Myanmar Traditional Aquatic Festival in the month of Tawthalin

tawthalinMyanmar’s geography and history are the two main factors in the shaping of its culture both tangible and intangible. A land of medium size favoured by bountiful nature, Myanmar is blessed with a good strategic location and natural resources above ground, underground and under water. With natural accesses to land, sea and sparse population, Myanmar, like other South East Asia countries has always been an attractive “new” green pasture” for the population overflows of the two immediate neighbours _ India and China, since time immemorial.
While receiving all the benefits of contact and relations with two giant neighbours, Myanmar has to meet with the challenges of them. Hence Myanmar’s defense is always dual _ terrestrial and aquatic or land and water. Thanks to the terrestrial land, aquatic life of all Myanmar ethnic races, Myanmar has no difficulty in the building of its defense system.
The rulers of Myanmar in the days of Monarchy had two forces _ land forces (Kyi Tat Monarchy ကျည်းတပ် or ကျဉ်းအား] and water forces [Yey Tat or ရေတပ် ရေအား] whether for ceremonial royal program or march to battle to fight, land and water forces always accompanied. Hence there is always an expression ရေအား ကျဉ်းအားနှင့် ချီတော်မူသည် “His Majesty marches with water and land forces.”
So for the upkeep of the above two forces water and land constant recruitment maintenance and training are necessary. The Regatta festival with boat races traditionally held in the month of Tawthalin (September) is the proof of Myanmar water forces for defense or flotillas of war ships and boats of different sizes well recruited, trained and maintained by the State.
In Myanmar language Regatta Festival is called “Yey Khin Taw” “ရေခင်းတော်” literally translated “Display of Royal Navy”. It is not Yey Kin Taw ရေကင်းတော် Khin ခင်း means “to display”. Kin ကင်း means “to petrol” Myanmar Palace City နန်းမြို့ is defended not only by city brick walls on four sides but also by moats surrounded around it. Bridges over the moat lead to Palace city gates 3 on each side, totaling 12 gates.
In the moat, day and night water patrol on boat keeps watch so that any one crossing the moat illegally is caught. Special music is being played to keep the patrols alert and awake.
Yey Khin Taw is the display of Royal Regatta on the River or any large aquatic bodies in land or on the sea coast. Their Majesties in State made public appearance and displayed the strength and grandeur of Royal Flotillas Yey Ar ရေအား water Forces or Navy.
A replica of Sihasana hall was built on 2 large barge on two big boats, with 7 tier gold gilt roof on top. The barge is called Pyi Kyi Mon Phaung Taw. On this Barge their Majesties were seated on the throne attended by all ministers, civil and military dignitaries. Performers gave all kinds of entertainments. Court poets and writers presented to the King”Eh” ‘Un” and “Luta” အဲ၊ အန်၊ လူးတား Verse extolling the occasion. Two big and long boats on either side of the Royal Barge pulled the Barge, majestically in tune with the Yey Khin Taw music and song. On either side of the Barge rowers in uniform row their oars, displaying 37 different styles of rowing in tune with 37 different musical compositions.
The rowers wore uniform-red nether garment မဆိုးနီ silvery coat, head gear, sparkling ornaments on the body, looking smart, handsome but manly performed their duties. They were well trained for their duty.
It was a fantastic royal pageant on water. Boats, rafts, barges and ships preceding, accompanying and following were specially made and decorated accordingly to the old records of literature and illustrations.
For such a hand display, good weather and large space are absolutely necessary. Therefore the month Tawthalin (September) is chosen for this Regatta Festival. တော်သလင်းမြစ်တွင်းသင်ဖြူးခင်း. In the month Tawthalin, water surface in the river is like a mat spread out. Because the monsoon has receded leaving all aquatic bodies brimful fitting for water activities.
Myanmar culture is deeply impacted by Hindu-Brahmanic and Buddhist traditions. According to Hindu Brahmanic belief, Sakka Deva or Thunder god (သိကြားမင်း Thagya Min) performed Regatta festival in his Tavatimsa kingdom in the Sacred River Mandakini. Myanmar Kings were descendants of Solar [Sun] Dynasty. So they had the right to perform Regatta Festival as Sakka Deva does yearly.
Till the reign of the last Myanmar King, King Thibaw [1878-1885] the Regatta Festival and boat races were held without fail. Every year King’s Hluttaw issued royal order to hold Regatta and boat races, special bud-jet was sanctioned and preparations were made some months ahead. Rowers underwent repeated training for their performance. They must be young, handsome and brave men. The barges, boats, rafts and ships all water crafts were renovated and desecrated for the occasion. Royal poet laureate composed verses for the occasion.
Special Ministers took charge of boat races. Royal archives and royal libraries kept records of ceremonial water crafts and racing boats, their sizes styles, decors, name and its.
Regatta and boat races were held to show glory and greatness of Myanmar Kings in the reception and welcome of foreign envoys. One outstanding record of such is Truk Than Yauk Mawgun (တရုတ်သံရောက် မော်ကွန်း) authored by a poet laureate Nawade II. When a Chinese diplomatic mission led by an envoy Extraordinary and plenipotentiary, in the reign of King Bagyidaw arrived not only a full-fledged military parade was staged but also regatta and boat races were held to show Myanmar military and naval strengths (ကျဉ်းအား ရေအား).
Stanzas No. 16 to No. 28 of the said Mawkun detailed the regalia and boat races which honoured Chinese guests who witnessed with are and admiration. In these 13 stanzas, great poet Mawade II authentically recorded the names, the designs, the sizes and the funcations of (1). Ceremonial Barges, Boats, Rafts and Canoes (2). War boats of different sizes and (3). Racing boats.
The author Nawade II was not only an authentic historian, he was also a court bard of high caliber with his command of Pali and Myanmar languages and his mastery of poetic composition, the perusal of his Truk Than Yauk Mawkum gives the reader the effect of the TV Live show of the Regatta of his time as well as the patriotic pride of Myanmar’s historic heydays.
To quote just a few other records of royal regattas of our glorious past, the writer begs the readers’ to pay attention to the King Tharawaddy’s Bell at the north-east corner on the platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. In the 100 lines of inscriptions on this great bell is given a full account of the King’s march from his Capital to Yangon with land and water forces to worship the Scared Pagoda but with the secret plan to retrieve Lower Myanmar from the British who annexed it to their British Indian Empire when they won victory in the first Anglo-Myanmar War 1824-5. The British were alarmed at the size of land and water forces King Thayawaddt brought with, More so, when the king built a new town named ‘’Aung Myey Yan Hnin and a new palace in it and fortresses around the Shwedagon Pagoda Hill. ‘’Lokabyuha’’ or Inyone Sadan by the minister Thiri Uzana of Inwa Period faithfully recorded the regatta and boat races of his time proving that Myanmar Kings were always a wake for the up keep of water and land forces for national defense. The chronicle [history] of Late Kongbaung Period [Konbaung set Maha Yazawun taw Kyi] has the detailed description of regatta Boat race and recruitment of new blood for Myanmar war flotillas [Navy].
Not necessarily rivers, large in land aquatic bodies in Myanmar such as Inlay Lake, Indaw Gyi Lake, Taung Tha Man, Meiktila Lake etc… were and still are the venues of regatta and boat races. Bird envoys who arrived at the Capital Amarapura in 18th and early 19th centuries noted down in their reports or books their eye witness account of regatta, boat races and naval exercises in the Lake Taung Tha Man with drawings.
In the pre-war days one of the song composers of national fame Myo Ma Nyein wrote a hit song on regatta Festival ‘’Yey Khin Taw’’ song by Pyi Ba Shin and recorded by A.1. Film Co. The composer not only based his song on tradition, history and culture of Myanmar but also gives chorus of patriotism as:
ဘုန်းတော်ရောင်၊ ဝင်းပါလို့၊ (စံကင်းပျော်လို့ ပျော်လို့)၂
တေဇာတော် စတံမူးလို့လေ၊ ထူးပါလှတယ်
(ဟေလား၊ ယောင်္ကျား၊ ဘာသားလေးလေ့)၂
ရီးလေးလေ့ ရီးလေးလေ့၊ ရီးလေးလေ့ ရီးလေးလေ့”
The glory of His Majesty Shines like thousand Suns.
His might and greatness brighten far and wide
Happily he rules and reigns
He is like Sakka Deva of Travatimsa.
Ye manly mascular rowers! Ye manly mascula rowers)
Row on Row on Row on together!!!

Share this post
Hot News
Hot News