Burma And The Elephant Dance

by Sofia

At the outset I want you to know that for a proper understanding of this article it is important to take into account that there is a close relationship between Burma, the Burmese people and elephants and want to briefly explain why this is so. liveshowideas The elephant is the largest land animal (mammal) and in all countries with or without wild elephant population elephants have always been well liked and admired for their massive size, enormous strength, intelligence, cleverness and sheer grandeur. In countries such as India in which Hinduism is a dominant belief and in Asian Buddhist countries such as Burma (since 1989 also called Myanmar) the elephant is also deemed highly auspicious and is worshipped for his spiritual significance.

For those not so familiar with Hinduism and Buddhism to understand why – particularly the white – elephant is sacred and so closely associated with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs it is important to know that, for example, the religious Indian figure that is always depicted with an elephant head is the powerful Hindu god Ganesha (in Burma known as Maha Peinne) one of the globally best-known (because of the elephant head) and most worshipped deities of the Hindu heavenly abode and that the later Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, entertainement was according to legend conceived by his mother Queen Maya after a white elephant was presenting her with a lotus flower the common symbol of wisdom and purity on the eve of giving birth and after she had dreamed that a white elephant had entered her body. And what concerns the Burmese nat worshipper and the nat worshipping part of Burmese Theravada Buddhism there is the powerful guardian spirit of the elephants, Uttay Na, who is worshipped by everyone who has to do with elephants (this includes the people making the elephant figures for the dance competitions) and, last but not least, there are also the nats Ngazishin, Lord of the five white elephant as well as Aungbinle Hsinbyushin, Lord of the white elephant from Aungbinle.

Elephants have in the region that is nowadays Burma/Myanmar always played an important role in more than one way what is, among others, reflected in the fact that the white elephant is an accepted symbol of and omnipresent in Burma. topshows White elephants are e.g. often guarding the entrances to Burmese pagodas and white elephants are also depicted on all Burmese bank notes (Burmese/Myanmar Kyat). Because of the low value of the Kyat coins do not exist otherwise there would certainly be elephants on.

In Burma, the land with the worldwide second largest population of wild Asian elephants (India has the largest) and largest number of captive Asian elephants, the elephant, in general, has been used as working or timber elephant, war elephant and the white elephant, in particular, belonged by law to the king and was used as royal mode of transportation when the king was hunting, travelling, rode into battles or took part in parades or processions; the more white elephants a king possessed the higher was his status and the more powerful he was; the elephant as royal status symbol.

Another example that perfectly demonstrates the importance the possession of white elephants was given is the names of Mon and Burmese queens and kings. LiveMusicCity For instance, the Mon queen Shin Saw Bu had the title ‘Mistress of the White Elephant’, the Burmese Kings Kyawswa I of Pinya claimed the title Ngarsishin (Lord of Five White Elephants, King Kyawswa II of Pinya claimed the title Laysishin (Lord of Four White Elephants) and King Sin Phyu Shin’s name means Lord of the White Elephant.

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