Tug of War competition, one of Myanmar’s intangible cultural heritage, must be preserved without irresponsible criticism

As an intangible cultural heritage of Myanmar, tug of war contests should be preserved and people should avoid irresponsible criticism, Ko Htake Tin Sithu Hein, a great-great-grandson of King Mindon told the Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM).

Tug of war competitions to call for rain in the hot weather have been seen in some cities, causing a backlash among Myanmar netizens and he commented on criticism such as talking about it just as a concept of retrogression.

“Bad habits in Myanmar’s culture must be discarded. This tug of war contest doesn’t hurt anyone. And reciting Nga Yant Min sutta to ward off harm is a custom based on Buddhism. It is not common in lower Myanmar and it is a belief in the dry zones of Anyar (upper Myanmar). They believe it will rain the next few days. So, they keep on believing. The exact starting period cannot be pinpointed, but this custom has been found since the Ava and Nyaungyan eras. It is a thousand-year-old custom. This heritage should not die out in our time,” he said.

Some people said that tug of war contest was just for fun, but deep believers in it replied that they arranged such a contest after communicating with the nat spirit of Moe Khaung Kyawswa.

“Reciting Nga Yant Min sutta is a tradition where water is poured on the image of Bodhisattva Nga Yant Min with reverence. It is a miracle that it rains the next day. This is an intangible cultural heritage. It is an abstract thing in people’s minds- not a concrete thing. Our people usually claim that our culture is stolen only when other citizens show it. But they cannot even appreciate a real heritage by irresponsibly accusing it of being an unnecessary activity. It is contradictory,” he said, explaining his views.

A tug of war contest that calls for rain is meant to show the strength of unity and can be adopted as a sport.

“Whether it rains or not, it is very lovely. It shows the added strength of united efforts. It is a competition among local people in their own village or ward. You could say it is a kind of sport. During the competition, people make offerings to Moe Khaung Kyawswa nat spirit. Play tug of war. Then they recite Nga Yant Min sutta and pour water on the image of Bodhisattva. We should not allow these customs to disappear. As a nation, Myanmar must continue to preserve this tradition,” he told the GNLM. – Thit Taw/ZN

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