|Festival IN Myanmar ## Tanhsaunmoun
(Tazaungmone) : November
Tazaungdine Lights and Kahtein Offerings
After four month of rain comes a successions of
festive months starting with Thadingyut lights festival. Come
Tazaungmone, still another lights festival even more elaborate with the usual
trimmings of music, dances and show. It is rather convenient, so say
fun-loving Myanmar, that the paper lanterns and decorations are still in fairly
good condition to be put up again in three weeks' time.
Tazaungdine festival, as the lights festival in the
month of Tazaungmone is called, is more or less a folk festival, probably
pre-Buddhist, so originally without any Buddhist significance. The
festival, in honour of the guardian gods of the planets. It is said that
certain planetary signs of the zodiac are in the ascendant during the
month. The influence of the planets in ascendence is such that people's
thoughts are bent on mischief. It is during the month that thieves are
moved to ply their trade. King of the olden days
decreed that feasts were to be held and all kinds of jollity and merry-making
were licensed, so that people's thoughts might be channelled away from serious
mischief, a kind of psychological warfare. There are stories of how men
normally sober and steadfast were so moved by the spirit of the season that
they did unseemly things. Perhaps the pleasant weather with cloudless
starry skies and silvery moonbeans may have something to do with it.
Though Tazaungdine lights festival began in the times
immemorial as a folk ritual, it is regarded today as an essentially Buddhist
festival. The month is the time for offering robes should be offered to
Of course, there is no restriction whatsoever
when robes should be offered to the monks. Anyone can make the offering
any time to any monk; but this month's offering has a special
significance. This is a special time, the time, when, after ling months
of seclusion in the monasteries, monks make preparations to go on trips to see
the pay respects to their teachers and parents, now that the ban on travel
(only for monks) has been lifted.
At such a time, many monks are in need of new
robes. Offering of robes and other gifts, in this season are made not to
any individual mink, but to the Order as a whole so that the needy ones shall
get the robe. Offering of gifts to monks, if it is to bear highest
fruition, must be made to the Order as a whole and not to an individual
monk. Donors being human, are often moved to offer gifts to monks by
personal feeling, like partiality or attachment. Although such other acts
are, in their own way, ,meritorious deeds, the fruition is not as great as the
act of giving to the Order of monks or the Sangha.
Once, during the lifetime of the Buddha, his foster
mother, Gotami, made a rove for the Buddha. It was made of finest
material and marvellously elaborate. When she offered it to the Buddha,
he suggested that is should be offered to the Order as a whole. It was
then that he explained the desirability of such an attitude in making the act
The Buddha in his infinite wisdom, saw that in the far
future, when he was mo more, his teachings would not last, unless the Order of
monks carried on with their study and contemplation. The Order of monks must be
supported by the laity. If lay people offered gifts to the monks to whom
they were partial, there would be many other who would be in need. Such a
situation would undermine the strength of the Order.
Offering of special robes and other gifts made to the Order of
monks during the season keeps alive the true spirit of offering, as
taught by the Buddha. All the gifts are offered to the Order so that the
needs of the poorest monks are suitably supplied. According to the rule a
group of monks who have spent the lent under a senior monk in a monastery is
eligible as an institution to accept the gifts called the Kathina gifts.
Offering of special robes and other gifts made to the Order
of monks during the season keeps alive the true spirit of offering, as taught
by the Buddha. All the gifts are offered to the Order so that the needs
of the poorest monks are suitably supplied. According to the rule a group of
monks who have spent the lent under a senior monk in a monastery is eligible as
an institution to accept the gifts called the kathina gifts.
It is the custom of the community to organize the
offering of gifts, everyone contributing in cash or in kind. Member of
the same profession or trade or people working in the same office form such
groups for this purpose and collect gifts for the monastery.
Therefore, during this season, you will see wooden
triangular structures standing in market places or in decorated marquees by the
wayside. Each structure is hung with gifts, like sets of yellow robes,
towels, napkins, cups and such useful things big and small. They are Kathina
gifts and anyone is welcome to hang whatever he wishes to contribute, a kyat
note, or a handkerchief or a cake of soap-no matter however small.
Those structures hung with gifts are called padetha trees.
The word padetha tree is synonymous with plenty and inexhaustible
wealth. The story of padetha tree dates back to the beginning of
the world when were pure of heart. They had a padetha tree which
bore everything that humans could wish for..food, clothes and plucked it from
the tree. If one wished to wear an exotic dress, it was right there for
The only thing is that one must take only what one could use
for the day and no more. Humans, however, were weak; they wanted to have
things abundantly in their possession; they did not m\trust others, who might
take more than they needed. One person troubled by such thoughts, began
taking more than be needed and the next person followed suit. People
began stocking things and there rose quarrels and fights and the tree was
destroyed. From then on, men have to live by the sweat of his brow.
The original padetha trees ate taken in triumph
to the monastery, attended by music and dance troupes and bevies of damsels
dressed in bright silks.
Kahtein offering is considered one of the most
meritorious deeds. There are stories of how acts of giving bear fruit and padetha
tress feature in such stories. Go to any pagoda and when you put a coin
into the donation box, the man sitting with the triangular brass gong accepts
the gift and intones a prayer for you, he includes: "May you have a padetha
tree right on your doorstep."
It is a beautiful idea, to have a padetha
tree on your doorstep. Perhaps you can grow it by hanging a small gift on
those padetha tress of the kahtein offerings.
The highlight of kahtein offering is the
weaving of none-stale, that is to say, they are woven within the space of the
night. This, of course, is optional, not necessarily an item in the
religious programme. It is perhaps a folk traditional to encourage the
art of weaving. This ritual glorifies the common labour of the rural
Even today this weaving of the robes is organized in
rural and urban areas. Music, dance and prizes for the best weaver who
can finish earliest and best add colour and enjoyment to the festival.
The weaving starts at sunset and finishes at dawn when the finished roves are
offered to the Buddha and His Order, of course the stupas and images
repersenting the Buddha.
In rural areas the weaving contest is even more
elaborate. Picking of cotton and spinning are also included, and they are done
within the space of the night. Cotton fields are reserved for the
event. Village tracts organize the contests; organizing teams for pocking
cotton, spinning, dyeing and weaving.
Moonlight, music and dances lighten the labour.
Yangon men with drums, flutes and cymblas entertain the girl throughout their
chores of pocking cotton, spinning, weaving and dyeing. The best teams
and the best weaver are awarded prizes.
The tradition of weaving the non-stale robes is still
carried on at some of the pagodas in Yangon. Under the glare of neon
lights, moonlight hardly has a chance to work its magic.
This season is a festival one in the truest sense of
the word. Illuminations, show, music, all this a padetha trees
On Such a Night as this
There are lots of interesting things that happened
during the Tazaungdine season. Some of the events are tragic, some comic but
all of them full of human feeling.
On such a night as this, the full moon of Tazaungmone,
the city of Rajagaha was illuminated like the city of the gods and the
sound of music and rejoicings filled the air while the whole city gave itself
up to the joy of the moment. King Ajatasattu lay on the royal couch
tortured by remorse. The king who had killed his own father could not find
solace in his power or glory.
When his ministers and courtiers gathered at his feet
to pay him respects, he could only remember his royal father, so good, so
virtuous and so well-beloved. Ajatasattu had done the foul deed at the advice
of Devadatta, the Buddha's arch enemy, who plotted against the Buddha's life.
"You kill your father and be king; and I will kill the Buddha and be the
Buddha in his place...", Devadatta had said. Devaddatta's misdeed was such
that the earth who had borne everything on its back, would not suffer to have
such a miscreant. The earth gaped open with hell's fires and swallowed
Ajatasattu heard the news and was filled with fear
that a similar fate might overtake him. Moreover he understood too late how a
father could love his son, because a son had been born to him. It was a moment
of truth for the patricide king and he knew that he must go to the Buddha for
the refuge. But how could he, a patricide?
Among his ministers was Jevaka, his half-brother,
physician to the Buddha and his disciple. Perhaps he could ask Jevaka to take
him to the Buddha. But a king could not make such a request in the presence of
his courtiers. So, the king began the conversation praising the beauty of the
night: "How fair, sirs, is the cloudless night! How charming! How lovely!
What saga or brahman shall we seek out to see if he may give our hearts
The ministers, each in turn, recommended the sages
they themelves followed. The king listened in silence, waiting for Jevaka to
speak. Jevaka suspected that the king wanted him to speak, but he would rather
wait to make sure.
Finally the king asked Jevaka why he had not spoken.
Only then did Jevaka rise up from his seat and with his hands clasped in
adoration towards the Buddha, said: "Sire, yonder in my mango grove dwells
the all-Enlightened Buddha with his disciples; unto Him, the Blessed One, let
the king repair, to hear the Truth and put questions."
The king immediately ordered the royal elephants to
get ready and he went in royal state to Jevaka's mango grove. As he approached
the grove, his heart was filled with awe because all was so quiet that not a
sound was heard but the stirring of the gentle breeze. Why all this uncanny
silence and quiet? Was Jevaka, his own half-brother, up to some kind of
His fears were put to rest when he saw the Buddha
himself surrounded by his disciples. How could such a great number of monks be
so quiet! If only his little son could be so only for a moment, Ajatasattu
thought, his heart greatly moved.
All was tranquil like an ocean in repose. Look where
he would, he saw endless ranks of disciples. Then saluting the Buddha, the king
asked: "What is the fruit of religious life?"
And the Buddha answered the king's question in a
discourse called the Samaphata Sutta. Glad at heart, the king made a solemn
obeisance and departed.
One of the stories associated with the Tazaungdine
festival is the story of a beautiful maid named Ummadanti. She was born of a
rich noble family. Her father thought that she was worthly to be a queen. So he
sent word to the king who become interested. Before any girl could be selected
to be queen, the king's wise brahmans had to go and see her. They must read the
lineaments of the body and decide if she was fit to be a queen.
When the brahmans were treated to a banquet at
Ummadanti's house, they were so intoxicated with the lady's beauty that they
made a mess of everything at the table. Ummadanti was indignant that the king
should send boors on such an important mission. She ordered her servants to
throw the brahmans out of the house.
Now the brahnams could not very well report the matter
to the king since they had made perfect fools of themselves. So they sent in a
report to the effect that the lady Ummadanti was not worthy of being a queen.
Rejected by the king, Ummadanti was given in marriage
to the king's general, a man of great courage and integrity. Ummadanti, with
all her love and respect for her husband, could not get over the slight the
king had given her. With the rage of a woman scorned she bided her time for
Then came the full moon day of Tazaungmone and the
city blossomed forth in lights and festivities. The king was to ride the
streets in full grandeur. It was a busy time for the general, Ummadanti's
husband, who had to take charge of all security matters.
The general, before he left home to go on duty, said
to his beautiful wife: "My dear, the king will ride in state through the
city streets and he'll surely come to our door. Please do not show yourself,
lest your beauty should do harm where such is not intended."
Ummadanti's non-commital reply was lost in the tender
cares she bestowed on her departing spouse. She gave him a loving sendoff and
waited for what was to be her finest hour.
As soon as her maid, in obedience to her order, came
and informed her that the king's chariot had come, Ummadanti went to the open
window. In pride of power and beauty's bloom, she stood with a basket of
flowers in hand. She then threw the sweet blossoms at the king, whose eyes
turned to her in pleasant surprise. She smiled the smile of a sylph, alluring
and tantalizing. The next moment she banged the window shut leaving the king in
the dizzy heights of desire and covetousness.
After that the king was in no condition to continue
his triumphant tour. He returned to the royal palace to fling himself down on
the couch and moan in agony.
From that time on it was impossible for the general to
see the king and take his counsel on important matters of state. He was
informed that the king was suffering from a strange malady. The general knew
instantly the cause of the king's sickness. The king suffered in secret,
ashamed of the unseemliness of his passion.
The general suggested that someone should be sent to
the huge banyan tree where a powerful spirit lived and ask what should be done.
He then put a trusted man in the hollow of the tree with instructions what to
say. When the messenger came to the tree, the man in the hollow let forth an
estounding oracle that the king was infatuated with the general's wife.
The general went to the king and told him what the
oracle said and generously offered Ummadanti to his lord and king. Ashamed that
his secret passion was known to nat and man, the king was brought to his
senses and lived in peace, ruling his subjects justly.
The story is a favourite with professional players and
amateurs. During the Tazaungdine festival the scene where the Lady Ummadanti
threw flowers at the king is highlighted. The dramatists' ingenuity often makes
the lady and the king bandy wits and the part of the king is clowned to the
delight of the audience.