town called Kywe-chan [settlement of cattle and buffalo breeders] on the land route between Sittaung and Mawlamyine. Nan-Karine was a native of Kywe-chan. It was she who found the two royal baby sons Tha-ma-Lah and Wee-ma-lah abandoned on a raft afloat on the river. She adopted them who thought she was their mother. They received motherly love and care and higher learning at the local monastic schools where at some Pwe Kyaung schools, they received 18 arts and martial arts of a prince. When the court took them to succeed to the vacant throne, the foster mother Nan Karine died of broken heart to become a nat spirit Nan Karine Meidaw Gyi.
Because of the similarities of the two legends of Romulus and Remus the founders of Ancient Rome and Tha-ma-lah and Wee-ma-lah the founders of the original Hamsavadi and the continued respect credit and homage still being given to their respective legends by the Italian and Myanmar peoples, the writer of this article would like to propose that like in Rome a statue of a female buffalo feeding two human baby boys her breast milk be set up at the up-coming International Airport Hamsavadi in the near future. Because this legend bespeaks volumes of cultural affinities of our ethnic nationalities especially Mons, Kayins and Bamas, such a statue symbolizes our union solidarity.
In search of Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda in later centuries
In the teachings of Lord Buddha nothing is constant and permanent. Everything, living or non-living must and will go through the cycle of birth, growth, infirmity and death. Even during life time there are the ups and downs of life, you can never avoid or escape. Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda passed through these laws of nature. After its heyday it disappeared gradually into oblivion. Four elements, natural disaster and human vandalism and destruction caused its total disappearance from its original site.
In about 1868 A.D. there was a monastery called Taw-sun Kyaung, the abbot of which was a monk noted for curing diseases caused supernaturally.  Later another monk U Thila from Natmauk town came to reside there. Next, a monastery was built to the west but close to Win-bei In village. Many pariyatti monks resided there. The abbot was a monk who returned from Thailand. The abbot was very influential on the local people especially the villagers of Win-bei In village. He told the villagers to look for the lost Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda. The last 140 years ago, the oldest man in the village by the name U San Dwe headed a search party on the pagoda hillock. They discovered debris of an ancient structure on the summit of a hill. They tested and confirmed that what they found was the authentic site of Dei-Sun-Pa by means of prayer and taking religious vows [t”dXmef resolution]. So in 1868 A.D. [King Mindon’s reign] Dei-Sun-Pa zedi was reconstructed on the site. Because it was located too far away from human settlements, the pagoda was often subjected to vandalism. When in 1900 A.D. the research party composing of school teacher U San Aye, Bo Shwe Pin, Bo Shwe Aye and Bo San Shun found the ruined pagoda and rebuilt and renovated it.
Later the pagoda again fell victim to natural disaster and human vandalism. To highlight the worst was the earthquake of 1930. This catastrophe was known worldwide as the great earthquake of Pegu. It struck about 7 p.m. on 5th May 1930 [M.E. 9th waxing moon of Kason 1293] causing heavy toll of human lives and destructions, and damages of ancient monuments and modern building. Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda and the associated monuments around it were shaken down into the nearby deep valleys and streams. Whatever remained on the ground were washed away by heavy rain and floods.
Misfortune never comes alone, as the saying goes. Soon after the quake, the great economic depression of 1929 that began in the rich United States spread worldwide, till it reached British Myanmar. Its chain impact upon Myanmar was suffered by Myanmar peasants who formed the majority and whose agriculture was the main national economy. As the price of paddy and other farm products fell losing foreign market to export, growers fell into debt head over heels until they became destitute, leading to the outbreak of armed rebellion [Peasant Revolts] led by Galone Saya San publicly acclaimed pretender to Burmese throne and the messiah of Myanmar people. Though he was finally arrested and executed by the British colonial government, another uprising broke out as oil field strike at the outset but escalated to Ayeytawpone when it was joined by the university students and high school students and supported by Myanmar public including the government servicemen. During these hectic times Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda hardly any chance of revival.
During the Second World War, while the entire country was under the Fascism, Dei-Sun-Pa and Win -bei In Village seemed to escape the invaders’ vandalism simply because they were located outside or away from their campaigns.
After Myanmar regained independence, Dei-Sun-Pa would rise from its ruins, on the tide of high hopes of Buddhist communities. But rampant insurgencies across the country and frequent political and economic crises dashed these high hopes to the ground.
However, the villagers of Win-bei In village and the local Buddhist communities made relentless efforts to repair and renovate their much revered and worshipped monuments. Whatever amount they could spare from their meagre income, what little time they could steal from their daily routine they put into their religious merit investment in Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda.
Here we should take note of two points regarding Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda. The first is its renown for treasure troves [odkuf]. Many legends shroud it. Treasures of kings, wealthy men and war refugees were hidden at and around the pagoda. Treasure hunters [odkufwl;q&m] come to find them but they failed and fled duet to the protections of guardian spirits of treasure troves. These legends are called Thaik Thamaing [okduforkdif;], History of Treasure Troves. The usual story goes –female guardian spirits of Treasure Troves were allowed to return to the human world for a certain number of years to enjoy human life. When the allotted time is over they returned to their duties at the treasure trove. Playwrights, film directors and other performing artists used such stories for hit entertainment by putting into them romance, adventure, mysteries and extraordinaries. Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda and its hill plus the area were very well-known to Myanmar public though most of them have never set their foot on the hill they have seen on the screen or on the stage or even sung in song. The writer of this article saw a silent film named “Dei-Sun-Pa Thaik Thamaing” in his early boyhood. We liked it very much. Even one talkie film named Ma-Mei Hnaing [rarYEkdif] [can never forget] famous actor-singer Khin Maung Yin sang the theme song. In the film, hero met heroine [may be Khin Yee] at Dei-Sun-Pa pagoda hill. It was a love-at-first-sight affair. So that theme song focused on Dei-Sun-Pa hill as their first “rendezvous”. Those are many Thaik Thamaing plays with Dei-Sun-Pa as focal point performed on state.
In the British colonial days, just before the rise of a new literary movement called Khit San Sarpay, there was a period of short plays. Thaik Thamaing [Treasure Trove Stories] published in cheap booklets for common reading public. Each copy cost only 4 annas, a quarter of a rupee. They were Thaik Nan Shin, Mei det Shin, Yey Nan Shin, Lu Wun Maung Hna Ma, Shwe Gyo Hpyu and Mu Lakhe, Dei-Sun-Pa etc. Today these 4-anna plays are making comeback on Myanmar T.V. A couple of weeks ago, the writer watched Dei-Sun-Pa and Shwe Gyo Hpyu and Mu La KheThamaing on Myanmar T.V.
The next point is the belief that Dei-Sun-Pa has the extra-ordinary power of healing or curing doctor’s give-up diseases. All you need is faith, devotion, observance of 5 moral precepts and correct practice of the prescriptions. Many success stories were told to the writer — cancer, heart, high blood, even mental disorder.
Today, Dei Sun Pa is within easy reach of every one, young or old, rich or poor, Myanmar national or foreigner. Take any vehicle bicycle, motorbike, car, bus, train, bullock or horse cart or hiking. Though no hotel or motel of modern standard has appeared yet, there are many zayats, monasteries and nunneries where you can put up for the night and take your meal at local eateries. But please note seriously no alcoholic nor intoxicant, drugs allowed. If human authorities do not notice your misbehaviour, devas and nat spirits keep their constant watch on you and they will immediately give you punishment for your gilt!


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