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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda: A charming reclining buddha

If I have to describe this Buddha image, I have to say first that it is charming and then effeminate. Staring at the face of this Buddha, I can see a handsome Buddha but then as I go through the details on the lips, the painted nails on his fingers and feet, I can see that the image is effeminate. As in any other pagodas in Myanmar we were able to visit, the hall is populated with pilgrims.


The Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda in Yangon is known for its enormous 65 meters long Reclining Buddha image.
The highly revered image is housed in a large shed North of Kandawgyi Lake. The original image was completed in 1907. When after many decades the Chauk Htat Gyi image was in a bad state of repair, a devout Buddhist decided to restore it. During renovations in 1966 about 5 meters were added to the image. The renovation was paid for entirely with donations from Buddhists and foreign tourists. The names of the contributors are inscribed on the beams of the building.(http://www.renown-travel.com/)

The Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Buddha image is very impressive 65 meters long and 16 meters high. Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha image is wearing a golden robe; the right arm of the Buddha is supporting the back of the head. The Reclining Buddha image is decorated with very expressive colors, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow, golden robe and red finger nails. The soles of the feet contain 108 segments in red and gold colors that show images representing the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Buddhist people pay their respect to the Reclining Buddha burning incense sticks and offering flowers. (http://www.renown-travel.com/)


Inscriptions on the marble giving a glimpse on the virtues of Buddha.


Pilgrims pray to the Buddha.


I snapped a photo of the interpretation of the images on the sole of Buddha. 


The Distinguishing Marks of the Soles of the Buddha



1 to 23




40 to 81


76 to 108


This is said to be the original reclining Buddha. No charm at all, I must say.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Myanmar: My Travel Notes on Yangon (Part II)

Happy to sit for a little while in this temple. 
I was able to enjoy watching the praying pilgrims.

The next day, we went to see the Chauk Htat Gyi or the Reclining Buddha. It is in this pagoda that I was able to just sit down, relax and just revel in the content faces of the pilgrims. A travel website describes this pagoda as home to a very impressive 65 meters long and 16 meters high Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha image wearing a golden robe with the right arm of the Buddha supporting the back of the head. This Reclining Buddha image is decorated with very expressive colors, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow, golden robe and red finger nails. I must say, this is a charming and a little effeminate image of the Buddha. Also, the soles of the feet of this image contain 108 segments in red and gold colors that show images representing the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha.

This is the local guy.


The Reclining Pagoda.

In this pagoda, I met a friendly local who showed me how to do their ritual according to their birthdate. As in any other temple, around the Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha image is a number of shrines, one for each of the eight days of the week in Asian astrology (Wednesday is split in two days) where local people pray to the shrine belonging to the day of their birth. They bathe the buddha above the animal representing their day of birth when I was there because it was Thingyan Festival.

While my friends are negotiating for the harp called Saung, the national musical instrument of Myanmar, outside the Chauk Htat Gyi, another friend and I breezed our way to the Sitting Buddha or Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda, located just a little walk across the street.

The Sitting Pagoda

The Nga Htat Gyi Buddha image is housed in a large iron pavilion. Its golden dome is topped with a multi tiered hti, an ornamental spire shaped like an umbrella. The walkway to the temple is adorned with murals, including depictions of Buddhist Hell, where sinners receive punishments for their sins. Seated on a pedestal with the back towards an ornately carved wooden screen is the very large white Nga Htat Gyi image in Royal regalia wearing a golden robe. The image which is also known as the “five storey Buddha” measures nearly 14 meters high. The Nga Htat Gyi Buddha image in the Bhumisparsha mudra of “Calling the Earth to witness” was built in 1900. An image measuring about 6 meters tall is believed to have been in the temple in the 16th century. I must say that this Buddha is similarly painted as the reclining buddha but has evident masculinity with its rounded face. The temple is also populated with old folks and has many images standing around. Upon our return to the reclining Buddha temple, our two friends happily informed us that they bought their Saung.

Botataung Pagoda.


Pretty offerings to Buddha for sale outside the temple.

My last morning in Yangon was spent walking the street towards the Yangon River where the Botataung Pagoda is located. My friend and I risked having our morning bath from the hoses for water-splashing which we cannily evaded, only to be duped by innocent children bringing small pails of water.; we were not spared! But then, that was fun despite the fact that it spoiled my map. We did not enter the temple and contented ourselves looking around. There are truckloads of pilgrims going down to visit the temple. Some must have slept in the big truck, I surmise. We saw betel nut-chewing boys and Thanaka-kissed girls enjoying their new year festival. The flowers and offers to Buddha sold outside the temple is as vibrant as it was in any other temples we visited. As we continue our walk, we played with the pigeons along the river. Yangon river is huge and not exactly clean but they have warehouses and wharves along the riverbank.

The view of the Yangon River.

As in any other places in Asia in this region when it's summertime, the summer heat in Yangon cut our roaming hours and on top of that, the splashing of water in the major streets is also limiting our walk tours. I was not able to shop at Bogyoke market but I saw that it's a big complex area. I missed the Karaweik Palace where dinner and a cultural show was being held, I was not able to go to Khaiktiyo or the Golden Rock, just three hours drive from Yangon or the nearby histric town of Bago. I visited no museum and missed the little Yangon zoo. I missed a lot of places and this only meant that I have reasons to return.

The Pigeons abound.

Myanmar is sure ready to welcome me back, with its impressive highways connecting it to ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay. We left out Inle lake and other small places to go but I am sure these places are surely not remote to us in the future. While there are dilapidated buses plyng around, we also saw many night buses when we were travelling out-of-Yangon which are modern. Even the people are not remote because the Myanmarese are generally nice people. Many can also manage to communicate in English too.

Fact Source:
Wikipedia, Renown-travel.com, and Shwedagonpagoda.com  

Myanmar: My Notes on Yangon (Part II)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Myanmar: My Travel Notes on Yangon (Part 1)

It took me a year to prepare for my summer vacation with seven other friends at this remote culture-rich ancient country. I have nothing but search engines, and backpacker's hotel are hard to find because Yangon is surrounded by five-star hotels which maintain topnotch websites. Hmmm, is this a remote country? I suspect that it is not.

As months went by, when the Mayanmarese leader forged an agreement with our president to make the travel among Filipinos in Myanmar visa-free, I was elated; I saved some dollar notes and some expense in going to the capital, Manila (This eliminated the Yangon airport exit fee of crisp ten dollars too!).

One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

Upon arriving at the airport, we passed by the immigartion officer's counter and I observed that the Myanmarese greeters outside are visible. They reminded me of our close-family ties too. These greeters must have abound perhaps because of the upcoming Thinyan festival, their New year festivity which is primarily celebrated by splashing water all over for symbolic cleansing. This celebration is like San Juan in the Philippines but for entirely different reasons, the former is for cleansing of the misdeeds in the current year inorder to usher the new year with a clean soul and the latter is for the Christian celebration of the baptism of St. John The Baptist. The common tie is that both are spiritual celebrations.

One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

With the big, clean and impressive airport, I once more wondered whether this is really a remote country. We had a delayed flight but the free airport pick up ride from a local budget hotel waited for us with no additional charge despite the evident approach of midnight. As we headed the hotel, my head turned left and right after seeing consistently big buildings. Despite the jet-lag and hunger, I still remember that I took time to wonder whether Myanmar is really a remote country. I slowly decided that it is not.

In the morning, we took a walk and we realized we passed by hospitals, hotels, corporate buildings, and residential apartments. The trashes are everywhere as expected from any bustling capital city and everyone, male or female, is wearing their longyi (long skirt) and their Thanaka sunscreen. There are temples with Buddhist Hti design and temples with Hindu design. The people I find in the locality are either slim, of regular height and brown-skinned or darker like Indians. There are many streetfoods too, ranging from cold desserts to prunes and some fried stuffs. In the evening, we went out-of-town to Bagan and Mandalay until we returned to resume our exploration of Yangon.

One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

On our return, we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a pagoda also known as the Golden Pagoda or Great Dagon Pagoda is with very impressive crown or umbrella called Hti. It is a fact that this pagoda began as 8.2 meters and today, it stands close to 110 meters and is covered with hundreds of gold plates, with the lower stupa plated with 8,688 solid gold bars and the upper part with another 13,153. The the top of the stupa is encrusted with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires and other gems; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond as well as 1065 golden bells.

The Shwedagon Pagoda with pilgrims.


On our next night, we went looking for dinner and we ended up eating fruits of melon, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple and drinking freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice. We passed by many food stalls. We reached the Sule Pagoda but we did not go inside but rather contented ourselves taking its picture from the outside.

The sliced fruit vendor in the night market stalls 
set up along the major road of Yangon.


The Sule Pagoda

Myanmarese legend has it that the site where the Sule Pagoda is standing was once the home of a powerful nat or spirit named Sularata or the Sule nat. The king of the nats, Sakka, wished to help the legendary king Okkalap build a shrine for the Buddha's sacred hair-relic on the same site where three previous Buddhas had buried sacred relics in past ages. Unfortunately, these happened so long ago that not even Sakka knew where the relics were exactly buried. However, the Sule nat, who was so old that his eyelids had to be propped up with trees in order for him to stay awake, had witnessed the great event. The gods, Nats and humans of the court of Okkalapa therefore gathered around the Sule Ogre and asked him the location, which he eventually remembered.

Nothing in Sule Pagoda is older than a little more century old but this pagoda is best remembered as the center of Yangon in terms of physical location, politics and ideology.

This must be the City Hall. They set up a stage in front of this building for celebrities 
to wow the crowd in connection with the Thingyan festival (New Year).

That night, when circled the pagoda and found Maha Bandula Park or Maha Bandula Garden crowded with merry-goers, still in continuation of the 5-day Thingyan celebration. The park has some nice fountains that refreshingly misted us and they put up a stage for singers to entertain everyone in what I can only surmise as the Yangon City Hall. The High Court of Yangon is also located just around this park. Since, it is nighttime, we had limited photos but with daylight, I believe the buildings around are interesting photographic subject. This park is named after General Maha Bandula who fought against the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824–1826, and includes the Independence Monument, an obelisk in commemoration of Burmese independence from the British in 1948.

The good catch from the river, I suppose.


Some green vegetables.


Fact Source:
Wikipedia, Renown-travel.com, and Shwedagonpagoda.com
To be continued....

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Poem on Thingyan Festival: Maha Thingyan in New Year

This must be the small glutinous rice balls formed 
by women on the street of Yangon
 in celebration of the Thingyan Festival.


This a lady's market basket filled with Padauk flower.


The Myanmarese enjoying their splashing of water along the road.


Padauk flowers in the bloom
Thingyan Festival is coming soon;
Fragrant water will be splashed
Affectionate ties are to be blessed;
Traditional short drums appear
With amusing style of Shwe Yoe dancer;
His melodious dance is so prominent
Making onlookers feel acquainted;
Eugenia leaves spread its shoots
Fresh and green are for strong mood;
Wishing free from all dangers
Splashing water each other;
Tagu month is unrivaled
Fantastic moment with festival;
Auspiciousness is extended
All can enjoy the calmness;
Thingyan clear all angers
Smile appears together;
In pouring Thingyan water
Old years' defilement are cleared;
Joyous moods are in rhythm
Happy, exciting in Thingyan;
As one of the ancient cultures
We should conserve it forever;
Small glutinous rice dumplings
They keep our hearts exciting;
Washing hairs of the aged
Doing merits seasonal trait;
Good deeds turn out peaceful minds
They represent tranquil signs.

Pho Laylone Thaung Ko Ko
Translation: AK 
12 April 2014 The New Light of Myanmar

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Myanmarese's Ritual inside the Pagoda

This the Garuda, my animal sign.

While visiting the Reclining buddha in Yangon, I was approached by an old man and he accompanied me in circling the area. He brought me in a sort of an altar with buddhas on top and corresponding animals below each. The pilgrims were bathing the Buddha and there were eight of them and eight animals forming a circle.

While preparing for this blog, I found this helpful website in determining what animal I am in the Myanmarese's planetary post. Here is the link. I found out here that I was born on a Sunday and that my zodiac animal sign: Garuda (mythical bird, Hindu/Buddhist bird diety) and my Ruling Planet: Sun; Ruling Direction: Northeast. And being a Garuda, my personality /Attributes are: You are kind and generous. You would give the shirt off your back to someone in need. Some think you are overly gracious. You love a challenge. The tougher the obstacle the more motivated you are to crash through the barrier to reach your goal. You are energetic, and rarely allow life to get you down. You naturally motivate others, and are an inspiration to many.

tiger for Monday (ta nin la)


Burmese walk around the stupa clockwise (let ya yit). The day of the week a person is born will determine their planetary post, eight in all as Wednesday is split in two, a.m. and p.m. They are marked by animals that represent the day, galon (garuda) for Sunday (ta nin ganway), tiger for Monday (ta nin la), lion for Tuesday (in ga), tusked elephant for Wednesday a.m.(bouddahu), tuskless elephant for Wednesday p.m. (yahu), mouse for Thursday (kyatha baday), guinea pig for Friday (thaukkya) and naga (mythical dragon/serpent) for Saturday (sanay). Each planetary post has a Buddha image and devotees offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish. At the base of the post behind the image is a guardian angel, and underneath the image can be seen the animal representing the day. The base of the stupa is octagonal and also surrounded by small shrines, eight in number for each day of the week. (Wikipedia)

lion for Tuesday (in ga)


Most Myanmar people are Buddhist, at the same time believing astrology which originated from Hindu Brahmanism. It is very important for every Myanmar Buddhist people to recognize the day of their birth, such as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday etc. Otherwise, he or she may not know which part of pagoda platform to go and make special devotional acts either his or her desire or by the advice of Astrologer.

Myanmar astrology recognizes the[neutrality is disputed] seven planets, namely Sun, Mon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn. In addition, it recognizes two other planets, Rahu and Ketu. All the Myanmar names of the planets are borrowed from Hindu astrology, but the Myanmar Rahu and Ketu are different from the Hindu Rahu and Ketu. The Myanmar considers them to be distinct and separate planets, whereas Hindu astrology considers them to be either the Dragon's Head and Tails, or Ascending and Descending Nodes. To the Myanmar people, Ketu is the king of all planets. As with other Nations the Myanmar name the seven days of their week after the seven planets, but Myanmar astrology recognizes an eight days week, Wednesday being divided into two days; until 6 p.m. it is Wednesday, but after 6.pm. to the midnight it is Rahu's day.

 tusked elephant for Wednesday a.m.(bouddahu)


 tuskless elephant for Wednesday p.m. (yahu)

The basic belief of Myanmar astrology is that the planets, except Ketu, mould a man's fate. The planet of a man's birthday will be the main guardian of his fate, but at each particular period of a man's life a particular planet throws upon him its baneful or its beneficial influence. For example, at one period of his life he will be under the influence of Saturn and ill-fortune will befall him, but at another period he will be under the influence of Venus and good fortune will result. Thus the ebb and flow of a man's fortune depends on the paths in the sky of the planets.

Most Myanmar Buddhist approach an astrologer for something or another, whether to go ahead with a move to a new house or get married or pass exams or doing new business. The astrologer would do some calculations according to the magic formulas he alone knows and arrive at a certain conclusion. The astrologer would sometime say that he or she is under the bad influence of a certain planet and to counter this the clients should go to his or her birthday planetary post and pour a certain number of cups of water or place papier mache umbrellas or flowers etc. as "yadaya" or to put it in English, a symbolic counter to avert the bad influences the subject is under currently or looming in the future by using the inherent powers in his or her offering plus some personal wishes. Or, the symbol of water in conjunction with the symbol of a planetary post will mean that he may send a Wednesday born to pour water at the Saturday corner, and so on. He alone knows the symbols connected to each and he alone can calculate on what day or time to do it, and where. And whoever do not want to avoid misfortune and bad luck just by pouring water at one’s planetary post and ensure one’s peace of mind and end of anxieties.

mouse for Thursday (kyatha baday)


guinea pig for Friday (thaukkya) 


When Myanmar Buddhists go to the pagoda, they know in their hearts that they are treading the noble path to that state where the best of human nature will have a fair chance to manifest itself in deeds of generosity, loving kindness and compassion for one's fellow beings.

Visits to pagodas are important to Myanmar Buddhists. The guiding force is faith in the efficacy of one's own karmic deeds. For example, contemplation of the infinite compassion of Buddha, as one makes one's way to Shwedagon's great stupa, is a good karmic deed.

Naga (mythical dragon/serpent) for Saturday (sanay)


The pilgrim, on his way up the steps of the pagoda, buys flowers, candles, coloured flags and streamers. They are to be offered in honour of the great stupa wherein are enshrined the relics of Buddha. This act is the act of dana, or giving, an important aspect of Buddhist teaching. The donation boxes around the pagoda receive offerings large and small, given to the pagoda for general purposes. All donations are voluntary, from the smallest coin put into the box to the priceless jewels hung on the top of the pagoda. No fees are ever requested at pagoda for use of the lifts or for the minding of footwear. The pilgrim can make whatever donation he chooses and may even make none if he wishes. (Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rudyard Kipling on Shwedagon's golden dome: 'It says, This is Burma!"

A vacation to Myanmar is not about food or shopping or art. It is about religion, observing Myanmarese culture and way of life, it is about walking barefoot (and eventually accepting it!) in each house of Buddha. Arriving in Yangon, one is welcomed by buildings, old and new, big and small. But being in Yangon means one can visit Mayanmar's oldest pagoda (and the world's!) called Shwedagon Pagoda. 


English writer Rudyard Kipling who is best-known for his "Jungle Book" is said to have had set foot in this Pagoda in 1889 and exclaimed that, "Up till that sight my uninstructed eyes could not see that the land differed much in appearance from the sunderbuns, but the golden dome said: 'This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.'" (Wikipedia)

No wonder about that, because the Shwedagon's crown or umbrella is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane. The very top, the diamond bud tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond. (Wikipedia)


It is just amazing to watch pilgrims doing their ritual.
It reminds me that humans are spiritual beings even before any religion was named. 

Monks can be pretty updated with their gadgets.


Admiring the golden dome.

Wikipedia has this to say of the pagoda's history: According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. According to tradition, two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, met the Lord Gautama 
Buddha during his lifetime and received eight of the Buddha's hairs in 588 BC. The brothers traveled back to their homeland in Burma and, with the help of the local ruler, King Okkalapa of Burma, found Singuttara Hill, where relics of other Buddhas preceding Gautama Buddha had been enshrined. When the king opened the golden casket in which the brothers had carried the hairs, incredible things happened:
There was a tumult among men and spirits ... rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell ... the blind beheld objects ... the deaf heard sounds ... the dumb spoke distinctly ... the earth quaked ... the winds of the ocean blew ... Mount Meru shook ... lightning flashed ... gems rained down until they were knee deep ... all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit.”



The full moon in between the Pagodas.

According to some historians and archaeologists, however, the pagoda was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries AD.

The stupa fell into disrepair until the 14th century, when the Mon king Binnya U of Bago had the stupa rebuilt to a height of 18 m (59 ft). A century later, Queen Shinsawbu (1453–72), Dhammazedi's mother-in-law, raised its height to 40 m (131 ft). She terraced the hill on which it stands, paved the top terrace with flagstones, and assigned land and hereditary slaves for its maintenance. She yielded up the throne to Dhammazedi in 1472, retiring to Dagon; during her last illness she had her bed placed so that she could rest her dying eyes upon the gilded dome of the sacred fane. The Mon face of the Shwe Dagon inscription catalogues a list of repairs beginning in 1436 and finishing during Dhammazedi's reign. It mentions Queen Shinsawbu under a Pali name of sixty-six letters. By the beginning of the 16th century the pagoda had become the most famous place of pilgrimage in Burma.

A series of earthquakes during the next centuries caused damage. The worst damage came from a 1768 earthquake that brought down the top of the stupa, but afterward King Hsinbyushin (lit. Lord of the White Elephant) of Konbaung Dynasty raised it to its current height of 99 m (325 ft). A new crown umbrella called hti (ထီး) was donated by King Mindon Min in 1871 after the annexation of Lower Burma by the British.

An earthquake of moderate intensity in October 1970 put the shaft of the hti visibly out of alignment. A scaffold was erected and extensive repairs to the hti were made.

The pagoda is listed on the Yangon City Heritage List. (Wikipedia) 


Offering solemn prayers to Buddha.


A monk who seemed to guard the Buddha.


One of the many Buddha structure in the Pagoda.