|Festival IN Myanmar ## Thitintyut (Thadingyut) :
|Festival of Lights
Thadingyut, the seventh month of the Myanmar calendar,
marks the end of lent. Monsoon is on the way out and the
skies are clearing. Sunny days are here to stay.
The austerity, sobriety and restraint of the lenten
season together with the damp murky gloom of the monsoon-all these have given
way to fun and festivities. With the ban on weddings lifted, there is the scent
of eugenia leaves and lilies in the air. The soft breeze whispers the music of
flutes and harps.
The three day lights festival, namely the day before
the full moon, the full moon day and the day after, will be those of music,
dances and fun. Illuminations are there to celebrate the anniversary of the
Buddha's return from the celestial abode where he had spent the lent teaching
the gods above His Law. Among the gods was the one who
was the mother of the Buddha, reborn there. It was on the full moon day
of Thadingyut month that the Buddha descended to the abode of humans. He
and His disciples were attended by a heavenly host of celestials who created a
pathway of stars. Humans on earth illuminated the homes and streets to welcome
the Buddha and His disciples.
Among the gods was the one who was the mother of the
Buddha, reborn there. It was on the full moon day of thadingyut month
that the Buddha descended to the abode of humans. He and His disciples were
attended by a heavenly host of celestials who created a pathway of stars.
Humans on earth illuminated the homes and streets to welcome the Buddha and His
Streets, houses and public buildings are illuminated
and festooned with coloured electric bulbs. One feature of the festival in
small towns and villages lighting; small earthen bowls are filled with sessamum
oil and a piece of cotton is soaked in each bowl and lighted.
These lighted oil bowls are placed on the terraces of
pagodas. The lights last longer than candles and the little tongues of flame
quivering in the breeze lend an uncanny beauty to the scene steeped in silvery
moonlight. Such lights are sometimes seen on the pagodas in Yangon city.
The scene of the Buddha's descent from the celestial
regions is often recreated in the streets or pagoda precincts, all done up in
paper mache and poster paintings and of course, lights, The festival is often
called the Taivadaintha feast: Tawadaintha, being the name of the celestial
abode where the Buddha spent the lenten season.
Thadingyut is not only a season of festivals and
rejoicings, but also a time for remembering those to whom we owe respect and
gratitude. The Buddha's visit to the celestial regions was to teach the great
Truth he had found through rigorous striving for many many lives, to his own
mother. It was a gesture of gratitude, an example for all to follow. The Buddha
made the greatest gift of all, namely the gift of Dhamma (the Law) that
would deliver her from Suffering once and for all.
It is interesting to note that most of the war
campaigns and military sports are found recorded in classical songs and poems.
One other spectacle in military parades was the unit of elephants which formed
the major strength of the armed forces. Royal princes were expected to master
the art of riding and combating on elephant's back. One of the most challenging
feats was how to manage a raging elephant.
According to the Buddhist teaching, there are Five Revered
Ones, namely the Buddha, His Law, His Order of Monks, Parents and Teachers.
During the Thadingyut season Myanmar Buddhists go round paying respects to
parents, teachers, elderly relatives and friends.
It is quite usual for the senior citizens in the
street or residential quarter to receive gifts and respects from the younger
people of the community. Sometimes it is an organized affair, but this does not
prevent them from going to older people individually to pay respects. This way,
it is more intimate and pleasant..
On the third day of the festival, people go round
paying calls. It is `open house' for many homes. Older people have light
refreshments ready for the young visitors. They give away sweets and small
change to children. Young people bring small gifts like candles, fruits and
cakes, but it is not compulsory. Paying respects is accomplished by the act of
The word kadaw is an everyday expression in
Myanmar life. When you have to say something indelicate or impolite, you
say it with the word kadaw; the same word is used as an apology for any
transgression like, bumping into someone or stepping on another's feet.
On such occasions the word is synonymous with 'sorry', but with a deeper
When you have the necessity to touch someone's hair, like
brushing away a wisp of dust, you do not do so without first saying kadaw,
even though the person concerned may not be an older person.
The custom of doing the act of kadaw, is rooted in
the Buddhist acceptance of the samsara, the round of rebirth, being born
and reborn; all beings, humans and others go round the cycle, meeting one
another in amicable or hostile relationships. Consequently, among people
meeting one another in this present existence there would be love and kindness
as there would be hate and enmity as well. THere might be worngful
actions committed consciously or unwittingly to one another throughout the
unwitting journey of samsara.
When Buddhists do the cat of kadaw to anyone, their
parents, teachers or elders, they not only pay respects as a gesture of
gratitude, but they also ask forgiveness for any wrongful action they might
have dine in this life and many many lives before.
The elders, even as they accept the kadaw from young people,
ask forgiveness on their turn for any wrongful action or hurt they themselves
might have been guilty of. This reciprocal action is called the 'erasing
of the slate', which is the same as 'burying the hatchet'. After this act
of 'erasing the slate', friends and kinsmen can start with a 'clean slate' with
nothing but love and kindness.
Paying respects or kadaw ceremonies are organized and held
in schools. Paying respects or kadaw ceremonies are organized and held in
schools. Paying respects to teachers, one of the Five Revered Ones, is
still practised. Buddhist parables illustrate the good influence of
teachers on their students, even though the latter might have become ruling
Once, a short tome after the demise of the Buddha, the
kings of India assembled to claim their share of the Buddha's relics. It was a
goodly company of crowned heads, each attended by the Four Elements of War,
namely, infantry, cavalry, chariots and war elephants. Swords and spears
and shields burned in the sunlight as the caparisoned steeds and elephants dug
their heels impatiently, as they waited for action.
Then came the dispute over who should get how much of
the relics. Tempers rose and angry voices rang through the air and the
steel clanged as the warriors made ready their weapons. Horses neighted
and reared, elephants let forth a fearful trumpeting. A have of blood and
destruction was imminent.
At the crucial moment, an authoritative voice rang out
above the din: "Silence, all of you!" The kings turned their heads
towards the voice they knew so well, the voice that had dared to command
them. There stood Dona the brahman, who was their teacher, who had taught
them the princely arts, in their student days.
The was silence, as the king bowed down to the one who
had been their teacher. Without so much as a word of dissent, the kings
accepted their share of the relics handed out by Dona the brahaman, and went
away in peace.
So this is the spirit of Thadingyut season... paying
respects to those to whom respect is due and remembering those to whom we owe