The story be­hind a Man­dalay nat shrine

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - SI THU LWIN – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han and Emoon

FLEE­ING from their wicked un­cle, the two royal chil­dren took refuge un­der a dry teak tree not far from the banks of the Aye­yarwady River. They were young, aged only 13 and 15, but they were al­ready rich. The taxes of all nine cities and 12 is­lands along that stretch of the river were payable to them, for they were the chil­dren of King Moe-meik Saob­wagyi. But they were on the run from their jeal­ous un­cle Padone, who had at­tacked their realm in an at­tempt to usurp the throne.

No­body knows why, but as Saw Nan Thwe and her brother Saw Nan Aung caught their breath un­der that teak tree, some­thing hap­pened in­side its trunk. With­out warn­ing, it came crashing to earth – end­ing them both.

Their spir­its live on, how­ever, and the tra­vails and deaths of Saw Nan Thwe and her brother Saw Nan Aung are still com­mem­o­rated to this day dur­ing the an­nual Shwe Kyun Pin nat fes­ti­val.

Held in Min­gun vil­lage, the fes­ti­val fea­tures wild music and rit­u­als start­ing just be­fore the wax­ing of the Wa­gaung moon in the fifth lu­nar month (for those not hip to Myan­mar astrol­ogy, that’s right about now, in the mid­point of Au­gust).

Amid roses, ba­nanas and other gifts, vil­lagers at­tired in the cos­tumes of a snake (for Saw Nan Thwe) and a tiger (for Saw Nan Aung) bathe in the river, while devo­tees visit lo­cal nat shrines and con­sult sooth­say­ers.

The deadly teak tree has re­grown along the river­bank, but its taboo has grown with it; no cou­ple may ap­proach, and no bam­boo hats can be worn in its shadow. Shorts and bathing near the tree are for­bid­den. The site is marked by a small shrine, but the fes­tiv­i­ties are held at the Shwe Kyun Pin sib­ling shrine closer into town – and far from that wretched tree.

The way to the fes­ti­val passes through Kho Taung vil­lage, renowned for its mote ti salad. Lo­cal crafts­peo­ple sell wooden san­dals, mats wo­ven from the outer rind of bam­boo, bas­kets, fans, bam­boo hats, earth­en­ware, glaze and farm prod­ucts. You can also buy very tasty pick­led fish and root herbals.

The cer­e­mony be­gins with an in­vi­ta­tion to the el­der spir­its to hold a con­fer­ence. The wraiths of the brother and sis­ter bathe from a raft in the river on the sec­ond day of the full moon. Spirit lul­la­bies are sung and the spir­its of the chil­dren play in the gar­dens and the swings in a se­ries of events over the next sev­eral days.

These events in­volve the Taung­py­one two kings, the Yada­nar Cave and other man­i­fes­ta­tions of lo­cal grat­i­tude to the chil­dren, whose wor­ship, they be­lieve, keeps them from harm.

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