Burma And The Elephant Dance

At the outset I want you to know that for a correct being familiar with of this post it is crucial to get into account that there is a close romance involving Burma, the Burmese individuals and elephants and want to briefly describe why this is so. The elephant is the largest land animal (mammal) and in all nations with or with out wild elephant inhabitants elephants have generally been very well favored and admired for their significant size, huge toughness, intelligence, cleverness and sheer grandeur. In countries this sort of as India in which Hinduism is a dominant perception and in Asian Buddhist nations around the world this kind of as Burma (considering the fact that 1989 also known as Myanmar) the elephant is also deemed really auspicious and is worshipped for his religious importance.

For those people not so acquainted with Hinduism and Buddhism to fully grasp why – specially the white – elephant is sacred and so closely linked with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs it is important to know that, for instance, the religious Indian figure that is always depicted with an elephant head is the potent Hindu god Ganesha (in Burma known as Maha Peinne) one particular of the globally very best-acknowledged (mainly because of the elephant head) and most worshipped deities of the Hindu heavenly abode and that the later on Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was according to legend conceived by his mother Queen Maya following a white elephant was presenting her with a lotus flower the prevalent image of wisdom and purity on the eve of offering start and soon after she experienced dreamed that a white elephant had entered her human body. And what concerns the Burmese nat worshipper and the nat worshipping part of Burmese Theravada Buddhism there is the highly effective guardian spirit of the elephants, Uttay Na, who is worshipped by everyone who has to do with elephants (this features the persons generating the elephant figures for the dance competitions) and, previous but not the very least, there are also the nats Ngazishin, Lord of the 5 white elephant as nicely as Aungbinle Hsinbyushin, Lord of the white elephant from Aungbinle.

Elephants have in the area that is presently Burma/Myanmar normally played an crucial function in a lot more than one way what is, amongst other folks, mirrored in the truth that the white elephant is an recognized symbol of and omnipresent in Burma. White elephants are e.g. usually guarding the entrances to Burmese pagodas and white elephants are also depicted on all Burmese financial institution notes (Burmese/Myanmar Kyat). Due to the fact of the low value of the Kyat cash do not exist otherwise there would absolutely be elephants on.

In Burma, the land with the all over the world second largest population of wild Asian elephants (India has the largest) and major selection of captive Asian elephants, the elephant, in normal, has been utilised as performing or timber elephant, war elephant and the white elephant, in specific, belonged by legislation to the king and was employed as royal method of transportation when the king was searching, travelling, rode into battles or took section in parades or processions the much more white elephants a king possessed the greater was his standing and the more potent he was the elephant as royal status symbol.

A different example that correctly demonstrates the value the possession of white elephants was given is the names of Mon and Burmese queens and kings. For instance, the Mon queen Shin Noticed Bu experienced the title ‘Mistress of the White Elephant’, the Burmese Kings Kyawswa I of Pinya claimed the title Ngarsishin (Lord of 5 White Elephants, King Kyawswa II of Pinya claimed the title Laysishin (Lord of 4 White Elephants) and King Sin Phyu Shin’s title means Lord of the White Elephant.

The latter is of program portion of Burma’s heritage but the previous (working and timber elephant) is however extremely substantially section of existing-day Burma as is the Kyaukse Elephant Dance in Burmese Kyaukse Shin Ka.

The little town Kyaukse in which as the name indicates the Kyaukse Elephant Dance is originated from is situated in central Burma 25 miles/40 kilometres south of Mandalay, the funds of the previous Burmese kingdom and 20 miles/31 kilometres south-east of the historical Burmese capitals Sagaing, Ava and Amarapura about halfway between Sintgaing and Suu Lay Kone at the National Highway No. 1 and the railway keep track of connecting Rangoon/Yangon with Mandalay. The ‘town’ Kyaukse is truly one of four townships that make up the Kyaukse district. These 4 townships are Kyaukse Township, Sintgaing Township, Myittha Township and Tada-Oo Township.

When approaching Kyaukse (township) two white elephant statues welcome you and it is no incident that these elephants are standing there. Nonetheless, the reason for their getting positioned there is like so lots of factors in Burma’s background concealed at the rear of a thick display screen of fantasy and legend what, by the way, delivers ample place for interpretation.

A single of the different legends conveying these elephants existence has at its centre the Pagan/Bagan king Anawrahta who reigned from 1044 A.D. to his demise in 1077 A.D. His demise was as legend has it (a further legend) induced by a wild buffalo referred to as Cakkhupala that was in fact not a buffalo but a former enemy of Anawrahta who appeared in the variety of a buffalo. Nonetheless, the much more probable lead to of his dying is assassination.

In accordance to the ‘Kyaukse Legend’, Anawrahta has returning from China from where by he brought some Buddha relics designed camp with his entourage someplace shut to what was later to turn into Kyaukse. The relics – so it is stated – were so useful to him that his intention was to location them in a pagoda develop specially for them at a acceptable put. The question to be raised at this level in time is why he did not deliver them to Pagan and discover a location deserving of them there?

The exact concern is – by the by – to be asked with respect to the record of the – as lots of individuals say – ‘5 Buddha images’ (which is not true mainly because they are 1 or 2 Buddha statues and 3 or 4 disciples) now housed in the Phaung-Daw-Oo pagoda at Inlay lake. These Buddha statues have been – yet again as legend has it – remaining guiding hidden in a cave close by the lake by the Pagan king Alaungsithu (who reigned from 1112 A.D. to 1167 A.D.) when he arrived again from a journey to the Malayan peninsula. Why did he not convey them to Pagan but hid them in a cave at the Inlay Lake? But now I am off subject.

Again to Kyaukse and the elephants wherever as an alternative of ready until his return to Pagan king Anawratha put the relics on his favourite white elephant’s Thanmyinzwa back in order to have the elephant lead him to a spot where by to create the pagoda for the relics.

As a person of numerous a little unique variations of this legend has it the elephant squandering no time led Anawrahta to a hillside positioned east of what is presently Kyaukse wherever he first knelt down at the Tha Lyaung Hill and then continued to the Pyat Khar Shwe Hill exactly where he knelt down the 2nd time. The question was now where to create the pagoda, at the position of the elephant’s initially or 2nd and past end? Anawrahta’s response to this question was to develop a temple at the Kha Yway Hill and a pagoda at the Shwe Tha Lyaung hill. On the other hand, this component of the legend is not tally with the actuality. There is certainly a temple in Kyaukse – the Tamote Shinpin Shwegugyi Temple – that was originally a 1 storey structure crafted by Anawrahta in Pagan fashion (a 2nd storey was extra by the Pagan king Narapatisithu) but this temple is not found at the Kha Yway Hill but some but 8 miles/13 kilometres north of Kyaukse (township) in Tada Oo township not pretty far from Mandalay Global Airport. Also, the distance of 8 miles which is really a great deal sets me pondering. From this inconsistencies follows that there is some confusion concerning the names and destinations of the temple or pagoda.

Be that as it might, the Shwe-Tha-Lyaung (the reclining Buddha) pagoda is ever since its completion the venue for the annual Shin-pwe, the Elephant Festival with the elephant dances that takes put in commemoration of the pagoda’s building and also – even though to a much lesser extent – the elephant nat Uttay Na.

The elephant dance competition is celebrated on the day before the total moon of Thadingyut, the Mild Festival in Oct.

Considering the fact that extended real elephants are replaced by artfully crafted synthetic elephant figures or costumes. Inside of these figures are 2 guys performing the elephant’s actions.

The fundamental elephant comprises two skeletons (a single for the human body and just one for the head) produced of bamboo and a skin produced of paper mâché and items of black or white cotton cloth and textile these kinds of as, velvet and satin. The paper mâché elements get following becoming adequately dried a remaining coating with black or white paint what also serves the function of floor defense. While the white elephant is the royal variety are for realistic factors most of these elephants black.

The moment the two parts that make up the simple elephant are prepared they are richly and colourful decorated ‘royal-elephant-style’ with e.g. glass gems, synthetic pearls, gold foil, sequin and embroidery. Elephants embellished largely with sequin (what usually takes longer to do and is a lot more pricey) are judged in a individual level of competition.

In purchase to make the skeleton that provides the body the condition and balance essential fresh new environmentally friendly bamboo stripes that have for factors of higher pliancy been soaked in drinking water are utilised. Since the hindpart of the system will have to deliver adequate space for two dancers and their actions its form is cumbersome, of straightforward form, built in open-tummy style and has a hole for the head that is worn and operated by the entrance-dancer. Imitations of the elephant’s legs are textile tubes worn by the dancers ‘trouser style’. The head with tusks is a serious piece of artwork and modelled lifelike of paper mâché. Attached to the head are the ears of cardboard covered with textile and a trunk created of bamboo rings sewn into a textile tube. As a ending touch the title of the elephant dance crew is put on the sides of the elephant’s human body. This is carried out possibly by painting it right on the elephant figure’s surface area (skin) or by way of e.g. attaching an embroidered piece of material.

Building these 2-piece elephant costumes necessitates a superior level of craftsmanship and is accomplished by household businesses in Kyaukse that are specialising in this craft and are popular for their expertise all around Burma. They do not only make the elephant figures for the elephant dance and dance level of competition but also, for illustration, designs and statues by client specification and all types of modest and medium sized multi-goal paper mâché figures these kinds of as elephants, Delighted Owls’, horses and so on. They can be employed for decoration purposes, as young children toys, for choices, can be bought as souvenir to travellers, and so forth. The awareness and techniques desired for this artwork and craft are handed down from era to technology. Every enterprise has their very own tips, which belong to the strictly guarded spouse and children secrets and techniques.

The plan and method of the building of an elephant determine is taking place based mostly on spiritual things to consider. In accordance to these it is in get to guarantee biggest feasible accomplishment significant to, for starters, choose an auspicious day and day for the commencing of the get the job done. When this is decided on it is equally critical to make prior to the commencing of the do the job on the elephant figure flower and candle light choices and say prayers. Work on the elephant have to not start soon after noon (12:00) mainly because this is considered to be inauspicious. Constructing an elephant figure can quickly take months from get started to finish.

Inside the elephant outfit two men are dancing to the generally in particular composed tunes of dobat and bon shay (long drums). This is no uncomplicated task as to get and retain the important synchronisation and elegance of actions to conduct the unique from time to time downright inventive figures of the elephant dance perfectly demands exact timing and rhythm of the two dancers. What worries the dancing component the dancer in the again performs the major position whilst the movements of the head are done by the entrance dancer. The dancers practise up to 1 12 months (with the old elephant costume) to complete the bodily quite demanding regular Burmese elephant dance techniques and actions beautifully mainly because a great deal is at stake in phrases of fame, glory, level of popularity and cash.

Competitions are held in 4 disciplines, which are ‘Traditional elephant dancing competition’, ‘Child elephant dancing competition’ (below 10), ‘Best classic elephant figure’ and ‘Best sequin elephant figure’.

The cash prizes awarded to the victors and 2 runners-up in the respective self-control are ranging at the time of this creating among Burmese Kyat 200.000 (application. US Greenback 200) to Burmese Kyat 1.000.000 (application. US Greenback 1.000). This is for the men and women of Kyaukse and the Kyaukse district who in their vast majority do not constantly uncover it easy to make finishes meet a whole lot of pretty welcome funds a windfall, as it ended up. But this is not all. The victorious teams will through the calendar year of their victories be invited to other gatherings and get the opportunities to exhibit off their capabilities and bask in the glory of currently being champions. Their very first demonstrate following the victory will be to dance the following working day – the complete moon working day – at the pagoda on the hill’s leading what is a great honour. And, final but not minimum, they will go down in the ‘Kyaukse Elephant Dance’ history.

The ‘Kyaukse Elephant Dance Competitions’ start off in the early early morning of the working day just before the Entire Moon Working day of Thadingyut on the industry location of Kyaukse located at the foot of the Shwe Tha Lyaung hill, which the ‘elephants’ have to encompass a few moments. This for two explanations to start with, to equivalent the ‘Three Jewels’ in Theravada Buddhism the Buddha (The Enlightened), the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (Buddhist monk community) and, next, in order to give the jury and the spectators sufficient prospect to intently inspect the elephant figures and make images if they so wish e.g. family members members of the contestants, holidaymakers and journalists undoubtedly do.

There are generally additional than 50 teams from diverse cities and villages that are competing for the championship title. Virtually all of these groups have extremely beautiful elephant figures that effortlessly endure the dance competitions undamaged and dancers who are executing their dances beautifully so that it ought to be genuinely difficult for the judges of the juries that are manufactured up of pagoda trustees, Kyaukse city and township officers as perfectly as other dignitaries to determine on who are the winners, who are the runner-up and who does not even make it into the group of the ‘Top-Three’.

Principal standards for the efficiency appraisal are e.g. standard visual appearance, excellent of the elephant figures in phrases of craftsmanship, good quality of the decoration, top quality of the dance efficiency, the quality of the music and singing that accompanies the dance general performance and the top quality of the teamwork (dancers, ‘mahout’, musicians and singer).

For those teams that do not make it into the best groups the disappointment is surely deep just after all the sweat shed in the course of quite a few exhausting coaching several hours and the heaps of money spent for the elephant outfit. But there are next year’s competitions to glance forward to this yr it did not function out properly but up coming calendar year it undoubtedly will.

The festive award ceremonies acquire location in the night and all participants and spectators go household to prepare for the upcoming day when the pagoda pageant will take place.

Prior to continuing with the subsequent, the whole moon working day I would like to draw your consideration to the a lot of elephant dance groups that are not having aspect in the competitions but do rather – led by their ‘mahout’ – dance from property to home and shop to shop in the city to entertain the individuals and check with for donations. Well, basically it is the ‘elephant’ that is inquiring and not the dancers what as you can envision has a incredibly beneficial outcome on the peoples readiness to donate. Not to point out these elephant dance groups would be grossly unjust for the reason that they are integral section of the pageant and are a lot favored by the people today of Kyaukse and readers from other locations. I like to say that when the ‘professionals’ who are taking place in the regular elephant dance competitions are ‘playing opera’ the ‘amateurs’ who are dancing by the streets considerably to the delight of the persons are ‘playing musical’. 1 of my favourite items is ‘The Drunken Elephant’. For these elephant dance groups it is extra about pleasurable, having fun with the peoples’ being joyful with their overall performance and the (at times not so) smaller funds they get from them in exchange for the satisfaction they are supplying.

The upcoming morning at ‘Full Moon Day’ the winner teams of the elephant dance competitions and virtually 1000’s of devotees are location off to circumambulate the pagoda clockwise a few times, make their offerings comprising foods, h2o, incense sticks, candles, tiny white paper umbrellas and small paper mâché elephants and check out the elephant dance performances.

Donations are also made at the nat house of Uttay Na, the guardian patron of the elephants.

One remaining remark elephant dances are executed all through the country and at times both equally elephant and dancers are excellent but none of these matches the grandeur of what is revealed on the event of the Kyaukse Shin Ka Pwe (Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival). If you happen to be in Mandalay about this time you should not miss this exceptional and most entertaining celebration. I advise you expend one night in Kyaukse. Please book your home early plenty of. It will be a person of the trips you will hardly ever forget about 100{60dc4a529cf75e41b22ffde620560cf5fd805bfd2fdcb855dfe908ab50dd8b87} certain.