Novitiation ceremony is the unique characteristic in Myanmar. This ceremony usually celebrates during the school holidays, mostly in summer holidays at March & April before the water festival. In the Myanmar tradition the boys are compulsory to enter the Buddhist order for a week or more.
In the Myanmar Buddhist tradition it is compulsory that every boys over eight years old to twenty have to enter the Buddhist Order for a week or more as a novice and over twenty they have to enter the Order again as Ordained Monk. At least twice in his life he becomes a member of the Order and sometimes even more. They stay at a monastery is not considered a hardship because it is a blessing for the whole family as well as for the boys themselves. Monks or novices can stay as long as they wish.
A formal Novitiation ceremony involves a parade around the pagodas on the first day with the boys all dressed up as princes. In the afternoon their heads will be shaven and they will enter the Order. On the same day or the next there will be a feast for monks and invited guests. If sisters of the Novices have their ears pierced at the same time, they also are the important participants in the celebrations.
At the ceremony the line of a dozen cars drive orderly with musical troop follow an a roofless truck car playing music and songs loudly for dancer who take place on the roof top with funny dance to amuse people. To pay homage to the Buddha they go to a famous pagoda at their town, parade clockwise to the pagoda, the parents take place at the front, the fathers carry the Alms bowl and fan and the mothers carry the casket contain robes. Next to them are Monks-to-be and Novices-to-be with their attended holding Gold umbrella over them and a group of girls carry decorated offertories follow them in line. Musical troop and their merry making dancer make all the funs and tease the girls. After the pagoda they have to visit a nat (sprit) shrine for homage. Then finally go to the monastery shave the hair and ask permission from the Abbot to be novice. As a novice he has to observe eight precepts and learn the Buddha teachings from his preceptor.
Novitiation is the obligation for every parent, rich or poor, since it is believe to be a great meritorious deed which could prevent them to be at the evil realm.
Puppetry is the most popular show in Myanmar arts and culture. The puppets are backed by expert manipulators who conversed, joked and relative humorous stories through their puppets to the delight of the audience. At least four manipulators took charge of a character using handling rods and strings at the back of the curtain and give voice to the puppets. Puppets are beautifully dressed in lavish embellishment with gilded materials and semi precious gems, depends on their characters.
Puppet shows usually take place at pagoda festivals, which are like country fairs. Marionette theatre is now mostly confined to tourist venues in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan.
One of the first thing that the first time visitors notice sooner or later is the faces of the women of all ages and children coating with yellowish white substance.
Then they ask the guide: What is that white stuff on their faces? What is that for?
The guide explain them proudly about the “Thanaka” which is the beauty secret of Myanmar women. In the bedroom of a Myanmar woman on the floor besides the dressing table there has an 8″ long Thanaka wood cutting, a flat circular surfaced whetstone or grind stone and a small water bottle with a pore on the lid. After a bath she sits at the whetstone put several drops of water on it and rub the Thanaka cutting on the whetstone continuously at a circular motion with body pressure. Because of the friction of water soaked whetstone and the Thanaka wood bark the paste forms on the whetstone. When the enough paste of Thanaka deposited on the whetstone, it has collected by forefinger and apply on the face and body.
Thanaka is truly an organic medication for a skin condition and multipurpose. Since mildly astringent and emits a fragrant aroma it is good to use as a combination of skin conditions, perfume and cosmetic.
It cools the skin; control oiliness by tightens pores and thus prevents pimples, as well as being a most effective sun block. Its use originated with the women when transplanting rice seedlings in the paddy fields on the month of July, August under the tropical sun exposure. To protect from excruciating hot rays of the sun, the women wear thick layer of Thanaka on their arms and faces. For the city girls Thanaka is applied for beauty as natural make-up and for fragrant aroma.
It should say Thanaka is the gift of the Saint to Myanmar women. Because Thanaka trees are very hardly thrive well on non-fertile soil of Upper Myanmar arid region where there has a little rainfall. Thanaka trees are perennials and the age must be 35 years old to be mature enough to yield good quality cuttings.
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