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October 24, 2019

Big-doll dancing helps keep alive Rakhine traditions

  • By Aung Kyi Moe –( Sittway)

Big-doll dance is one of the traditional Rakhine dances performed during communal offerings of provisions and articles to monks. Such offerings are made in townships across Rakhine State during the full moon days of Thadingyut and Tazaungmone. The collective offerings to Sanghas during these festivals are a way for the Rakhine people to preserve their customs and traditional ways.
In Sittway, during the periods of Thadingyut and Tazaungmone around the labyrinth on the flat ground on the Atulamarazein Pyilone Chantha Pagoda, almost all people from the township have celebrated the festival without fail. When seeing big-doll dancings the Rakhine people instinctively come to know about the commencement of Thadingyut Festival.
Every year in Sittway, almost all people from the township have celebrated the festival of offering provisions and various articles to monks including venerable Sanghas, novices, and nuns; together with them are the laymen such as Rakhine Chief Minister and his wife, Rakhine government ministers and their wives, departments concerned, university students , associations and well-wishers who donate yearly various articles to the monks.
To Sittway communal offerings of provisions and various articles to the monks, as many as over 500 monks and 100 nuns come for donations.
Big-doll dancing follows the Sanghas and nuns to the enjoyment of well-wishers who praise a good deed. Big-doll dances, which often take place across town, help promote Buddhism, and the money collected can be used to obtain provisions and articles for monks.
In order to celebrate the communal offerings of provisions and various articles to the monks, a big doll and his wife keep dancing around the town to collect donations. When the commencement of Thadingut is near around, the people of Sittway have been waiting for bid-doll dancing.
In the past, Big dolls were made of thin bamboo strips; nowadays, they are made of plastic by changing faces and wearing different kinds of clothes yearly in order not to get bored.
Big dolls are made— one for male and other for female—for the festival of communal offering provisions and various articles to the monks for the whole people of Sittway. The height of a big doll is about 6 feet and the girth is large enough for two people to go into it. Once inside the big doll, they have to dance to the rhythms of the drums. Singers have to follow the big dolls by car. Men have to get into the big dolls one by one in turns. They usually wear the white stockings and white shoes.
When the beginning of Thadingyut is drawing near, the relatives and friends in a far-flung corners usually ask me if big-doll dancing is going to take place in the Rakhine State. Big-doll dancing goes round every nook and cranny of the town, children are very happy and the townspeople love it when nearing the commencement of Thadingyut. Some children touch the big dolls and at the same time , dancers inside bowed ridiculously. When big dolls get to their ward, parents raise their children above their heads intentionally to have a look at them.
When I was young, I used to send big dolls towards the end of our ward. A week before communal offering provisions and different articles to the monks, big-doll dancing goes around at every nook and cranny of the town. Local fans earnestly award cash to the big dolls and they simply believe that evil spirits are expelled from their town by means of big-doll dancing .
During the full moon days of Thadingyut and Tazaungmone, almost all people from each and every town in Rakhine State hold festivals of communal offering provisions and various articles to the monks with big dolls which keep dancing for the enjoyment of the townspeople.

(Translated by Arakan Sein)

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