The country with a long boat tradition Part I

Untitled-1.psd 72.psd 772A geographical entity of a medium size, Myanmar is the second largest piece of land among the ASEAN, ten of the region, next to Indonesia, but the largest among five peninsular member states of the ASEAN. Its territorial area equals to those of the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium combined, but its population up-to-date is barely 50 million plus. Being Nature’s choicest gift the country is open on both land and water fronts. Though high mountains, some of which are snow capped the year round, and forested hill ranges seem to hedge it in, mountain passes and river valleys provide in and out accesses making human migration possible since time immemorial. In addition to the constant supply of the elixir of life, fresh water and communication through the complex network of rivers and streams, aquatic bodies of different sizes within and without the country, have given Myanmar people the long tradition of boat and all water-related cultures.
Across the country are well-known, less-known or unknown water bodies, both nature and human creations. To mention but a few are (1) Indaw Gyi Lake in Kachin State (2) In Lay Lake in the southern Shan State (3) Indaw Lake in Sagaing Region (4) Yey Myat Kyi In (5) Twin Taung In (6) Kaung Hmu Taw In (7) Maingtone Lake at Keng Tong (8) Zaung Kalaw, Tet They In, Nanda, Aung Pin Lei in Mandalay (9) Taung Tha Man at Amarapura (10) Mon Shi Shar, Meikhtila reservoirs, In Ma natural Lake in The-gone town, (11) Naga Win tha spring, Lokama fall, Gyon Gyon Kya fall at Mawlamyaing (12) heart-shaped  natural lake Re in Chin State (13) Kandaw Gyi, Inya, Hpu Gyi, Tha du kan, Gyo Hpyu, Nga Mo Yeik reservoirs and recently discovered a heart-shaped natural lake on Cock Comb island in Kawthoung District in Andaman Sea. These may be more aquatic bodies yet to discover in the country.
Therefore, though there are arid zones in the country and occasional visits of drought in some unfortunate years, there is hardly any place in the country that can be termed “desert” in its true sense.
Besides, as Myanmar civilization is hydric, as approved by the locations of its old capital cities on, or near rivers and sea coasts, Myanmar people are water borne and “boat”, the oldest and simplest water craft Myanmars grow up with from the womb to tomb.
Religion and history are two other contributory factors of Myanmar’s boat tradition. Theravada Buddhism gave Myanmar kings the concept of their descent from the Sakya race of land Gotama Buddha “Adisa Vamsa” race of the solar [sun] dynasty. The legend of Saka Deva [Thunder god] whose kingdom “Tavatimsa” has the divinely River “Mandakini” in which Saka deva holds the yearly festival of Regatta and boat races in that celestial river. As the true descendants of Sakya race, Myanmar kings believed they had the right to follow the precedents of their solar dynasty and so the regatta festival and boat races of Saka deva were yearly held without fail by successive Myanmar kings.
The month of Tawthalin, the 6th month of Myanmar lunar calendar corresponds approximately to September. Tawthalin is the month I which the monsoon recedes and water bodies become calm if the weather is normal and clement. Old Myanmar saying “awmfovif;? jrpfwGif;
oifjzL;cif;” [In Tawthalin, water surface in the river is like a mat spread out]. All water bodies are full to the brim but they are so calm as to favour all kinds of activities and celebrities on them.
The traditional festival of the month of Tawthalin is therefore the Royal Regatta festival and boat races. While Yin Ma [Chukrasia Tabularis] trees are in full bloom giving out their fragrance, royal orders were issued for the celebration of Royal Regatta Festival, followed by boat races in nearby aquatic bodies, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, shallow sea ports. This festival is called “Yey Khin Taw” [Royal Display of Regatta]. There are some confusions regarding Myanmar word “Khin” and “Khin (cif;)  means to display “Kin” (uif;) means to patrol. There is Myanmar water patrol in the moat around the royal capital city to guard day and night. A musical troupe on the patrol boat plays water patrol music and songs to signal and alert its duty rounds. In Myanmar it is “a&uif;awmf” [Royal Water Patrol] which is entirely different from “a&cif;awmf” [Royal Regatta of Tawthalin].
King Alaung Sithu [reign 1112-1167 A.D.] of Bagan dynasty of Myanmar history set the legend of Regatta Festival. He was a traveler king who visited all water bodies within and without the country with his magic and sacred barge. Wherever his barge stopped and stationed he built pagodas to commemorate the event. Till today, these pagodas celebrate festivals with boat races. The In Lay Phaung daw U pagoda Festival yearly held in October was his origin.
Myanmar chronicles, history and literature have records and references to the Regatta festival and boat races. One particular literary work which graphically described Regatta was Tayoke Than Yauk Maw-gun [a long poem recording the arrival of Chinese Embassy]. Maw-gun is a kind of poetic composition that records an event or events of historic importance. The said Maw-gun was composed by one Poet Laureate “Nawade the second”, whose literary works included 14 Maw-guns and 6 Ratus.
Myanmar and China had exchanged diplomatic missions with complimentary gifts and religious relics since the time of Pyu kings. Successive kings in both countries kept this customary practice as their time honoured tradition. During the reign of King Bagyidaw [1819-1837 A.D.] one Chinese embassy arrived, bringing credentials and royal gifts to be presented to Myanmar king. King Bagyidaw accorded a grand welcome and red-carpet reception to the Chinese state guests. A magnificent Regatta was held in their honour. Grand titles were conferred upon them, in addition to the costly presents they received. When they returned home, a Myanmar embassy was sent to the Court of Beijing with royal letters and gifts. Myanmar embassy was accorded equal treatment. They saw the Great Gala of Fireworks held for five successive nights. After fulfilling their assignment Myanmar envoys returned to Inwa. King Bagyidaw awarded them with promotion, title and gifts. All these events were recorded in the 62 stanzas of the said Maw-gun which was completed and submitted to the king in February 1823 A.D. The holding of the Royal Regatta was described in poetic language in the stanzas 16 to 28. From them we glean and learn that the following barges are boats participated in the Regatta and races.
Ceremonial Barges and Boats in order of Yey Khin Taw Protocol
Pyi Gyi Mun
Thone Lu Pu Zaw
Lin Zin
Pa Thone
Pyi Kone
Thara Bu
Loka Beik Hman
Dwa Laung
Than Thu Mara
Manoke Thiha
Naga Deva
Lwan Kyin
E Kin
Thara Beik Hman
Kama Kaw
Thinka Net
Hlaw Ka Taw Gyi
Ginga Zeya Hlaw Ka Taw
Kaw-ka Nuda
Thu Yaung
Pyinsa Yupa
Thatta Yupa
Nawa Yupa
Dattha Yupa
Dwa Dattha Yupa
Thone Lu Tauk Pa
Tala Hein
Shwe Tone
Shwe Nan Sin
War Boats
Yan Naing Hlaw Ka Taw
Phone Taw Naing
Pyi Lone Ya
Thura Nga Gyin
Set Naya Shwe
Min Taya Set Kyi
Pegu Naing-gan
Sit Hlyin Aung
Thu Ye Tu Lut
Ye Hlyant Kyaw
Ye Mun Taung
Pyi Lone Naing
In Byaw
In Ma
Taungoo In Ma
Zinme In Ma
Pyay In Ma
Bye Ta Yaw
Tha Phyu Hlaw Ka Taw
Thu Ye Kyaw
Sit Hlyin In Ma
Kyaw Khaung
Kaung Myit Sit
Ye Sit
Marabin Hlaw Ka Taw
Pyi Long Yu
Thu Ye Pala Hwet
Zala Kha Pin
Aza Lone
Phone Taw Naing-yan
Racing Boats
Let Thin
Let Ywe
Pyi Lone Ant
Ywe Kyi
Pyi Lone Kyaw
Pwe Taing Kyaw
Pwe Lone Tin
Twe Taing Aung
Pwe Taing Aung
Myit Taing Naing
Twe Taing Win
Shwe Tanga
In Pyaw
Tha Lwin Pyu
Htwet Taing Ya
Pyaing Taing Ya
Lu Lin Kyaw
Kat Tu
Ku Root
Lone Pyi
Shwe Laung
Pyi Lone Ya
(To be continued)

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