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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 the monks.
    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 of offering.
     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 taking.
    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 folk.
     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 too.

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 Devadatta.
     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 peace?"
     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 treachery?
     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 vengeance.
     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.
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