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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Traditional Pagoda Festivals of Myauk-U

In Myanmar, there are many ancient cities with high culture. Rakhine State, flourish with varieties of pagodas, is one of them.

Myauk-U, an ancient capital of Rakhine monarchs, is situated between Kalatan and Lay Myo Rivers. Being an Rakhine ancient capital city, there are many historical pagodas and religious and cultural edifices. In Myauk-U, there are countless numbers of ancient monasteries, ordination halls, public rest houses and pagodas revered by generation of Rakhine monarchs since 11th century. Shitthoung Pagoda was built by Rakhine King Minbagyi in 1536 AD and it was also known as Yan Aung Zeya Pagada. Shitthoung Pagoda is a significant one. The main pagoda, surrounded by a variety of satellite pagodas, was built on the five-tier cave. It resembles the pagodas of Wathali and Danyaweddi eras. Many carvings and relief were fully sculpted on the wall of the fourth-tier of the cave. These depict Buddha’s birth stories and the performance arts, sports and wearing styles of that era can be observed there.

Architecturally, all the roofs are made with sand stone using wedging and arching methods. And the inner part of the cave is specially built for the good ventilation.

Another prominent pagoda is Htokkant Ordination Pahtodawgyi built by Rakhine King Min Phalaung in 1571-AD.

The significant point of it is that along the tunnel there are 146 inches where stone images of the Lord Buddha are placed. On either side of these small caves are sculpted statues of 16th Century Myauk-U era people and warriors in their original costume-styles.

The last but not the least is Andaw Ordination Pahtodawgyi built by Rakhine King Min Yaza in 1596-AD. The distinct point of it is that 6 stone sculptures of standing Buddha images are placed in the wall-mounted niches of the Pathodawgyi. These are the fine stone sculptures and various postures of standing Buddha images can also be observed there.

Among them, we’re going to present you celebrations of the festivals of Shitthoung Pagoda, Htokkant Ordination Pahtodawgyi and Andaw Ordination Pahtodawgyi.

Rakhine nationals have been celebrating traditional pagoda festivals in the Tagu Months annually and it is nearly 100th time celebration. Among them, the festivals of offering first crop to Lord Buddha, alms offering to the monks by the whole Township community and devotional offering to Rakhine traditional Myauk-U Shinma spirit, as well as Rakhine traditional tug-of-war contest, wrestling contest and regatta are well crowded with people.

The festival of offering first crop to Lord Buddha means that the Rakhine nationals cook their first and foremost crops in the early morning of the festival days and offer them to the Lord Buddha at the pagodas.

The second one is the festival of alms offering to the monks by the whole Township community. On the festival days, monks from the monasteries of the whole Myauk-U Township collectively go round the town to accept offerings of food. All the Township community, young and old alike, offer rice and provisions to the monks with deep generosity. It is to be enraptured, by observing the graceful scene of the procession of monks together with the pleasant sound of Rakhine traditional drums.

The third is the festival of devotional offering to Rakhine traditional Myauk-U Shinma spirit. At the festival, locals of Myauk-U Township paid respects to Myauk-U Shinma Spirit with the means to protect the local from every danger and harm and give success for the abundance of food. They also perform with songs and dances, portraying their wish for the spirit to be cool like water and fresh like flowers. Rakhine nationals’ customs of preserving their tradition can also be observed there.

The fourth one is Rakhine traditional tug-of-war contest. In the contest, groups or teams of Townships have to compete with all their might. It is also traditional sport event where two teams pull, with ropes, at opposite ends of a coach until one team drags the coach outside the designated boundary on the ground. Only when the participants have unity and unyielding spirit, will the team win the contest.

The fifth one is the festival of Rakhine traditional wrestling contest. “Kyin” or “Wrestling” is a kind of sport events come down from the period of ancient Rakhine Kings. Wrestling contest is the essence of Rakhine traditional festivals. “Kyin” is not a sport event to attack each other furiously and intentionally until the opponent is badly hurt, by kicking, beating up and fighting with force. It is a kind of sport event that one has to play with his strength and sporting prowess. On the other hand, it is a kind of wrestling in which a contestant has to wrestle his opponent to the floor using his might. There are many interesting places in Myauk-U which is rich with ancient cultural heritages. The festivals of the three prominent pagodas in Myauk-U are traditionally held on a grand scale for a week starting from the fullmoon day of Tagu. So, I’d like to invite you to visit Myauk-U of Rakhine State.

The last one is the festival of Rakhine traditional regatta. Being situated between Kalatan and Lay Myo rivers, Myauk-U ancient city has many water ways and there have been the Royal Navy Force of ancient Rakhine Kings. Warriors of the Royal Navy Force used to make maneuvers in the pre war periods and the festival of Rakhine traditional regatta comes out from such occasions. Only when all the oarsmen in the raising boat row with all their might and with all doing their bits in unison, will they win the race. Rakhine nationals hold regattas for the generations to be united and to preserve their tradition.

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