Here is the glossary to explain some words in Myanmar:,Shinpyu: a religious ceremony to make young boy into the Buddha’s Order as koyin or novice at the age of about ten. Shinlaung: novice-to-be boy who is learning pre-novitiation instructions before novicehoodpandal (Mandat): a temporary marquee built with pre fabricated materials for ceremonial reception.
Shinpyu is a religious ceremony that every Myanmar Buddhist male has to undergo. The purpose of this ceremony is to enable the boys to inherit the Buddha’s legacy. In the Buddhist world Shinpyu is considered to be compulsory because a man’s life is incomplete unless he became a novice for at least seven days in his boyhood.
A boy should be at least seven years old for this ceremony. Myanmar traditional notion to consider the age of the boy who is eligible for novicehood is that “he can scatter away the crows that snatch the food from his hands”. The best time for a shinpyu is the teenage when the boys are able to carry out their religious duties properly. But, now-a-days, many parents are hastening to initiate their young sons who are only four or five years old. This practice is deplorable since such young boys can hardly handle their yellow robes. Novice is supported to spend his time pursuing religious studies and telling beads. Three or four years old novice can hardly be expected to perform these tasks.
In rural areas, the first prerequisite for a Shinpyu is a pandal (Mandat). A Shinpyu being largely a communal affair like other social and religious ceremonies, neighbours and well-wishers take part in all its tasks. The donors of the novitiate respond to their good will by feeding them well. Prior to the ceremony they construct a big temporary pandal with dais for monks and koyins right in front of the donors’ house. When the pandal is ready a Buddha image is brought there with ceremony thereby transforming the place into a temple for the duration of the Shinpyu so that people take off their footwears before entering.
A Shinpyu being a big affair, lots of other preparations are necessary. Invitations composed in formal, rhymed prose have to be printed well in advance so that they can be sent to all of the Shinpyu donors’ friends and relatives in time. Yellow robes and all the paraphernalia of the novice and lots of foodstuffs such as rice, cooking oil, dried prawn, onions, garlic and dry tea leaves have to be purchased for a shinpyu is essentially a big feast, form these tasks.
Shinpyu or novitiation ceremony is usually held in this country from the end of the lent till the beginning of the next Buddhist lent. Parents have to put their sons under a monk to receive the necessary instructions. The presiding monk of the monastery receives them warmly and accepts that they want their sons to receive pre-novitiation instructions. He will arrange for their sons to be placed in the care of a monk who gives them pali and Myanmar passage to learn. Young boys will have to go to the monastery every morning to learn pre-novitiation instructions by heart.
As a rule, a rural shinpyu lasts two days the entry day and the big feast day. Distance friends and relatives arrive on the entry day in time to take part in the ceremonial procession of Shin Laungs that takes the Shinlaungs round the village to the monastery. The Shinlaung-Hlai is the procession of Shinlaungs, donors, friends, relatives, and well-wishers. Shinlaungs, are dressed in princely garment, ornaments and gilded head dress. Of special interest in the procession are the village damsels dressed in their best clothes and showing off their beauty. The focus of attention in the whole procession is the betel-casket holder who, as a rule, is the most beautiful virgin in the whole village. The procession is a accompanied by village musicians and village dancers who play the do but music and dance all the time. The procession is led by the Shinlaungs on horseback dressed in regalia in the shade of the golden umbrellas. They need not fear falling off the horses as they are well attended on by the horse handlers and the horses are walking slowly. The musicians and the dancers are made to stop and perform at various points on the way. The Shinlaungs and the participants of the procession make obeisance to the monks at the monastery. On their return, the Shinlaung handlers hide the Shinlaungs until the latter are redeemed with cash, quids of betal and cheroots.
Those who take part in the Shinlaung procession and the guests from the distance are served with dinner that evening. The guests and those who performed the various tasks of the Shinpyu are treated to betel, cheroots, pickled tea, pan cakes and green tea. At night, the whole mandat is illuminated brilliantly by means of a portable generator or storm-lanterns. When the music trope is not playing, four aluminum horns placed at the top of a tree near-by to amplify an electronic loud speaker set which keeps blaring out non-stop songs by country-favorite vocalists like Tonte Thein Tan and Hinthada Tun Yin to entertain to the four corners of the village environs!
The guests from the distance and the villagers are entertained with music and dancing from sun-set to mid-night. The music trope strikes up soon after dawn the big feast day and keeps on playing byaw until the novitiation ceremony begins in the afternoon.
On this day, not only the guests but also the whole village are served abundantly with htamin (cooked rice), pork and chicken curries, sour-flavored soup, boiled or pickled vegetables and sauce of fish paste. Nearly the whole morning is taken up with the feeding business. Then, the guests and the villagers make contributions toward the novitiate.
The Shinpyu donors respond to their act of catena (good will) by giving them cheroots, plain-tea cups, plastic containers etc., as return gifts.
The actual novitiation starts about 1.00 or 2.00 pm. In the afternoon, all the invited monks have been sumptuously feasted that morning and are now seated on the dais for the Sanghas in the pandal. First of all, both parents hold a white linen sheet to receive their son’s hair when the head of Shinlaungs are shaved. The boys are led to the presiding monk who is the teacher. They beg permission in Pali to be novitiated with a roll of yellow robes in both hands. The monk invests them with robe. Parents pick up their son’s worldly clothes. There, the Shihlaungs are novitiate or initiated into novice hood. When th new novices have taken their seats on the dais for the Sanghas, the Shinpyu donor and his wife offer the monks with various offerings. Next, the monks recite Parittas (charms) in unison, after which a monk delivers a sermon on the novitiate. Then, the Shinpyu donor pours the libation water and shares the merits he has gained with all the creatures living on the thirty one planes of existence and everyone within earshot says “Sadhu” (Well done) thrice. Finally, the monks go round in a procession inside the pandal to receive the offering presented by a part of audience usually consisting of the Shinpyu dono’s relatives and intimate friends while the music troupe plays a ceremony concluding tune called Byaw. When the monks go back to their monasteries, the new novices accompany their teacher to spend at least one week at his monastery.
Source : Traveller (From Sept 7 to Sept 13 )Vol 3, No 13