- By Maha Saddhamma Jotika dhaha, Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
Two great events take place without fail in Myanmar in the month of Nattaw corresponding roughly to December. The first event is the Festivals of Nat-spirits whom Myanmar ethnic peoples believe and propitiate in spite of their religious Buddhism, Hindu Bramahis, Islam and Christianity of all denomination. The word Nattaw itself denotes Nat worship Derived from Pali word Nahta meaning ”resplendent beings worthy of worship. So the month is named Nattaw the month of Nat worship festivals. There are 37 Nats in the Myanmar State recognized Pantheon.
Since the 1st Waxing moon of Nattaw month is The Writers’ Day celebrated across the country this Day should be heighted first. Though 1st waxing moon of Nattaw was officially celebrated during the Japanese occupation of Myanmar during the Second World War [1941-45].
It has long historical background ”The pen is mightier than the Sword” [ ဓားမြှောင် ဇောင်းထက်၊ ကလောင်ဇောင်းထက်] in Myanmar history both the pen and the sword are mighty in the defence of the country, educational and international progress of the people, enlarging of their horizons and awakening of their Patriotism. Throughout Myanmar history till today the brain [The pen] and the brown [the sword works to gather Monastic schools were training places for the pen and sword. Kings, Generals, Ministers, Soldiers even ordinary farmers are trained to possess both brain and brawn. It was the traditional practices of honouring outstanding pens and swords by the King. Known as Hpyin Htat Pwe [ဖျင်ထပ်ပွဲ] held at the court was the honouring of the outstanding writers and soldiers. Cloth pieces woven with Myanmar fine cotton [white or brown red colour-ပင်ဖြူ၊ ပင်နီ] were major items in the royal awards in addition to land, cash, jewelling and title. That event took place at the court in early part of Nattaw month.
Among many honourary titles bestowed upon distinguished Writers and Soldiers Nawade [နဝဒေး] was the highest. Head dress of gold, studded with rubies and letter ”Nawade” on the plate were put on the heads of the awardees by Their Majesties at the grand ceremony at the palace in the month of Nattaw. The recipients took the oath of allegiance to the King, the State and Buddhism that they would continue their service to the end of their lives. In Myanmar literary history there were only two ”Nawade” awardees Nawade I and Nawade II. There mentioned 3 Nawade awardees who did not get that titles from the King Nawade I and Nawade II were not only outstanding in their literary achievements but also in bravery and military service to the Crown and State.
It was in the Japanese Period [Japanese Occupation of Myanmar in World War II] that the then Government of Myanmar headed by Dr. Ba Maw, the Adipati [Head] of State organized a committee of distinguished writers, Professors and historians to choose Writers Day. The committee after research, of Myanmar history, literature and court archives decided to choose 1st Waxing moon of Nattaw as the Writers Day [စာဆိုတော်များနေ့] Hphin Htat Pwe of Myanmar kings held in Nattaw.
Without fail we have been celebrating this day by the Myanmar Government regardless of civil or military. In addition the Writer’s and Journalists’ Associations were organized central to the township levels for literary activities. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Informal Pujas and Honour Ceremony is held at the municipal Town hall of Yangon. Veteran and distinguished writers and Journalists are invited to receive cash, kind and honour by ministers and well wishes.
Then follow literary talks, discussion and seminars across the country. Which Myanmar public of all generations including monks attend and participate. The Ministry of Information holds literacy competitions and literary award in different genres and categories prose, verse, drama, translation. Published books of the year, manuscripts unpublished literary works of the year and belle letters of new generation are selected for literary award by various committees.
The most outstanding award is the live-long achievement literary award. တသက်တာစာပေဆု highest honour conferred upon outstanding writers of long life. Non-governmental literary foundations also give literary awards. Pakokku U Ohn Pe Literary Award, Htun Foundation Literary Award, Saya Wun Tin Shwe literary Award and Dr. Tin Htun O’s Thuta Swezone Literary Award. So the month Nattaw is the month of literary activities all mass media never fail to carry these literary activities. Dailies, Weeklies, Monthlies and Yearlies have special pages for these literary activities. All T.V channels have special programmes for Writer’s Day and literary talks.
Beside, there are programmes of exchange visits of writers with foreign countries – ASEAN member States, East Asia members States, UNESCO, Universities of US, UK, EU, India, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia etc. Myanmar may be economically and technically late in advance but thanks to its monastic education and the above mentioned literary activities, Myanmar is among the top ten of literate countries.
To educate, to inform and to entertain are the three aims of not only Myanmar media but also these of Myanmar Writers.
Pujas and Best wishes to all pens and swords.