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Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism

ch06-2-byat.htm

Maung Htin Aung. Printed and published by U Myint Maung, Deputy Director, Regd: No (02405/02527) at the Religious Affairs Dept. Press. Yegu, Kaba-Aye P.O., Rangoon, BURMA. 1981.

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Contents of this page
Byatta and Byatwi
Anawrahta tries to suppress Nat-worship
He finally allows it to survive with modifications
Kyansittha's conciliatory policy
Kyansittha and the Monk of Popa
Lord of the Great Mountain within the House
Author's notes

UKT notes
Byatta's daily marathon Copper image of Sanni Flower-eating ogress house-post Indian

Contents of this page
continued from p067

06. Byatta and Byatwi

After Anawrahta came to the throne he was always slightly suspicious of the Popa region as a possible centre for the plotting of rebellions against him. After the fall of Thaton he appointed a 'mighty man of endeavour' {thu-r:kaung:} to be his representative in the Popa region. This person was Byat-ta {byat~ta.}, who had a romantic career behind him, as the following account of his life will testify. One morning, a monk who lived on the Zingyaik Hill near the city of Thaton saw some unusual object floating on the sea at the foot of the hill. fn067-02 He went down and found that it was a large wooden tray, to which were tied two infants. On the desolate shore and the desolate sea there was no other sign of life, and the monk guessed that the ship on which the two infants were travelling had been wrecked and that the parents had tied them to the tray and thrown it [{p068}] overboard so as to save them from drowning. On looking over the two children the monk discovered that they were both boys and they were Indians by race. fn068-01 He took them to his monastery and, naming them Byat-wi {byat-wi.} and Byat-ta {byat~ta.}, he brought them up as his pupils. Years passed and the boys became fully grown young men. One day the monk found on the hill-side the body of an alchemist who had died during the final stages of his experiments, and he instructed his pupils to carry it to the monastery and roast it. After the body had been roasted the monk said, 'Look here, pupils, the roasted flesh of the alchemist is to be eaten only by the Great King of Thaton, so that he will become a mighty man of endeavour and protect our country from its enemies. So I must go to the city to invite the King to dinner, and while I am away be good boys and keep careful watch.'

The youths waited and waited until it was night. In the darkness the roasted body of the alchemist shone like gold, and it gave out such a sweet flavour that the two youths yearned to taste the strange flesh. They were just two hungry boys and knew nothing about alchemy or the magical qualities the flesh of an alchemist possessed. Nevertheless, thy waited until midnight, when the elder said to the younger, 'Let us just take a bite each', and they cut off a tiny part of the roasted body and ate it, but as the flesh tasted so good they greedily went on eating until the whole body was finished. The younger brother wailed, 'Our teacher will beat us black and blue for disobeying him', but the elder brother was more reckless and he replied, 'Brother, do not worry about the future, but let us enjoy ourselves.' Then, feeling gay and strong, he lifted the monastery from its foundations and turned it upside down. 'Is that all you can do?' mocked the younger brother, and he lifted a huge rock and placed it on the path along which the monk had gone to the city. Then [{p069}] they spent the rest of the night wrestling and running races until the next day dawned. At sunrise they saw their teacher and the king coming up the hill. Losing courage, the two brothers ran down the opposite side of the hill and hid themselves in a ravine. The monk saw the huge rock and the upside-down monastery and realized that the worst had happened. 'Alas, Lord King,' he exclaimed, 'it was indeed unfortunate that affairs of state did not allow you to leave the city until this morning. I fear that my boys have eaten the roasted alchemist, and unless they are quickly apprehended they will rebel against you.' On reaching the hill-top the monk and they King looked for the youths everywhere but to no avail. Hurrying back to the city the King sent our his soldiers to search for the two young men, but as Byat-wi {byat-wi.} and Byat-ta {byat~ta.} had become so strong and so swift, the soldiers could not capture them.

The two brothers wandered from village to village robbing and stealing. After some months, on one moonlight night, the more reckless Byat-wi said, 'Brother, let us enter the Golden City and make fun of the King and his soldiers.' In spite of the younger brother's protests the elder brother jumped over the walls of the city, and the younger brother had no choice but to follow. Then they went all round the city robbing and stealing. The next night, again, the brothers entered the city, and the elder brother said, 'I will rob the governor of the city himself, because he is its military commander.' So he went to the governor's mansion and jumped on to the sill of a bedroom window. It happened that the bedroom was occupied by the governor's only daughter, Mistress Oza {m-o-za}, and she woke up with a start. The two young people looked at each other and fell in love at first sight. 'My Lady Beautiful,' Byat-wi whispered, 'I am the elder of the two outlaws whom the governor of the city desires to capture. You can give the alarm and I will surrender, because I want to gaze on you for some more moments.' 'Bold Outlaw,' replied Mistress Oza, [{p070}] 'how can I betray you who admire my beauty so much? I am the governor's daughter, but I shall not give the alarm.' So they spent the night in sweet conversation until the approach of dawn, when Mistress Oza prevailed upon her lover to run away. The next night he came again, and after that, at irregular intervals, the two lovers met.

As time passed, the servant-maids in the governor's household discovered the liaison and reported the matter to their master the governor. Realizing the magical powers possessed by the outlaw, the governor consulted a master of magic as to how he should capture Byat-wi. 'Get the skirt of a woman who has died in travail,' advised the master of magic, 'and hang it above the bedroom window by which the outlaw usually enters.' So that night the governor hung up the skirt of a woman who had died in travail on the bedroom window and he waited with his soldiers behind some concealing bushes. However, the outlaw did not come because his younger brother had begged him not to go too often into the city. The governor continued his watch and, on the third night, his patience was rewarded. He saw the outlaw entering through the bedroom window, and surrounding the house with his soldiers he rushed into his daughter's bedchamber. The outlaw saw him coming and, unafraid and smiling, he jumped out of the window but, alas, his magical powers were now lost and he fell and lay helpless on the ground below. He was taken before the King and sentenced to death. But his body still remained invulnerable although no longer strong, and the clubs, the swords, the spears and the arrows of the executioners broke in pieces against his flesh. The King, in great anger, ordered him to be trampled to death by elephants, but the legs of the elephants broke and the young outlaw remained alive. After three days of such vain attempts to kill him Byat-wi became weary of life. So he said to the King, 'My Lord, as you desire my death so much, I am willing to die, but send your executioners away and ask my beloved to [{p071}] come and give me a chew of betel and a cupful of water.' fn071-01 The King decided to grant his request, and soon Mistress Oza came, weeping, and holding in one hand a chew of betel and in the other a cupful of water. Leisurely the outlaw chewed the betel, leisurely he drank the water. He gazed into his lover's face and died with a smile on his lips. On the advice of the master of magic the body was cut into pieces and some parts, together with the entrails, were buried under the throne-room of the King's palace. The blood from the body was sprinkled over the city wall, though the amount of blood obtained was not quite enough for the entire wall and a space 'just enough for a hen to lie down' was left unsprinkled.

A few days late, Anawrahta's army arrived and attacked the city, but even the commander, Kyansittha himself, was unable to scale the walls because of a single soldier of prodigious strength, who alone seemed to guard the walls. The younger outlaw, lurking outside the wall, was soon found by the Burmese and Kyansittha prevailed upon him to serve under him. That night Byat-ta went up the walls alone, and as the mighty enemy soldier rushed towards him he recognized that it was the ghost of his dead brother. 'Let me in, my poor brother,' pleaded Byat-ta to the ghost. 'Let me have our revenge on your murderers.' The ghost replied, 'Alas, brother! My blood is sprinkled over these walls and my entrails are buried under the throne-room. I am doomed for ever to serve the tyrant king, and deny entry to all his enemies.' 'How can I help you?' asked the younger outlaw. 'There must be a way to free your spirit from being earthbound for ever.' The ghost remained silent for a while and then said, 'Brother, there is one spot on these walls which was not sprinkled with my blood. I will show you the place and if you can jump over the walls of that particular spot I [{p072}] am under no duty to hinder you. After that you can use your wits to give victory to the Burmese.'

Byat-ta reported the matter to his commander. The following night he led Kyansittha and a few chosen men to the unguarded spot on the walls and entered the city. They fought their way to the throne-room and dug up the entrails. The ghost suddenly disappeared from the walls and the rest of the Burmese army marched in. After the victory Byat-ta and Kyansittha threw the entrails into the sea. fn072-01

Anawrahta appreciated the services rendered to his cause by Byat-ta and, according to the Chronicles, he liked the young man's frank and simple ways. But both he and Kyansittha had to be careful of 'mighty men of endeavour' and perhaps that was the reason why Byat-ta was not appointed to the army. Of course, Kyansittha and the other commanders were also described as 'mighty men of endeavour', but Kyansittha's might was in his brains and the other three commanders claimed to possess only superhuman strength, not supernatural powers. Byat-ta's main duty after being appointed to the Popa region was to bring flowers fresh every morning to Anawrahta in time for the daily audience. As his body could move with magical swiftness he never rode on horseback, but ran the whole distance, some forty-six miles.

The offering of flowers as a gesture of submission is a very old Burmese practice. In any race a bunch of flowers was placed at the finishing post by all the contestants, and the rower, horseman, or runner who was able to seize the flowers first was the winner; in a boxing or a wrestling match, the second outside the ring could throw in a bunch of flowers as a token of surrender in the same way as his European counterpart throws in the towel. Even to the present day a Burmese child, when he is unable to solve a riddle set by his opponent, [{p073}] has to say, 'I offer you flowers' {pan: p: pri}, and the other child will then give the solution. Therefore it was both a ceremony and a ritual for ministers and courtiers to offer flowers to Anawrahta at each morning audience.

Byat-ta's daily duty had a double purpose; it provided the ministers and courtiers with flowers, but it was also symbolic of the homage owed by Byat-ta himself and the Popa region to the King. While gathering flowers one morning he met a ' Flower-Eating Ogress'. Falling in love at first sight with each other they agreed to marry. But this romantic encounter resulted in Byat-ta being late for the morning audience, and he was severely warned by the King. A year later a son was born, and again Byat-ta was late and again he was severely warned. Next year a second son was born, and Byat-ta was late as before, but this time Anawrahta ordered his immediate execution. Knowing that Byat-ta was reputed to be invulnerable, Anawrahta lent his 'Spear of Punishment' {a.rein~da.ma} to the executioners, who, meeting Byat-ta on the road to Pagan, killed him with it. Anawrahta refused to take any advantage of the magical qualities of Byat-ta's dead body and ordered it to be burnt on a funeral pyre. Byat-ta's ogress wife died of a broken heart, and Anawrahta was seized with pity and he took the two young sons {rhw hpyin: i-naung} under royal patronage. They later became heroes {thu-r:kaung:} and were also executed under Anawrahta's orders, and again with his god-given spear. fn073-01 With the death of these two heroes the cult of magic and alchemy suffered a great set-back in the kingdom.

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Anawrahta tries to suppress Nat-worship

By the time Anawrahta came to the throne various local Nats had crystallized into a pantheon of thirty-six national Nat, with Maha-Giri as the head. They were the Thirty-six Lords worshipped by the people in the kingdom. Of all the pre-Buddhist cults that existed in the kingdom, Anawrahta [{p074}] found this the most difficult to suppress. At first he tried to suppress spirit-worship altogether. He ordered the seizure of all images of the planet and Hindu gods and put them in a Vishnu temple, which was renamed ' Nat-hlaung Kyaung' or 'the Monastery where all the Nats are kept prisoner'. The temple still stands at the present day (UKT: see Pagan Hindu Temple nat-prison.htm). Then he turned his attention to the cult of the Thirty-six Nats. To show that the Nats were not so powerful as himself he went about the city and the kingdom pulling down Nat shrines and beating the images with the flat of his spear. Even during his Chinese campaign he beat the copper image of Sanni, the ancestral god of the king of what is now Yunnan, and it was said that the image cried out in fear and pain. But he found that the cult of the Thirty-six Lords was too firmly embedded in the minds of the people for him to suppress entirely. One main reason for the popularity of the worship of the 'Lord of the Great Mountain' and the other Lords was the appeal of its ritual music and dancing. Even at the present day, during a spirit festival, the musicians play and the spirit mediums dance with such abandoned joy that even the most cynical onlooker often finds himself beating time with his hands or his feet to the primitive and sometimes even wild tunes of the mediums.

UKT: I have heard of rowdy young men who though not drunk with alcohol and ecstasy would jump into the ring of dancing mediums (especially when young and beautiful) and dance with them drinking the offertory alcohol and eating the fried chicken legs from their hands (usually during the dance of U Min Gyaw) and it is said the nat who was a rowdy man himself as a person enjoys the company of such new young friends.

 

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He finally allows it to survive with modifications

When Anawrahta frowned on the cult of the Thirty-six Nats worshippers stayed away from the shrines, and the spirit mediums, out of economic necessity, became strolling musicians and players, touring the countryside. And as their fear of the Thirty-six Lords was greater than their fear of Anawrahta, they always began their performances with a ritual offering of fruit to the Lords, accompanied by a short ritual dance and song. fn074-01 Finally, Anawrahta permitted the [{p075}] cult to survive, but only after modifications, so as to make it subsidiary to the new faith. He changed the number of spirits from thirty-six to thirty-seven by adding to the list Thagyamin, fn075-01 the king of the Buddhist gods and the guardian god of Buddhism. Thagyamin was made the head of the pantheon, thus replacing Maha-Giri. Anawrahta also set up images of the thirty-seven Nats on the platform of the Shwezigone Pagoda that he built, saying, "Let the people come to worship their old gods, and then they will discover the truth of the new faith of Buddhism.' The images were depicted in an attitude of worship, and the thirty-seven Nats, therefore, were shown to be supporters of the new faith, like many other gods and goddesses guarding the great pagoda. In addition, he replaced two Nats on the list by the Nat-spirits of two of his heroes (Byat-ta's sons) {rhw hpyin: i-naung} whom he had executed. This cult of the thirty-seven Nat has survived up to he present day, although from time to time a few of the less important Nats in the list were replaced by new Nats. Anawrahta strictly prohibited the sacrifice of animals at the annual festival on Mount Popa, and withdrew royal patronage from the festival. He also permitted the establishment of a rival festival at Taung-byon {taung pron:} village, north of modern Mandalay, in honour of his two heroes, Byat-ta's sons.

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Kyansittha's conciliatory policy

Anawrahta's son Saw Lu, who followed him on the throne, reigned only for a short period. He was involved in a bitter struggle against the rebellious governor of Pegu, and therefore there was no time for the continuation, or otherwise, of Anawrahta's religious policy. But Saw Lu's immediate successors, Kyansittha and Alaungsithu, although they were great patrons of Buddhism and contributed greatly to the further propagation of the new faith, became closely associated with the revival of the cult of the Popa Nats. [{p076}] Kyansittha, after suppressing the Pegu rebellion, followed a policy of conciliation, in contrast to the stern discipline of Anawrahta. Anawrahta, in his threefold task of uniting a medley of tribes into a nation, of bringing under one rule the whole geographical unit of Burma, and of replacing primitive cults by Buddhism, had to exercise a discipline which was uncompromising, harsh and impatient. But by Kyansittha's time, the seeds sown by Anawrahta had developed into ripened grain, and Kyansittha reaped the harvest by gentler methods. From the account of his coronation, given in the contemporary inscriptions at the pagodas he built, we know that Kyansittha appreciated the Burmese love of feasting and merry-making, and all festivals were allowed to be held provided they were given a Buddhistic colouring and provided they did not given his patronage to the revival of the cult of the planets and the Hindu gods, he brought this cult under royal control by insisting that he was the reincarnation of Vishnu himself, and had taken part in the building of Prome. He himself was eager to restore royal patronage to the cult of Maha-Giri, but he was careful that Maha-Giri should play the role of a guardian-god of Buddhism, in addition to his ancient role of the guardian-god of the King and his peoples. But once royal patronage had been restored he could merely turn a blind eye to the surreptitious revival of animal sacrifices at the annual Popa festival. His successors to the Burmese throne could not suppress it until the coming of Bayinnagung, some five hundred years later. In one stroke he ended, for ever, the barbarous practice.

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Kyansittha and the Monk of Popa

Kyansittha probably had a personal reason for restoring royal patronage to the cult. While regrouping the Burmese army in the woods and ravines of Mont Popa after the [{p077}] defeat inflicted on Saw Lu by the Governor of Pegu, Kyansittha was assisted and advised by a strange and mysterious personage, the 'Monk of Popa', or 'Shin Popa'. He was, perhaps, a Buddhist monk, although he continued the tradition set by the Ari monks of practising magic and alchemy; or, probably, he was an Ari monk, who was not persecuted as he supported the new faith. (He should be distinguished from the 'Popa Saw Rahan' {poap~pa: sau:ra.han:}, 'Lord Monk of Popa', who became king of Pagan in A.D. 613, and who has already been mentioned above.) This new Monk of Popa, performed magical rites so as to ensure victory to the defeated army, and his prestige greatly increased when victory actually came and Kyansittha became king of Pagan. Just as Kyansittha had brought the revived Vishnu cult under royal control, by announcing that Shin Arahan the Primate, the Nat, and he were companions in arms in a previous existence, and the Min Maha-Giri had been assisting him to gain the throne of Pagan and act as the great Patron of Buddhism. I quote from the Glass Palace Chronicle:

"Likewise the Maha-Giri spirit showed himself and forbade the King. Then said King Htihlaingshin, fn077-01 'If the Maha-Giri spirit prayed with me of yore, why helped he me not when I was in misery?' And the Maha-Giri spirit answered: 'O King, when Anawrahtamin saw tied thee with a rope and thrust at thee with his spear, and by my help the blow fell on the rope that bound thee and it snapped and thou, O King, went free, who helped thee but I?' 'True!' said Htihlaing Kyansittha, 'I knew not that the spirit helped me.' Said the Maha-Giri: 'When the battle brake in Taunghkwin and thou, O King, didst flee in the darkness of the night, who but I went before thee on a striped horse, dressed in a monitor skin, and shewed thee the way?' 'True!' said the King, 'I knew not that it was the spirit.' Said the Maha-Giri spirit: 'When thou stolest Sawlu and men pursued thee, and thou wast aweary and couldst swim no longer, who but I created an islet and cried like the myittwe bird? Who but I, in the guise of fishermen, father and son, conveyed thee to the farther bank of Aungtha in a small tanswek boat?' 'True!' said the King, 'I knew not that it was the spirit.' fn078-01"

UKT: The Myanmar insert is from The Glass Palace Chronicle (in Burmese), Mandalay Royal Printing Press, 1829. Fourth printing in 1993 by Information Ministry, Myanmar, p282. This is what had been rendered into English by Tin & Luce, Glass Palace Chronicle., p.107

 

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p078

The Lord of the Great Mountain within the House

Nowadays Min Maha-Giri is known as 'Eindwin-Min Maha-giri' , meaning 'the Lord of the Great Mountain, who is also within the House'. In every Burmese village home, if no longer in the cities, a coco-nut is hung at the top of a house-post in an inner room. The coco-nut is covered with sandal-wood and perfume, and a red cloth shaped like the headdress (gaung-baung) of a Burmese male is tied around it. The coco-nut is an offering to the 'Lord of the Great Mountain', and it is associated with the Nat for two reasons. Firstly, coco-nuts, banana, and plums are fruits usually offered to the Hindu gods and the thirty-seven Nats and secondly, the milk from the coco-nut is given to a person suffering from burns or high fever, as it is believed that coco-nut-milk will bring relief to the patient.

The fact that Maha-Giri as Mr. Handsome was burnt to death is never forgotten. Just as a coco-nut is acceptable to the Nat, so a Saga flower is not acceptable, as Mr. Handsome was tied to a Saga tree when he was burnt to death, and so, when flowers are offered to the Nat, the Saga flower is always left out.

But how has the 'Lord of the Great Mountain' become the guardian Nat of every Burmese household? The Burmese, before Anawrahta, worshipped a spirit who was known as the 'House-Guardian'. A little shrine was built in front of the house and offerings of fruit and flowers were made every day to the House-Guardian. According to a Burmese law tale, a [{p079}] man had to cut down some trees to build his house and, as a result, the spirit living in a tree found himself without an abode. The spirit sued the man for compensation, and the court ordered that an artificial tree, namely a wooden shrine, be built in the compound of the house and the spirit was to dwell there, receiving regular gifts of fruit and flowers. It is not known whether this tale explains the origin of the cult of the House-Guardian, but it is definite that the cult is very old and was known not to only to the Burmese, but also to the Mons and Khmers. To the present day the cult exists in Thailand. Even in the city of Bangkok there is a little shrine in every house, but unlike that of the ancient Burmese, the shrine is a little distance away from the house, although it is in the compound of the house itself. When Anawrahta destroyed the public Nat shrines, the people in fear destroyed their own private shrines dedicated to the worship of the House-Guardian. But, in secret, devotees went on offering red cloth, fruits and flowers to the House-Guardian. But as there were no shrines now, the offerings meant for the Lord of the Great Mountain were made to the House-Guardian were made to the House-Post in the bedroom. However, as Anawrahta's persecution of spirit worship became fiercer, more care had to be exercised, and the devotees restricted themselves to the offer of a single piece of red cloth to the Lord of the Great Mountain and a single coco-nut to both the Lord of the Great Mountain and the House-Guardian. They made the offerings to the House-Post in the bedroom. In course of time the different personalities of the two gods became merged into one, namely 'the Lord of the Great Mountain who is within the House.'

 

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Author's notes

fn067-01 Tin & Luce, The Glass Palace Chronicle, p. 52. fn067-01b

fn067-02 It is believed that the sea came right up to the foot of the Zingyaik Hill in those days; in any case Thaton was originally a seaport although it is now some miles away from the sea. fn067-02b

fn068-01 According to a tradition among spirit mediums the boys were Arab Muslims. fn068-01b

fn071-01 The literal translation would be 'a fold of betel leaf and a coco-nut cup of water'. The folded betel leaf would contain some betel nuts, tobacco, and lime. A common drinking cup of the Burmese until modern times was a cup made out of a coco-nut shell. fn071-01b

fn072-01 The above account of Byat-ta is based on oral tradition and late nineteenth-century Burmese plays. The Chronicles give only a bare outline of the story. fn072-01b

fn073-01 Further details of these two brothers {rhw hpyi: i-naung} are given in the next chapter. fn073-01b

fn074-01 Even now, at the beginning of every musical or dramatic show, an offering is made to the Thirty-seven Nats. This practice is followed not only by professional dancers, musicians, and actors but also by amateurs. fn074-01b

fn075-01 The Thagyamin has been described in Chapter 3 The Feast of the New Year. fn075-01b

fn077-01 He was the Lord of Htihlaing Village before he became King. fn077-01b

fn078-01 Tin & Luce, op. cit., p. 107. fn078-01b

 

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UKT notes

Byatta's daily marathon

Byat-ta's race should be compared to the Marathon race which is a cross-country footrace of 26 miles, 385 yards (41.3 kilometers). Marathon race is named after the race in 490 B.C. by a messenger from the plain of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians.

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Copper image of Sanni

According to the Glass Palace Chronicle (in Burmese) volume 1, p251, and U Kala, Maharazawin (in Burmese), volume 3, p25, the copper image of Sanni was {kr: san~di nat}
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Flower-Eating Ogress

The name of this ogress was {m-wuN~Na.}. It should be noted that it is a failing of the human race to look down upon the members of a minority race particularly those who had been vanquished in war, and the term <ogress> may simply mean that {m-wuN~Na.} was from a minority race which had been forced to live in remoter places. The word {wuN~Na.} with the Pali meaning <beauty> showed that she was a beauty and not an ugly ogress. After hearing the deaths of her two sons, she died of broken heart and became a nat with the name {poap~pa: m-tau} or "Royal Mother Popa" {poap~pa: m-tau}. She is not to be confused with Dr. Htin Aung's ancestor Lady Golden Sides {rhw-na.B nat} who is supposed to be a naga.

Royal Mother of Popa {poap~pa: m-tau} was not included in U Po Kya's Thirty-seven Kings but is included in Min Rama's Thirty-seven Nat Puja , p.35

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House-Post

The house-post on which the coconut-shrine is hung is known in Burmese as {U.ru-taing} which is not necessarily the post in the bed-room. It is the first of the posts of the new house to be erected.

I had several chances of overseeing the building of timber and brick-timber houses (my own houses) by Burmese-Myanmar carpenters. The master-carpenter in each case made a small but proper ceremony of erecting the {U.ru-taing}. In some cases the timber post would be as much as 40 feet long and more. Before the Second World War, the timber would be teak, but after the war when teak became very expensive, the timber chosen was usually {pyi:ka.to:} (Xylia dolabriformis BEDict284) a very dense and heavy wood. Without the help of machines, this post (cross-section: 6in X 6in) would have to be inserted into a hole about 3 ft deep and everything must be done without a hitch. The master carpenter (and his usual crew of four) would take extra care to propitiate the guardian-nat of the house with the usual offertories of coconut, bananas and pickled tea leaves. I, as the master of the house (and a Burmese-Myanmar Buddhist), would be invited to worship the nat which I always accepted to please the carpenters who with just scanty scaffolding would have to climb to the very top of these posts to nail the beams in place. (Driving nails into {pyi:ka.to:} is no easy matter, and you have to use a heavy iron hammer to do it while clinging to the swaying post with one hand.) Unless you have seen these operations done, you would not appreciate what these carpenters had to go through. You can then see why these carpenters had to sought every help (especially from the nats) they could get.

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Indian

The English word <Indian> means a 'native of the country of India', but in North America, the word usually means an 'original native of the American continent'. From facial and other physical features, it is obvious that a native of India and an original native of the Americas are of different races.

The Myanmar word used to describe the ship-wrecked boys is {ku.la:} which usually means 'a person with some-what dark skin and a thin sharp nose' who is generally darker-skinned than an average Burmese with a flat nose. It is also interesting to note that the British were at one time described as the 'white {ka.la:}' which shows that the Burmese usually describe anyone with a sharp thin nose who had come from anywhere west of Myanmar, as a {ka.la:}. It is also interesting to note that most of the Burmese think that a 'dark {ka.la:}' would not eat pork, a favorite of the Burmese. And so, the boys might be Dravidians rather than Arabs and may or may not be Muslims. Since in the story the boys ate the flesh which would be considered 'unclean' by a Muslim, it is doubtful if they were Muslims at all. But, boys being boys, and since they were brought up by a Buddhist monk, it is possible that they might do anything just for fun.

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