- By Myint Maung Soe
Awhile ago our group of media personnel attended a press conference held at Junction City and then went on to attend a talk on Danu history held by author Min Lwin Oo (Aungban) at Danu National Congregation Hall (Dhammayone) near the eastern stairway of Shwedagon Pagoda.
Together with me were Evergreen Media photographer Takkatho Han Min Oo, Myawady reporter Ko Aung Myo Kyaw (Maung Myo Ayeyawady) and Hot News reporter Ko Zaw Myint. The initial plan was to return home after the press conference but upon hearing about the talk on Danu history, everyone’s interest was raised and we all decided to go there.
In a thinly disguised bribery attempt to persuade us all to go Ko Han Min Oo said the talk will be about Danu history and Danu lunch will be provided. The interest of all was raised without the lunch bribe so we started our journey to the Danu National Dhammayone. As it was already past 11 am when we left Junction City, we hopped onto a taxi to arrive at our destination on time but still we reached it only past 12 noon.
On seeing us, a young Danu national rushed down from the second floor of the Dhammayone welcoming us saying it was a great pleasure to see us because there seems to be not much of media presence even though invitations were sent out. At the top of the stairway was a thin tall Danu man dressed in a traditional Danu costume with a headdress who cordially greeted us. The talk had already begun when we arrive and there were many Danu nationals mostly dressed in traditional Danu costume listening attentively to the talks. Many Danu women were dressed in a bright red traditional Danu costume making them stands out among the crowd. Also at the event were Danu monks.
Author Min Lwin Oo (Aungban) was talking of a book he wrote about Danu based on Danu history. He explained that the Danus were of Tibeto Burman race and even though their spoken words were slightly different from the Myanmar spoken language, it was in fact the same language spoken in a local accent that makes it sound like a different language. The written letters were also the same added author Min Lwin Oo (Aungban).
Danu ethnic nationals were one of the 135 ethnic national races of Myanmar. Danus mainly lived in five townships and of these five, the two, Pindaya and Ywangan townships were designated as Danu Self-Administered Zone. Pindaya Town was the capital of Danu Self-Administered Zone. The adjacent townships of Yaksawk, Kalaw and Nawnghkio also had Danu ethnic national population. By percentage Danu ethnic nationals made up 85 per cent of Ywangan Township, 75 per cent of Pindaya Township, 40 per cent of Kalaw Township, 42 per cent of Nawnghkio Township and 30 per cent of Yaksawk Township.
There were also some Danu villages in some townships. There were 25 villages in Thazi Township, 3 or 4 villages in Pinlaung Township and 20 villages in Taunggyi Township. According to 2014 Census, there were a total of about 400,000 Danu in Myanmar. In Shan State, Danu was the fourth largest by population while in the whole country it is the tenth largest by population. Danu ethnic nationals were simple people by nature and lived on farming.
Explanation by author Min Lwin Oo (Aungban) was not a complete history and facts about Danu ethnic nationals but was enough to have a good understanding about them. As the time crept past 1 pm, both the speaker and audience seem to become hungry and the eyes were wandering toward where lunch was being prepared. The talk soon ends and people shifted from the hall to the lunch tables.
The food prepared by Danu women were mouth watering. Fresh and crispy cabbages and boiled vegetables, bean soup, cooked ground nut and vegetable salads seem to be the main dishes of the Danus. A chicken curry dish was placed at the centre of the table together with a dried and smoked fish dish. Potato fry and some fried snacks were also on the table as after-lunch dessert.
Author Min Lwin Oo (Aungban) came to our lunch table and explained about the various foods. He said a Myanmar representative group led by Bogyoke Aung San was given a Danu food when they came for discussing the Panlong Agreement in December 1946. The dishes offered include the cooked ground nut and Bogyoke Aung San was said to have finished the meal by eating continuously the cooked ground nut together with vegetables. As we learnt about this, all of us tasted the peanut dish and was quite attracted by its rich flavour.
There were many Danu dishes that we heard of but had never tasted before. Rice cooked together with vegetables making the rice pulpy was a well known dish of the Danu people during the raining season. There’s also a dish cooked from underground insect mixed with vegetable. A mixture of rice and potato with fried vegetable was also said to be of a unique taste. Unfortunately these were not included in the lunch that we had and we looked forward to the day to taste it all together with the ethnic Danu nationals when we visit Ywangan, Pindaya, Yaksawk, Kalaw, Aungban and Nawnghkio.
Translated by Handytips