Myanmar Traditional Wedding Ceremony
Since the time of birth until they become adults. Myanmar celebrate 12 auspicious occasions. We are now going to present. one of these 12 auspicious occasions. “ The wedding ceremony ”. When a boy and a girl come of age and. love one another and will want to marry and live happy ever after. a wedding ceremony will be performed for them where their parents. relatives. honourable guests and friends are invited. so that they will be recognized as a newly married couple. This wedding ceremony we present. celebrated according to Myanmar Traditions and computable to the modern age.
As marrying is a once in a life time occasion. Myanmar women regard the wedding ceremony very seriously. and you can be sure the bride will be having cold feet. butterflies in her stomach and perspiration on her forehead as she faces this very special day of her entire life. On this day of matrimony. it's a custom for the bride's family: parents. brothers and sisters. to dress her up in the finest of attire and bedeck her with the best jewelleries they can afford.
With her hip-length jacket….long-length silk or satin “ htain-me-thein”. the bride looks somewhat like a princess of the Royal Court in the olden days of the Myanmar kings. And the bridegroom surely looks elegant an handsome in this traditional Myanmar men's attire which consists of a head-dress called “ gaung baung”. a long sleeve stiff collared shirt. a double length men's silk longyi called a “ taung shay longyi”. a traditional men's jacket and a velvet slipper.
It's a very encouraging and practical custom for the friends and relatives who attend the nuptial ceremony to shower the couple with gifts such as household items and personal affects that will help the marrying couple get on their feet with their life-long journey. To watch parents of the bride and bridegroom heartily welcoming their guests with smiles and handshakes. and observe the wedlock couple give away thank-you card will you warm-up to these delightful traditional customs. The wedding hall is filling up with the invited guests….and as it was the custom in the days of our king to entertain guests with the traditional glass mosaic embedded gold-gilded Myanmar Orchestra. Nowadays. due to time changes. guests are entertained with modern musical instruments. Guests are arriving in full swing; time for the wedding couple to appear is drawing near. You can be sure the bride and groom hearts are beating much faster.
The Master of Ceremony. the person who will consecrate the marriage is now announcing the beginning of the ceremony. Then later. after having recited a special written stanza on the bridal families and shower poetic praises on the bride and groom and then end-up with blessings for the couple to have life-long union and prosperity…at that time the most experienced singer from the band will begin to sing the classical auspicious song. praising the occasion and the participants. a song that befits the occasion.
The flower-girl dips her hand into the silver bowl she’s holding and gently scatter the flowers with the nuptial couple following behind. thread on these flowers. which are meant as good omen. for their life-long union as husband and wife. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Now everyone’s attention is drawn towards the couple who are walking down the carpeted lane of the hall this is the auspicious moment! The bride and groom has entered the ceremonial hall. attended by their bestmen and bridesmaids followed by their parents. Upon reaching the stage and before seating themselves. they turn towards the guests and with hands clasped together; pay their respects with their heads bowed. The garlanding of the auspicious couple is one of the auspicious customs in Myanmar weddings. In ancient days. it was the custom for the bride and groom to garland each other. but nowadays a couple with a long martial standing and of only one marriage. bestows the garlands on the couple. including the wedding rings!
After the wedding rituals are completed…. the guests are treated to refreshments offered by the couple. The married couple warmly greets and thanks the guests who have attended their wedding. The guests in return. bestow on the couple their best wishes. for prosperity and a long and happy married life! After the wedding ceremony. when the married couple arrives home. they pay their respects to parents of both side. according to traditional Buddhists customs. and in turn are blessed by their parents. The “ gei-bo” negotiating begins once the couple tries to enter their brided chamber which by then is blocked by rows of friends and relatives. holding gold chains asking for “ gei-bo” which is pocket-money. A lot of boisterous bargaining and negotiating follows until both sides agree to a negotiated amount. After passing through this last obstacle. the married couple will carry on with their life in building a long lasting and happy marriage for themselves!
Wedding Ceremony by Offering Food & Alms to The Sangha
On auspicious occasions. offertory is dedicated to Lord Buddha and the assemblage of celestials. The offertory usually contains three or five hands of bananas. one coconut and Eugenia sprigs. The auspicious wedding ceremony by offering food and alms to the Sanghas is also no exemption.
In fact. bride and groom work hand in hand untiringly to prepare food and other alms for the Sanghas. setting adorable tradition in itself. Elders from both sides offer sumptuous food and snacks to the Sanghas. The bride and groom offer food. robe and other alms with the firm belief that it is the harbinger of auspicious and happy life for the future. It is also unforgettable for the couple to prepare and stuff a silver bowl with cash and confetti for the ceremony. The Sanghas grace the new home by reciting Parittas to ensure good luck and happiness. The Sanghas deliver sermons to the gathering. blessing the newly-weds and sharing their meritorious deeds. To commemorate the successful wedding ceremony. cash and confetti are strewed among the attendees. The guests happily pick up the cash to keep as amulet. which will ward-off the bad and bring in good fortune.
It is a joyous and auspicious occasion for the newly-weds to begin their family life eternally in accord with Myanmar tradition. And it has become the solemn duty of the newly-weds to enrich human society as a wedded couple. They surely will enrich Myanmar way of life and we do hope so.
Court Marriage Ceremony
There are also court marriages usually performed by judges ranging from township to Supreme Court Justices. depending on the wish and accessibility the partners. Wherever the wedding is performed. the couple wants to show and receive acceptance from society that they are eligible and duly married before respectable personages. Here we are presenting the court marriage of a youthful. vibrant and beauteous couple. Not so large a number of guests have already gathered. as the ceremony is to commence soon.
Court marriage requires judge as well as witnesses. The wedding ceremony we are presenting now has the good fortune of having the presiding judge and the witnessing law officer. both of whom are accompanied by their wives. Firstly the bride signed her signature to two copies of the marriage documents and the groom-followed suit. After the witnesses signed. the judge gave his blessing and best wishes and signed in the document and the court register. Thus. the couple became husband and wife legally. With the successful conclusion of the ceremony. the invited guests are having refreshments offered by the newly wed couple. Henceforth. the new couple is going to raise a happy family.
"Mingalarbar” is a word of greeting in Myanmar that came into wide usage only after the country regained her independence. In former days the usual greeting was “Kyan gan thar lo mar yet lar.” or “Mar bar yet lar”. or more informally “Nay kaung lar” which the nearest in English means “How are you?” or “How do you do” to which one replies in like manner without the necessity of going into a long story of one’s state of health. It is the same almost for the Myanmar equivalent. but if someone should take you literally to give a reply in the affirmative it is also acceptable. But then the second person can in turn ask the same question as a form of politeness. Today however “Mingalarbar” has come to be the accepted form of greeting and it is widely used by schoolchildren to greet their teachers. It is also on the lips of tourists and other foreign guests since it has found its way into English-Myanmar conversational phrase books. It is easier said and easier to remember than the cumbersome “Nay kaung bar lar” for those who do not know Myanmar. but wish to use a Myanmar greeting. How this word of greeting originated is still obscure (at least to me!) but it is indeed a most fitting word because the word “Mingalar” has. aside from its religious background. great cultural import in Myanmar society. Some interesting topics are listed as follows.
Myanmar Life Style
- Myanmar Wedding
- Myanmar Family
- Myanmar Perception
- Palm Leaves Inscription
- Table manners and Setting
- Myanmar Longyi
- The Silk industry of Inle
- The Elegant Lotus Robe
- Myanmar Thanakha
- Myanmar Fans
- Pathein Umbrella
- Myanmar Shampoo
- Myanmar Toys
- Myanmar Chess
- Myanmar Mat
- Spirulina of Myanmar
People with a basic knowledge of the culture and custom of Myanmar will find it easy to live with its citizens without friction or discord. and leave in the same fashion. Though Myanmar social customs are quite flexible. the ground rules are important for convivial inter change.
A Myanmar has no family name. A woman has her own name and retains it even after marriage. A child is normally named according to the day of the week he(or she) was born. whereby each day of the week is denoted by certain letters of the Myanmar alphabet. For example. Monday is denoted by the names Kyaw.Khin. Kyin. etc; Thuesday by San. Su. Nyi. etc. Another way to name a child is based on his (or her) date of birth.
A person is usually addressed according to his age. For older people. their names are pre-fixed with U(pronouced Oo) and Daw and are the equivalents of Mr and Ms respectively. A young adult is addressed by the Honorifics Ko (for males) and Ma (for females). A child is referred to as Maung and Ma for males and females respectively. Example: Khin Myat. a departmental manager. could be addressed as U Khin Myat by his colleagues but as Ko Khin Myat or Maung Khin Myat by monks and elders.Maha Thray Sithu. Sithu. Thiri Pyan Chi. Wunna Kyaw Htin. and Naing-ngat Gon-yi titles are civil awards conferred on individuals normally government servants for distinguished service.
Births. engagements. and marriages are considered to be auspicious occasions or tha ye while sickness and death fall into nga ye or sad occasions. When a woman has given birth. it is usual for her friends and colleagues to give gifts such as feeding bottles and clothes. Gifts should never be given before the baby’s birth as some women are superstitious that this will bring misfortune to the baby. When the baby is 100 days old. a name-giving ceremony is usually held. Monks will be invited to chant prayers and bless the baby and in turn meals will be offered to all participants.
Some couples who are getting engaged may throw a party for their families and friends.Guests of honour at such parties are couples who have long and happy marriages. On such an occasion. the male guest of honour will give a speech to extol the virtues of the bride-to-be on behalf of the bridegroom’s parents. If you are invited to an engagement party. you may or may not bring any gift. Couples in Myanmar are married by registering at the registrar of marriages or by going through a ceremony conducted by a respectable couple at a grand hotel or by sheer mutual consent with no ceremony at all.
Suitable wedding gifts depend on the couple’s station n life. If they are young and are not financially stable. a cash gift in multiple of hundred (to symbolise a long life) is suitable. Otherwise. functional items such as crockery. electrical appliances. and pieces of cloth make excellent gifts. Gifts that are taboo include scissors. knives and anything black in color. Among office colleagues. a collection will normally be made to buy a gift for the couple or give the cash collection outright.
When a person is seriously ill. his or her relatives and friends are normally informed. Once informed. the friend or relative has an obligation to visit the sick person. Normally. gifts on such occasions would be fresh fruits or canned cereals. Many old traditional Myanmar are reluctant to be admitted into hospitals. However. with improvements in medical science. this attitude is changing. When a person dies at home. the body is bathed and dressed in the person’s best clothes. A monk will be invited to chant prayers. The funeral will usually take place three or five days after the day of death.
During the interim period. a wake will be held. During the wake. members of the deceased’s family keep vigil during the nights. Visitors who come to pay their last respects to the deceased are often served tea and black melon seeds. If a person dies in a hospital or elsewhere. the corpse id usually placed in a morgue. However. the wake will still be held at the home of the deceased.
Burial is still common in Myanmar but cremation is also performed. The recitation is also performed. The recitation of prayers by monks is part and parcel of a funeral. If one is informed of the death of the death of a friend. it is necessary to send a letter. or telegram if one is unable to visit the deceased’s family or attend the funeral. Failure to do this is insulting to the deceased’s family. Donations are usually given if the deceased ‘s family is financially backward. When you are attending a funeral. do not wear bright e celebrate this festival to rejoice in a good harvest. Also celebrate in January is the Equestrian Festival which dates back to ancient times.
Falling in April. the Water Festival (or Thingyan) is celebrated for three days to usher in the Myanmar New Year. In the cities and towns. makeshift pavilions with stages for singing and dancing are erected. and barrels are filled with water. Young people dance and sing on the stages and throw water on all and sundry. It is believed that being drenched with Thingyan water washes away one’s sin and bad luck. Decorative floats may also take part in processions.
The Kasone Festival usually falls in May. It was on the full-moon day of the Myanmar month of Kasone that Buddha was born. attained Enlightenment and passed away . As Buddha had attained Enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. the grounds of pagodas and monasteries are planted with many of such trees. On this day. people carry earthenware pots filled with water and water the Bodhi trees. Processions are also held in temple grounds.
The Waso Robe-Offering is performed to commemorate Buddha’s first sermon. and falls on the full moon day in June or July. The day also marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. At pagodas. monks are offered free meals and a robe-giving ceremony is performed with pomp and pageantry by disciples.
On the full-moon day of Thadingyut (usually in October). the Festival of Lights is celebrated to mark the descent of Buddha from Tavadinsa or the abode of devas. Arounf this day. pagodas. buildings. public parks and houses are decorated with strings of electric bulns. oil lanterns. or candles. and young people pay respect to their elders by offering them gifts of fruits. cakes or pieces of textiles.
In the Myanmar month of Tazaungmone which corresponds to either October or November. the Kahtein Robe-Offering is performed. This occasion is similar to the Waso Robe-Offering. Also celebrated in Tazaungmone is Tazaungdaing. a second Festival of Lights. At many pagodas through the country. all- night robe-weaving contests are held. The finished robes . which must be completed before daylight. are offered to Buddha images in the pagodas.Christmas is celebrated by those who have accepted the Christian creed with carol singing. parties. and midnight masses. just like in other parts of the world.
Most Myanmar are Buddhist of the Theravada stream. Central to their religious beliefs is karma. the concept that good begets good and evil begets evils. Another belief is tat all living things go through reincarnation. If a person has committed sins. (he or she) will be reincarnated into a lower level being such as an animal or suffer in Hell; on the other hand. if he has done good deeds. he will be elevated to a higher level of existence to the world of devas. The ultimate aim in life according to Buddhist belief is to escape the cycle of rebirth and reach Nirvana.
Meritorious deeds that will help a person to achieve Nirvana include giving donations ( especially to monks) and abiding by the Five Precepts and practising Bavana (meditation).The Five Precepts are exhortation not to kill. steal. lie. drink alcohol. and commit adultery. The Five Precepts are codes of conduct for laypeople. There are also Eight. Nine and Ten precepts. meant to be practised by more serious lay devotees. The Jemghas or monks have to abide by the 227 rules of conduct or vinayas.
Some Myanmar people. especially those from the rural areas. have many superstitions. Astrology. palmistry and clairvoyance are sometimes relied upon to make important decisions. These may include marriage. going into a business partnership. naming a baby. and others. To offset bad luck. certain meritorious deeds or yadaya may be performed such as setting free some live birds or animals. building a footbridge. or mending a road.
Superstition of different cultures are interesting in some ways. Here are some of the Myanmars:-
- Don't go underneath a staircase. You will loose your will power.
- Don't go under a pole or rope. where women used to hang-dry their longyis. You will loose your will power.
- Don't leave a shoe or a slipper up-side-down. It'll cause bad luck.
- Don't keep a broken glass or a mirror in homes. Replace the window panes asap if broken.
- Don't wash your hair within a week after a funeral in the neighborhood.
- Don't hit the pot with a ladle after you stir the curry. It's like hitting your parents' head.
- Don't hit 2 lids of pots and pans against each other. A tiger may bite you.
- Don't feed someone with the palm upward. The food might cause you disorder.
- Don't clip your nails at night. Ghosts don't like that.
- Don't take kids to dark places. Ghosts may posses them.
- Carrying some hairs of an elephant tail will avoid evil.
Myanmar parents favour their sons over their daughters but the latter are treasured as well. Daughters are not considered a burden as no dowry is paid to the bridegroom when they marry. Traditional Myanmar women are not aggressive and usually play second fiddle to their husbands. Women are expected to help with the household chores and take care of their aged parents more than men. Where social life is concerned. unmarried women and bachelors tend to mix with members of the same sex. Between married couples. public displays of affection are rarely seen.
Myanmar employees are hardworking and loyal to their bosses. In return. a boss is expected to be a father figure and give help in times of need. Such help may be the giving advice to sort out personal problems or the granting of a loan in a financial crisis. As in all Asian cultures. Myanmar respect people who are older than them. To avoid friction in the workspace. make sure that a subordinate is not resentful of working under a younger supervisor. Negative communication is usually indirect. If it is necessary to discipline an employee. it is best to do it in private and with tact. Loss of “face” is a serious matter among Myanmar people.
Friendship. trust. and honesty are important in a business relationship. Favours received. such as introducing a potential client or supplying a reference. must be repaid at a future time. When two Myanmar businessmen meet for the first time. chances are that business may not be discussed in depth. Rather. the meeting may be spent evaluating each other’s personality and business strengths and weaknesses. In general. it is easier for Asians to deal with Myanmar businesspeople than Westerners.
A Happy Myanmar Family
Much has been said about the institution of family in Myanmar. that it is essentially a relationship based on specific duties and responsibilities on the part of husband. wife. parents and offspring. These rights and duties are taken seriously and adhered to closely (although being human there may be lapses). Love and respect. rights and responsibilities are the foundations of a Myanmar family irrespective of religious creed. This holds true today as it did in ancient times and is a tradition that we hold dear. But there is another basic element that knits a family together although it has not been given much prominence. And that is the love and humour that is very much a part of Myanmar family life. Not much has been said about the fun and laughter that a Myanmar family enjoys. but it is there. The ability of the Myanmar people to look on the lighter. if not funny side of life is carried over into family relationship.
As. I'm sure it has been mentioned often enough. the father of a family is the "Ein Oo Nat" (Lord of the forefront of the house). Which also implies that the mother rules the rest of the household. The term "Lord of the front of the house" will probably conjure up a stern and remote figure to be approached warily with humility and respect. Far be it. There is even a popular song "Hpay Hpay Gyi Ko Chit Tai" meaning "We love big Daddy". Generally. we think father melts quicker than mother when a child sheds a few crocodile tears. Mother sees through the children's foibles and fables and when she picks up a cane children are apt to run crying to father.
Myanmar people as parents are usually indulgent with children. No self-respecting mother will let her infant child cry but pick it up at the first whimper. But by school going age they have been taught the basics of discipline and morality. Mother sees to that. But. there is a lot of fun and laughter that help to strengthen the bonds of love. Father on return from work is greeted joyfully by the children. They run to him. clamber over him and ask for goodies. A small daughter is quite capable of running into the bedroom and come out trailing a "pasoe" (men's nether garment) for father to change into. Another older child might run to fetch a glass of cool drinking water or a fruit juice. All this goes on till mother shoos them away for father to have a bath and relax a bit.
Then there is the evening meal with the family around the table. The first choice morsel goes to father. but it somehow gets back to the tiniest tot or others in turn. The parents eat sparingly if they are not affluent and see that the children get the lion's share. But you should listen to the chatter and banter at the dinner table. Father teases one or the other of the children. Myanmar children can be mischievous and deliberately let cats out of the bag. - about mother scrimping on meat and groceries to buy the latest 'batik'. Or someone or other will say artlessly that father's breath smells tangy or sour- if he has had a secret nip or two on the way home much to mother's annoyance.
There may be some form of corporeal punishment in poorer homes where the parents are ignorant and under some financial stress. but downright physical or mental abuse of children is rare. And if there is. the neighbors will see to it that it doesn't happen too often. There may be tears but there is also humour and affection.
A pre-teen son will try to support a staggering drunken father and put him to bed and an elder daughter baby sits younger brothers and sister for mother who is out trying to supplement the family's income. When such a family comes into a windfall. they will all get dressed in their best and get on a crowded bus or mini-bus to go the pagoda or. to the zoo if they should happen to live in Yangon. In smaller towns and villages they will go to a video hall (for want of a better word) or go see an all-night drama (zat pwe) at some pagoda festival. The children will gorge themselves on ice-lollipops and all kinds of roasted things - corn. peanuts. pumpkin and sunflower seeds or a wide variety of Myanmar snacks. Each of them. if lucky. may have a helium balloon or at the very least a Myanmar papiere mache doll to play with.
If a foreign visitor is observant enough. he will probably see on weekends or on holidays. a family dressed in their best. the youngest child in the mother's arms. the second youngest astride the father's shoulders and the rest tugging at mother's skirt or father's pasoe straggling along the sidewalk on their way to catch a bus home. The parents look hot and exhausted and the children are tired too. But for them all. it has been a day of fun and excitement. a day they will talk about for a long time afterwards. till the next holiday comes around.
Myanmar children are taught to love and respect their parents. But they may like all children. sometimes "talk back" to parents and be cheeky. When the parents are in a good mood they get away with a mild rebuke. if not they're in for a spanking. But the children do not fear their parents. They are wily enough to know how far they can go.
The close bonds of Myanmar family life become clear when a daughter or son enters the teens and start to show an interest in the opposite sex. A growing daughter makes the father fidgety and he looks on all boys as: "swine among the pearls. they marry little girls". But when the son shows an interest in girls. the Myanmar father. like all fathers. preens himself and thinks "Oh! chip off the old block." On the whole. especially in middle class educated families. an offspring is free to choose his or her mate. within reason.
Sometimes. of course. there is a runaway marriage. If it is a daughter. a mother will beat her breast and shed oceans of tears. But then the boy's parents come along with downcast eyes and apologies and assurances that they will put things right. that is. hold a wedding feast to declare to all and sundry that their son has chosen his bride. If however the son of the house has brought home a wife. then the boot is on the other foot. The boy's parents have to take the girl back to her parents and give assurances of their good will. Sometimes of course things go sour. but it's rare. And when a grandchild comes along all is forgiven. All focus is now on the newcomer who will be showered with love from grandparents. parents and uncles and aunts plus a horde of relatives.
To Myanmar people. all children are "Yadana" that is treasure. but there is play on the syllables that admonishes them not to be "Ya - dar - nar" that means "unfortunate to have had you".
Ancient Myanmars wrote their records on slabs of sandstone or bronze. gold plate. palm leaves and parabaik or writing tablet made of paper. cloth or metal in the form of accordion folds.Palm-leaf inscriptions are usually made on corypha palm leaf with stylus. Palm-leaf inscriptions are made on corypha palm leaf or on toddy palm leaf which is more common.
Palm-leaf inscriptions are usually made on corypha palm leaf with stylus. Palm-leaf inscriptions are made on corypha palm leaf or on toddy palm leaf which is more common.Scholars believed that the earliest use of palm-leaf inscriptions was begun by Pyus of Srikestra. Religion. astronomy. astrology. medicine. history. legal code of Dhammathat. poetry. literary records were mostly written on palm leaves.
Every palm leaf has one punched hole on either end called Palin Bauk. For systematic safe keeping. palm leaves are stacked on two bamboo rods called Palin Tai which run through the punched holes.
Then the bundle of palm-leaf writings is bound with two wooden blades called Kyan the wooden blades are coloured in black. red or gilded as desired.Then. the bundle of palm-leaf inscriptions is wrapped up in two layers of cloth.
The inner layer is usually cotton and the outer one is silk or velvet. The bundles of palm-leaf inscriptions are then wrapped up in bamboo-ribbed roll of cloth called Sar Palwe. The wrapped up manuscript bundles are kept in large-teak case called Sar Taik which means manuscripts box.
Nowadays. many people are no longer familiar with palm-leaf manuscripts or parabaik. The preservation of these manuscripts is a national duty so that the posterity may enjoy our cultural heritage.