All the elderly and young love applying Thanaka on their cheeks. There is no woman who does not like Thanaka. Even with the arrival of modern beauty products, Thanaka remains the reigning cosmetic of choice among women and children.
Thanaka can cool the skin, provide protection from the sun, and its fragrance make the people fresh. The courtiers and female farmers wear Thanaka. Most of the Myanmar girls apply Thanaka after bathing, or they wear it whenever they go to pagodas or religious occasions.
Effects of Thanaka
Thanaka can protect the human body from heat-related problems. Those working under direct sunlight can use Thanaka as sun protection. The fragrance of Thanaka can also cure the headache, dull pain, neck pain and nasal congestion. If the women suffer from the menses, they can apply Thanaka with the turmeric. If they have high body temperature, they can take liquid Thanaka with the nectar of Mesua Ferrea. If the men suffer from the headache, dull pain, toothache and blurred vision due to urinary disease, they can take liquid Thanaka by grinding the root of Thanaka.
Donation to Lord Buddha
Although Myanmar girls grind Thanaka in longitudinal, the courtiers grind in a vertical way to get the smoother Thanaka paste. Moreover, the girls dry Thanaka to make powder. There is a tradition in the middle part of Myanmar to offer the Thanaka to the Buddha at the bonfire. Such culture emerged from the Bagan era.
Usefulness of Thanaka
Thanaka is hard and in yellow colour. The dried Thanaka weighs 61 pound per cubic foot. Therefore, the Thanaka is used as a driving lever in grinding oil or paddy, in carving industry and as measuring tools.
The Thanaka is called Limonia acidissima in the botanical term, including in Rutaceae Family and is in the same group with Aegle marmelos, orange, lemon, lime and clausena. Thanaka trees can grow together with Terminalia oliveri, Tectona Hamiltonian, Acacia leucophloea, Eastern gooseberry, Acacia catechu, Diospyros burmanica and so on. The stem of the tree is about 3ft.
Although Thanaka trees can be seen across the nation, they are mostly grown in the country’s central dry zone. The plants are grown in Ayartaw township with more than 100,000 acres and the township boasts 75 per cent of Thanaka plantation of the country. The Thanaka plantation is also expanded in Pakokku, Yesagyo, Shwebo, Butalin, Yinmabin, Monywa, Myinmu and Pauk townships.
Working together for conservation
Therefore, the people should work together to ensure that Myanmar’s Thanaka, which has been preserved as a traditional culture since the time of the ancient Myanmar Kings, exists as a gift and a symbol of Myanmar and remains a part of Myanmar’s cultural heritage. —U Win Naing (Minbu, IPRD), Zeyar Htet (Minbu) (Translated by Khine Thazin Han)