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By – MAUNG KHINE ZAW          4 – November – 2013

TAZAUNGMON  is   the  eight  month   of    Myanmar Lunar Calender which coincides with November . The Lighting festival of Tazaungmon or Tazaung­daing Festival is annually held on the full-moon dayof Tazaungmon and thedays before and after. Itcomes exactly one month after Thadingyut Festival.Tazaung ” mean Light” or “taing” pillar.Hence the pillar of lights.

The significance of the Lighting festival is theoffering of sacred yellow robe (Kahtain Thingan )to the Sangha (Buddhist monk) and The Lord Buddha. The offering of these sacred yellow robeto the Sangha has been traditionally observed by successive generations up to present day. It originat­ed in Gautama’s own time in Northern India. It will be recalled that on one summer day, thirty Sangha of BuddhaWaggi Brothersleft their birth place known as “Power Province” to make obeisance to our Lord Buddha , who reside din ” Savatti Province” somefifteen yuzanars away.Their journey to Savattiwas very slow becausethey practiced meditationsen-route. They took rest ata town known as “Thar­keta” during the lent. Just after the end of the lent they went on to Savatti .But they were caught in a downpour of heavy rain on the way.Yellow robes worn by them were soaked with rain, and dirty with mud and sand. Having no extra robes to wear, they approached the Buddhaand paid obeisance to him,still in their drenched con­dition. Gautama Buddha,having seen the destitution of his disciples, allowed the offering of yellow robes to Sangha every year after the lent. Since then the Kahtain robe offering cer­emonies have been held annually.

The month of Tazaung­mon become a sanctified season owing to their offering of yellow robe beginning from the first waning day of Thadingyut and ending on the full-moon day of Tazaungmon.The yellow robe offered in this season are called Kahtain Thingan”, a special and seasonal donation – monks are allowed to receive under the Vinaya Law . On the day of offering the gifts tied to movable stand called Pa­detha tree are lined up in procession ; accompanied by do bat(drums)music and dancing brought to the chosen monastery and offered to the monk in ceremony.

It so happened that the Buddha’s mother, reincar­nated in Tavatimsa (Celes­tial abode ), perceived from there that her son on earth would soon be dis­carding the royal robe and wearing a monk garment. The mother incarnate wanted to offer a yellow robe to her son on his en­try to monk hood and there was barely time enough for it. But the mother Deva had it woven overnight and offered it by a celetial messenger to her son. In memory of their religiously significant event , the Bud­dhist people of Myanmar organize many teams to compete in weaving a piece of yellow robe for the Buddha on the eve of the full-moon day of Tazaung­mon. There is always keen competition among young girls who would feverish­ly weave on their looms enough cloth for a piece of yellow robe. They would cut the cloth into pieces and have them stitched up into a garment, ready for the•offering by dawn. The weaving of yellow robes must be completion is tak­en as a failure. The yellow robe so obtained is there­fore called “.Mathothin­gan” (Matho, not stale , Le fresh Thingan, the monk’s yellow robe ). The offering of Mathothigan to the Buddha Image is annually celebrated on a grand scale on the platform of the great Shwedagon Pagoda.

The month of Tazaung­mon being a very favor­able season for night long amusements , the theat­rical performance of sats and other entertainments area common feature .

The night — long festivities are held on the platform of the Great Shwedagon and other prominent pagodas in Yangon, to which devo­tional offering of electric lights are made. Many devotees offer “soon” with fruits and other eatables to the Buddha Image before dawn. Street lighting with various entertainment are the common scene in Yangon, while the government offices, the public build­ings, the cinema halls and the parks are also ablaze with lights of various colours.

According to one version of the legend, it is belived that on this full-moon night all curative proper­ties of herbal flora are con­centrated in Me Zali tree. Its tender leaves, buds and blooms are edible. Myan­mar treatises on herbal medicine prescribed that Me Zali is medicinal. So Myanmar people eat slightly bitter but appe­tising Me Zali salad made out of its boiled buds, and leaves, seasoned with in­gredients like peanut; fried garlic, seasamun, fresh peeled onions, cooking oil and salt. Me Zali soup with fish, pounded roasted rice powder and pepper in the favourite dish of the Myanmar people.

On this full-moon night there is an amusing festival known as “Kyee Ma-no festival”. Its literal meaning is a performance carried out by male youths before crows wake up. At the mid­night of Tazaungnion full-moon day male youths, individually or in groups, steal anything found in the house compound or backyard (not from inside the house) — pots, pans, clothing, baskets, skirts, brassieres, underwears etc. and leave them at public places and road crossings. Skirts, brassieres , and underwears are hung up on the trees . The next day morning everyone is amused and moved to laughter to see the owners searching for their missing properties. Male youths laugh heartily when the old ladies come out from their houses to search for their skirts, brassieres and underwears stolen last night.

Source : The Traveller journal