Sunday, June 27, 2010
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010
WHY DO WE HANG A COCONUT INSIDE OUR HOUSES
By: Hpone Thant
Once upon a time, there was a very strong blacksmith who lived at a small town called Tagaung, on the upper reaches of the Ayeyarawaddy River, north of Bagan. His name was U Tint De (Mr. Handsome).He was also a very popular man. Then the King of Tagaung heard about his feats and was afraid that one day U Tint De might usurp his kingdom. So he sent words to U Tint De that he wish to make his beautiful sister, Thon Ban Hla, his Queen and also invited U Tint De to come and live at his palace.
But one day, on one pretext or another, U Tint De was condemned and set to be burned at the stake. When his sister saw the brother being burned at the stake she rushed out of the palace and jumped into the fire. The King tried to hold on to his Queen but was able to save only her head from the inferno. So, to cut the story short, both U Tint De and his sister, Thon Ban Hla became nats(spirits).
However, to spite the King, the nats haunted the Sagar tree where they were put to death. Every creature which came into its shadow died. The King had it cut down and floated down the Ayeyarwaddy River where it came to rest at Bagan. The Bagan King heard about the beached tree and after consultations with his royal astrologers made statues out of the Sagar tree to be worshipped by his subjects. Here the story became blurred. Nobody can tell for sure how U Tint De became the guardian nat or spirit of a house. Nobody can say why he became the chief of all the official 37 nats that are said to reside at Mt. Popa. But one thing for sure is that in almost all Myanmar houses in a corner near the Buddha Images(but a bit lower) one will see a coconut hanging on the wall. It will have a red and white band, resembling a headcloth, around it and a fan standing beside.
Most Myanmar believes that U Tint De guards the house against all evil. He is the guardian of the house. If there is a death in the house the coconut is taken out of the house to be hung elsewhere on the road. This is to let the butterfly spirit of the deceased have free access into the house until after a merit making lunch(soon) is offered to the monks after a week and free the butterfly spirit to roam freely. Otherwise U Tint De would bar entrance to the deceased’s butterfly spirit. After the traditional lunch(soon) is offered to the monks and to friends and relatives of the deceased a new coconut is brought back into the house for U Tint De to reside again.
Also the coconut must be replaced if the water inside dries out or the top part becomes loose. Otherwise it will bring bad luck to the household. Then before the Myanmar Lent begins in the month of Waso(June/July) and at the end of it is Thadingyut(September/October)the coconut must be replaced with a new, green one.
The coconut has to be screened from light too because U Tint De was burned at the stake and he hates heat. And it is a common belief that coconut water is fed to the burn victims to ease the pain. The housewife would also fan the coconut as a daily ritual or to ask for any supernatural intervention to overcome a difficult situation.
For us living in the 21st century these superstitious rituals might seem strange and quaint but they make up the character and beliefs of the Myanmar people making them unique in this world. An instant world with many ready made answers on Google!