|Festival IN Myanmar ## Wakhaun (Wagaund) :
Rising Waters (Wagaung)|
Waso-Wagaugn, the rivers swell with rising billows "so
goes the saying. The monsoon is now in full swing and it is a busy time for
paddy growers. Fields are ploughed and paddy plants are now ready to
Living in cities one can hardly appreciate the monsoon
whatwith black asphalt roads slippery with blobs of mud and oil. Heavy rains do
not encourage going places. Nothing to do but gaze out of the window and coin
epithets to describe the massive sheet of showers outside.
Only in the rural areas does one see the beauty of the
rains. On the outskirts of small towns and villages, fields stretch out
endlessly white panorama of rippling waters under torrential rains. Once the
showers thin away, a few trees scattered over the landscape take a bow.
Then there comes forth a burst of mass singing as the
girl transplanters respond to the young men playing drums and cymbals as they
walk along the ridges of me fields. Since they have already done their share of
work which is ploughing, they are strolling with their musical instruments to
entertain the girls. They wear wide brimmed coolie hats made of palm fronds.
The young men look dashing arid gallant. Their coolie
hats, drums and cymbals are decorated with gaily coloured silk tassels.
The music they play is suggestive of thunder rolling from miles afar
culminating in a deluge of rain showers. The songs they sing are playful and
Listen-oh, listen, my love,
'The peal of my drum
Resounding like a brass gong.
Come, oh come closer, my love,
My little bird of sweet trilling notes!
Sometimes the girl's response is not very encouraging.
Love me, love me,
So they sing,
So they say,
Those idling swains
Walking on the ridges.
Daily they sing,
Daily they stroll
Love you? Indeed
No, no, not me,
I'm not free,
I've got my own lover!
Rice planter girls have to work in rain and mud and
they wear rough home-spun clothes, but they do not allow themselves to be shorn
of feminine charms, as one of their songs shows:
Let's put the golden bark
The fragrant bark,
On the stone slab,
Then let's put the paste
Thick and smooth
On the face so fair.
One item among the beauty aids of Myanmar women, high
and low, young and not so young, is thanakha bark. The bark is used as skin
conditioner or face pack or make-up foundation. No rice planter girl will go
into the fields without her face made up with thanakha paste a beautifier as
well as protection against weather.
The young men of the drum music troupes often sing
complaining that they have no way of knowing whether a girl is unattached or
not, so cute and winsome with blobs of thanakha paste on her cheeks how
are they to know that she may have a couple of kids at home?
To such an outrageous affront, the girls retort
Oh, you men,
Strolling the ridges
With drums and cymbals
Oh, you--with kids and wife back home
After they have had their fill of banter and quips,
they begin to strike a tender note:
Oh. my love
How the sun's rays lash you,
You drooping at the edge of planting field
As the sun blazes right on the heels of heavy showers
and the rays are none too kindly, the girls respond:
Sweetheart, hoist your blanket
On a rope,
And please make a shade.
Paddy fields are rural folks' life and hope. When the fields come forth with a
bright promise of plentiful harvest, the farmers' thoughts turn to alms-giving.
There are sons and grandsons to be novitiated and so many celebrations like
settling in a new home , or anniversaries to be observed with alms-giving.
Deeply rooted in the Myanmar character is a feeling
that their worldly goods are not worth having unless they serve the good cause
of the Buddhist sasana (Teaching) which is the very foundation of a good
way of life. Every Buddhist does his share of supporting the Buddha's Order of
Monks by giving a morsel of rice duly to the monks, which is in itself a
contribution towards the cause.
As the rice planters labour in the fields braving the
inclemencies of weather, they sing of the time when the golden grain is ripe on
the stalks. Then will the newly wedded couple do the alms-giving together; this
act will seal their bond of love that will last not only one life but all the
lives to come.
Wagaung is a month for alms-giving by casting lots.
According to the custom, communal groups solicit donors to prepare almsbowls,
one or more each, depending on the means and will of the donor. Each bowl is
field with a portion of rice meal with curry and accompaniments like sweets and
Monks are invited to receive the bowls and lots are
cast. Each monk receives whatever bowl his lot falls. Casting of lots does not
end there. Each donor is given a number of his bowl and lots are cast again for
the winning number. The lucky donor often receives a sum of money. Usually the
winner, overjoyed that he is being given the opportunity to do more deeds of
merit, uses the money for yet another alms‑giving. He often adds
something from his own pocket to make the gift more substantial.
Casting lots for alms-bowls is a festival full of fun
and promise. It is called the Maha Dok festival. It all began with a man called
Mafia Dok, who lived during the life time of the Buddha. The story runs as
Maha Dok was a very poor man who never had a chance to
do any deed of merit. One day some citizens invited the Buddha and his monks to
the city and people were asked to help with the offering of alms food. Each
citizen took the responsibility of offering alms food to one or more monks,
according to his will and means.
Mafia Dok, poor though lie was, promised to host a
monk. He and his wife worked hard to earn to (let an alms bowl and food to go
with it. The man took a job of cutting firewood and he did it singing happily
as he worked. His employer was struck by his cheeriness and asked him what he
was so happy about. Maha Dok said he had a very rare opportunity to offer alms
food to a monk. The employer, glad at heart to see. such a man, gave him
choicest rice grains to cook alms food. The wife, who took the job of winnowing
and pounding rice grains, did her job singing happily. When the lady of the
house was told of the reason of the poor woman's happiness for the prospective
alms-giving, she gave her some ingredients for cooking, like butter and
Maha Dok and his wife, happier still because of the
good will of their friends, prepared the rice meal. So great was their
enthusiasm that Thagyarmin, king of the celestials above, came to them
disguised as a labourer and helped them with their cooking. He, though a
powerful celestial, was anxious to gain a share of merit, by helping them.
When the day came for allotting monks to their
respective hosts, it was found that Maha Dok's name had been overlooked. The
poor man was numb with grief. He was to be a poor man, without a single deed of
merit to his credit, not only in this life, but for many more lives to come. At
least this was what he thought.
What Maha Dok did not know was that his efforts to do
the 'good deed and his goodwill that went with them all 'amounted to a
meritorious deed. Thagyarmin, king of the celestials had yet to play his trump
card. He himself had caused the slip to occur in the allotment of monks. It was
the Buddha himself who was left without a host, as it turned out!
So the lot fell to Maha Dok to offer alms food to the
Buddha. There was a great uproar. Princes, lords and rich men ran after
MaltaDok, offering bales of silver, gold and jewels to buy the privilege of
offering alms food to the Buddha. But Maha Dok did not give so much as a glance
at their offers. He was ecstatically happy that he was to host the Buddha.
The Buddha partook of the alms food Maha Dok offered
and praised his good deed. Thagyarmin, because he helped Malia Dok to do the
deed, was also blessed. He then caused a shower of gold and jewels to fall in
the yard of Maha Dok's house. As a good disciple of the Buddha, Maha Dok spent
his wealth in good works. When his life in the human abode ended, he was reborn
in the celestial regions.
The story of Maha Dok is a favourite with Myanmar
Buddhists. It offers hope to the poorest; anyone can do meritorious deeds and
rise up in the ladder of existences. if only one has the will. The story is
dramatised on the stage and it is represented on the precincts of pagodas in
paintings and sculptures.