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The Myanmar Times - - Wedding 2016 -

VERY race has its own cul­ture and tra­di­tions. Like­wise, Myan­mar’s many dif­fer­ent eth­nic races – of­fi­cially 135 in all – have theirs when a man and wo­man want to be­come hus­band and wife.

The main ob­jec­tive of a wed­ding cer­e­mony here is to for­mally an­nounce they are to be­come one but it re­quires a lot of ef­fort to get there, es­pe­cially if tra­di­tion is ob­served. The fam­ily too must play a part in it.

Ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion, there are five du­ties that Myan­mar par­ents have to per­form for their chil­dren: pro­hibit them from do­ing evil things; ad­vise them to do good deeds; ed­u­cate them; af­ter that, sup­port them with cap­i­tal in­vest­ment; and ar­range a mar­riage for them. There­fore, as one of the five parental du­ties, Myan­mar par­ents must or­gan­ise a wed­ding for their chil­dren when they are old enough to marry, for which there are rules to ob­serve.

Ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 211 of the Fourth Vol­ume of Manusara code of law, “par­ents can ar­range a mar­riage for their chil­dren who are al­ready 16 years old”. Fur­ther­more, the Sixth Vol­ume of Manu code of law men­tions, “Women un­der 20 are not al­lowed to marry on their own will, but their mar­riage has to be for­mally ar­ranged by their par­ents or guardian.”

In ad­di­tion, Sec­tion 124 of the Sixth Vol­ume of Manu code of law says, “par­ents can ar­range mar­riage for their daugh­ters when they reach the age of 16, and if a suit­able bride­groom is avail­able, par­ents have the right to ar­range mar­riage for their daugh­ters till they at­tain the age of 20”. This means that once a daugh­ter is 20, she is free to choose her own hus­band.

Be­fore a wed­ding cer­e­mony, fam­i­lies in Myan­mar make it a point not to miss one cus­tom: both the bride-to-be and bride­groomto-be con­sult an as­trologer for an aus­pi­cious day and time to be mar­ried. They also check whether they are com­pat­i­ble as life-long part­ners based on their birthdays. It’s a com­mon be­lief that if the part­ner­ship is not well matched, the mar­riage will not sur­vive, or that there won’t be any progress or hap­pi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion, those born on Sun­day and Fri­day are com­pat­i­ble; like­wise, Tues­day and Thurs­day, Satur­day and Wed­nes­day. Sun­day and Wed­nes­day evening are also well-suited. It’s be­lieved their mar­riage will last and they will have a long life to­gether.

But those born on Satur­day and Thurs­day do not make good part­ners. Like­wise, Fri­day and Mon­day, Sun­day and Wed­nes­day, and Wed­nes­day evening and Tues­day are not com­pat­i­ble. Their mar­riages will not last and they will have short lives, it is be­lieved.

How­ever, it’s not ab­so­lute and there’s no need to panic if would-be part­ners fall into those cat­e­gories. To get past that, the as­trologer can per­form ya­daya (a rit­ual to avert mis­for­tune) and the mis­matched cou­ple can fi­nally be­come life part­ners.

There are many dif­fer­ent tra­di­tional wed­ding rites in Myan­mar, some so sim­ple, some very elab­o­rate, as out­lined by 10 ex­am­ples that fol­low:

1. Hang­ing the bride­groom’s longyi on the clothes­line

The bride­groom’s par­ents and rel­a­tives, along with young peo­ple from the com­mu­nity, visit the home of the bride with wed­ding presents, pots to cook rice and cur­ries, clothes, bed­ding, pil­lows and live­stock cat­tle. If the bride­groom’s fam­ily is rich, wed­ding presents for the new cou­ple would in­clude prop­erty and farm­land own­er­ship documents.

Th­ese presents are handed to the bride’s par­ents. Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, the bride re­mains in her room out of shy­ness and, as is cus­tom, the bride­groom stays back in his home. For this cer­e­mony, the bride­groom’s en­tourage has to bring a new longyi. The bride’s side has to ar­range a sep­a­rate room for the new cou­ple at their home. Once the bride­groom’s longyi is placed on the clothes­line in that room, the bride­groom and bride be­come hus­band and wife. 2. Hav­ing meals from the same dish A wed­ding reception is held by invit­ing friends and neigh­bours in the com­mu­nity. Then the bride and bride­groom are made to have meals, such as sticky rice, pick­led tea leaves or other snacks from the same dish to­gether. They then are pro­claimed hus­band and wife. 3. Ex­chang­ing of rings Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, the bride and bride­groom ex­change rings to for­mally get mar­ried.

When the bride­groom ar­rives at the house of the bride, her par­ents and rel­a­tives make him have a bath to cleanse him­self and then help him change into new clothes. Af­ter that the cou­ple be­comes hus­band and wife.

5. Plac­ing the bride­groom’s palm upon the bride’s

The most com­mon mar­riage rite in Myan­mar is to have the bride­groom’s right palm placed upon the bride’s right palm. The cer­e­mony is held at the home of the bride.

While dis­tribut­ing in­vi­ta­tion cards for the wed­ding cer­e­mony, che­roots or pick­led tea leaves are also given as gifts. On the wed­ding day, it’s a tra­di­tion for guests to give gifts to the new­ly­weds.

The bride­groom, his par­ents and rel­a­tives ar­rive af­ter all the guests have done so. The bride­groom sits at the seat as­signed for him. Then, the bride and her rel­a­tives ar­rive, and she is made to sit to the left of the bride­groom.

First, the cou­ple pays obei­sance to the Five In­fi­nite Ven­er­a­bles -- the Bud­dha, the Dhamma (Teach­ings of the Bud­dha), the Sangha (com­mu­nity of monks, nuns, novices fol­low­ing Bud­dha’s Teach­ings), par­ents and teach­ers, and other el­ders. Then, the per­son of­fi­ci­at­ing the cer­e­mony places the right hands of the cou­ple one on the other to solem­nise the mar­riage.

At the same time, gar­lands are hung around the cou­ple’s necks, rings are ex­changed, wa­ter sprin­kled on their heads, and a length of cloth is used to bind their hands, which are then dipped into a wa­ter bowl.

Lastly, par­ents from ei­ther side, or an elderly per­son rep­re­sent­ing the par­ents, give words of ad­vice to the cou­ple. Then the cer­e­mony comes to a close with a loud chant: “May the wed­ding cer­e­mony be suc­cess­ful.”

6. Putting golden rings of string around the necks of the bride and groom

Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, rings of gold or gold al­loy, about 5 feet in to­tal, are hung around the neck of the bride and groom. 7. Be­ing swathed in a lengthy veil In a sim­ple cer­e­mony, the cou­ple is swathed in a lengthy veil, shawl or cloth.

8. Hang­ing of gar­lands around the neck of the cou­ple

The plac­ing of gar­lands around the necks of the bride and the groom sig­ni­fies that the mar­riage has been solem­nised. 9. Dip­ping hands in a sil­ver bowl of wa­ter The cer­e­mony in­volves dip­ping the right hands of the bride and the groom in a sil­ver bowl 10. Sprin­kling drops of clear per­fumed wa­ter The key part of the cer­e­mony in­volves the sprin­kling of clear per­fumed wa­ter on the heads of the bride and the groom.

Those are but a few ex­am­ples. There are many more mar­riage rites which are still ob­served, es­pe­cially by the many eth­nic groups, which are very in­ter­est­ing. Ref­er­ence: Mar­riage rites of dif­fer­ent eth­nic races in Myan­mar (Tekkatho Shin Thiri), Sabai Oo pub­lish­ing (1991)

Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun About the cover photo The cover photo was taken 70 years ago in Pathein town­ship, Aye­yarwady Re­gion. In a mar­riage pre-ar­ranged by par­ents from both sides, not a very un­usual mat­ter in those days, the wed­ding cou­ple got mar­ried in a cer­e­mony held at one of the town­ship’s most fa­mous cin­ema halls.

Rem­i­nisc­ing about this mile­stone in her life, the bride re­counted that the wed­ding was at­tended by the wealthy and the in­tel­lects at that time and that it was quite grand. She added that, un­like today where peo­ple would give money as a wed­ding gift, guests brought the new­ly­weds many sets of sil­ver bowls and Pathein um­brel­las (fa­mous through­out the coun­try and abroad) as gifts.

Near­ing her 90s, she is sur­rounded by the cou­ple’s five chil­dren in Yan­gon, af­ter her hus­band passed away four years ago at the age of 96. Both of them had wit­nessed the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence, the as­sas­si­na­tion of Bo­gyoke Aung San, and the many ups and downs in the coun­try dur­ing their long mar­ried life.

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