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Mount Popa/Taung Kalat, Burma’s Mt. Olympus

Mount Popa/Taung Kalat, Burma’s Mt. Olympus

If you want to visit just one of the actually interesting places Burma has to present Taung Kalat/Mount Popa in central Burma is the spot to go. Alas, it is not anymore as considerably off the beaten monitor as it was 20, 15, or even 10 yrs ago, but however special with a attraction all its very own. And when I say special I imply this in the truest perception of the phrase. Anything like this you will not discover wherever else.

Mount Popa is an extinct volcano practically 5.000 ft/1.520 metre in top. It is found at the northern close of the Pegu Mountains – southeast of Bagan – in Kyaukpadaung Township, Mandalay Division and lined with forest a element of which is only not long ago grown. The name Popa is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Puppa’ what implies flower. Subsequently, Mt. Popa usually means Mountain of Bouquets or Flower Mountain.

Taung Kalat’s background commenced 554 B.C. when the volcano Mount Popa erupted for the final time. With an ear-splitting bang a basalt rock of gigantic proportions divided by itself from Mt. Popa. The piece arrived with a mighty thud to rest upside down just after flying via the air for about 4.5 kilometres/2.8 miles in south-western direction. It is a solitary basalt peak of conical condition rising 737 metres/2.417 ft significant into the sky. Its identify: Taung Kalat.

Taung Kalat is located some 7 miles/11 kilometres north-east of Kyaukpadaung and 50 kilometre/31 miles south-east of Bagan. So, when you are in Bagan do not skip to go to Taung Kalat/Mt. Popa. The monastery of Taung Kalat situated on top rated of the rock formation is one of Burma’s most breathtaking and sacred pilgrimage web pages.

For the Burmese Taung Kalat is all about nats (spirits), their supernatural powers, supplying and worshipping. These powerful nats can make or split your everyday living dependent on how a great deal you feel in them and regardless of whether and how significantly they like you or not.

Legend has it that King Anawrahta of Pagan (1044-1077 A.D.) experienced a rapid-runner by the title of Byatta (a previous seaman of Indian descent from Thaton) who had to fetch fresh new flowers for Anawrahta’s palace from Popa quite a few situations each day. One day Byatta fell in like with Mai Wunna, the Woman of Bouquets, a lovely flower-taking in ogress of Popa. However, this was a little something he had, finally, to shell out with his everyday living for simply because he significantly neglected his responsibilities in excess of his marriage with Mai Wunna and was for that reason executed by Anawrahta.

Byatta and Mai Wunna became a pair and had before long two sons named Shwe Phyin Gyi (Significant Gold Pot) and Shwe Phyin Ngai (Compact Gold Pot). These ‘shiny’ names they were presented mainly because King Anawrahta gave his rapidly-runner two gold pots for washing the afterbirth of the toddlers – a large 1 for the older toddler and a small 1 for the younger (little one). But the two brothers grew up into wild, irresponsible young adult men who had been inevitably set to dying for neglect of obligation at the construction of a pagoda. There are nonetheless persons who preserve that the two brothers were victims of a palace intrigue because Mandalay Bodaw the brother’s adviser did not tell them that each and every of them experienced to offer you just one brick for the construction of the Taungbyon Pagoda. When Anawrahta found out about this Mandalay Bodaw was place to loss of life and became the nat ‘Lord grandfather of Mandalay’.

No matter what the explanation for the Shwe Phyin Brothers’ being executed may possibly have been, you require not really feel sorry for the them since they have as the ‘brother nats’ develop into objects of worship to a great deal of persons. Most of them preserve in their shrine rooms a tray with a coconut, one particular or two fingers of bananas, a strip or two of red cloth and a couple other add-ons as choices to the two brothers. Yearly Festivals (nat pwes) are also held in their honour at a number of locations in Burma. The most famed Nat festivals are the Popa/Taung Kalat and the Taungbyon Nat pageant other festivals are held in e.g. Pyay and Bago. Taungbyon is located 30 miles north of Mandalay. To consider portion in the festivals is a have to for these who want to encounter the extremely exclusive feeling made by the ambience of a nat pwe and effectively research spirit-worship in Burma. The Shwe Phyin Brothers’ increase in status did of course also raise their mother’s (Mai Wunna) status. She is worshipped as the Queen Mother of Popa.

But there is a domestic spirit who is senior even to them. His identify is Pabe Maung Tint Dai – Mr. Handsome – the blacksmith. He lived in the age of Tagaung a long time prior to Anawrahta’s Bagan arrived into remaining. He was bodily so powerful that even the King feared for his individual safety and performed a ruse to get rid of the solid man. He created a single of Maung Tint Dai’s sisters – Daw Noticed Me Ya a.k.a. Shwe Myetnha, ‘Golden Face’ – a queen and despatched for him promising wealthy benefits that a royal brother-in-legislation deserved. When the unsuspecting blacksmith arrived at the royal town he was promptly captured, tied to a golden champa tree (Magnolia champaca, in Sanskrit champica) and burnt to dying. When his sister, the queen, noticed what took place, she also jumped into the hearth and laid down her everyday living at the side of her brother.

Their spirits resided from then on in that champa tree and hexed the folks and animals that arrived under it. At very last, the King did not see any other way than to have the tree uprooted and thrown into the Ayeyawaddy River. The tree drifted slowly southwards down the river and got to Bagan during the reign of king Thinlegyaung.

As quickly as king Thinlegyaung acquired the concept about the tree he experienced it salvaged and the trunk sculpted into the figures of the unfortunate brother and sister by his grasp wooden carvers. Once the statues were being done the king enshrined them at Taung Kalat and from then on he visited Taung Kalat/Popa with his retinue once a yr to spend his respects to the two spirits. That was how Mt. Popa/Taung Kalat arrived to be the undisputed centre of nat (spirit) worship in Burma.

The blacksmith Pabe Maung Tint Dai a.k.a. Mr. Handsome, is considering that currently being enshrined with his sister on top rated of Taung Kalat ruling Mt. Popa and Taung Kalat. He is bearing the title ‘ Domestic Lord of the Good Mountain’ and worshipped by many households all around the state. Nevertheless, worshippers never ever offer you candlelight to him out of thing to consider for the way he satisfied his tragic conclude extensive ago they are confident that he does not want to have everything to do with fire anymore.

In addition to becoming the centre of nat or spirit worship in Burma, Mt. Popa is well worth a take a look at for yet another rather unforeseen, but incredibly important motive – it is given that about 25 many years shaping up as a fight-station in the struggle from environmental decay, which is threatening to engulf our mom earth in the in the vicinity of potential.

Mt. Popa lies smack in the centre of the Burma’s dry belt, a region effectively-recognised for its scanty rainfall and scarcity of water. The consequence is that it is surrounded by broad regions of semi-desert, which are increasing constantly and are threatening to acquire into total-blown deserts if nothing is finished towards it. As a result, the with trees coated Mt. Popa is an oasis in the desert-like central Burma a green highland amid yellowish-brown plains and stronghold towards desertification. In 1991 I was explained to that 99 springs were the moment listed here but that several of them experienced dried up thanks to deforestation. Nevertheless, some of them are re-vitalised since an region of 49.63 sq. miles (129 sq. km) has been selected as Popa Mountain Nationwide Park in 1989.

Standing out like an emerald on a gold environment, Mt. Popa has influenced thoughts of awe and romance because time immemorial. Just one of the earliest extant Burmese poems which are very modest in range is a extremely gorgeous just one dealing with it. The mountain was usually held in fantastic regard by the individuals even ahead of the advent of the Domestic-Lord-of-the-Fantastic-Mountain and the Shwe-Phyin-Brothers as it has been thought to be a special abode of nats and a haunt of other supernatural beings like Weizzars and Zawgyis. The Burmese continue to say: “Really like the Buddha, dread the nats.”

You are heartily invited to climb with me the 777 actions up to the holy grail of Burmese nat worshipper on top rated of the system. Permit us go.

769 puff, 770 puff, 771 puff, 772 puff, 773 puff, 774 puff, 775 puff, 776 puff, 777 puff following 30 minutes uphill we have climbed the previous stage and have, eventually, built it up to the summit.

Beginning at the principal entrance with two lion-like legendary creatures (chinthes) that are guarding it and then climbing the partly rather steep stairs top up to the Taung Kalat temples and pagodas positioned appropriate at the mountain’s leading we have passed innumerable stores lining the steps. They are offering e.g. garments, wooden carvings, Tanaka, fruits, monkey meals, bouquets and souvenirs of all kind. One of their most important articles are Zagawa (yellow magnolia) blossoms in very clear glass bottles of different sizes in which the yellow blossoms are preserved with ‘Popa water’. It is reported that this water is preserving the blossoms eternally and this may well be genuine for the reason that my bottled Zagawa blossoms are on the lookout (just after eradicating the dust from the bottle) however fresh following much more than two decades.

And all the way up we have been accompanied by Popa monkeys. We have been fortunate simply because I was warned from my earlier visits. That’s why we did not try to hand-feed them (like the folks who are dwelling here do simply because the monkeys know them well), experienced our shoulder baggage (in which we experienced set our hats) shut and have stored harmless distance so they did not steal anything from us and did not injure us.

These monkeys are Macaques (old entire world monkeys) that represent a genus ‘Macaca’ of the subfamily ‘Cercopithecinae’. No 1 really should at any time forget that they are even now pretty much wild animals, just savoring finding easy food but are if not as unpredictable and unsafe as their wild-roaming fellow-macaques particularly when they are carrying infants. If you are not very careful they are thieving almost everything from you that is not firmly fixed from things that are hanging out of your pockets, baskets, shoulder backs, and so on. to hats, caps, cameras, foods goods that your are holding in your palms, or sunlight glasses or eyeglasses. If you consider to keep on to your belongings they may possibly battle you you far better enable go of them. They are extremely rapid and cheeky. Do not underestimate them at any time.

Having arrived at the leading we are now completely ready to stop by and see the impressive smaller temples’ and pagodas’ exterior as properly as interior although strolling along the slim going for walks passages. There are to see the Popa principal pagoda, other greater pagodas, mini pagodas/stupas, shrines of several measurements and of system the Taung Kalat monastery. Also the fantastic Min Mahagiri Providing Corridor with the 37 nats (spirits), the Mt. Popa Bo Min Khaung Statue, the Mt. Popa bronze bells and a number of attractive Buddha illustrations or photos made of marble and bronze (gold?).

The 37 nats we can see right here are:

1. Thagyamin, Indra or Sakra (King of Nats), 2. Min Mahagiri, Maung Tin Dai, ‘Mr. Handsome’ (Lord of the Fantastic Mountain), 3. Hna ma daw gyi, Noticed Me Ya, Shwe Myetnha ‘Golden Face’ (Good Royal Sister of Mahagiri), 4. Byatta (The Royal Messenger to Anawrahta) 5. Mai Wunna (Popa Medaw, Queen Mother of Popa). 6. Shwe Nabe (Woman with Golden Sides, Maung Tin Dai’s wife?), 7. Thon Ban Hla, (Lady Gorgeous In A few Methods, Maung Tin Dai’s more youthful sister?), 8. Taungoo Mingaung (Governor of Toungoo), 9. Mintara (King Hsinbyushin, King of Innwa), 10. Thandawgan (The Royal Messenger to Taungoo Minkaung), 11. Shwe Nawrahta (The younger prince drowned by King Shwenankyawshin), 12. Aung Zaw Ma Gyi (Lord of the White Horse), 13. Ngazi Shin (King of Pinya (1343-1350 A.D.), Lord of the five white elephants), 14. Aungbinle Hsinbyushin (Lord of the white elephant from Aungbinle), 15. Taungmagyi (Lord of Because of South), 16. Maung Minshin (Lord of the North), 17. Shindaw (Lord Newbie of Innwa), 18. Nyaung-gyin (Outdated male of the Banyan tree), 19. Tabinshwehti (King of Burma in between 1531-50 A.D.), 20. Shwe Sit Slender (Prince, son of Observed Hnit), 21. Medaw Shwedaw (Lady Golden Terms), 22. Maung Po Tu (Shan Tea Merchant), 23. Yun Bayin (King of Chiang Mai, King of the Yun), 24. Mandalay Bodaw (Lord grandfather of Mandalay), 25. Shwebyin Naungdaw (Elder Brother Inferior Gold), 26. Shwebyin Nyidaw (More youthful Brother Inferior Gold), 27. Mintha Maungshin (Grandson of King Alaung Sithu), 28. Htibyusaung (Lord of the White Umbrella, Anawrahta’s father), 29. Htibyusaung Medaw (Lady of the White Umbrella, Anawrahta’s grandmother), 30. Pareinma Shin Mingaung (The Usurper Mingaung), 31. Min Sithu (King Alaung Sithu), 32. Min Kyawzwa, U Min Kyaw, Ko Gyi Kyaw (Prince Kyawzwa), 33. Myaukpet Shinma (Girl of the North), 34. Anauk Mibaya (Queen of the Western Palace, King Kyanzittha’s spouse), 35. Shingon (Girl Humpback), 36. Shigwa (Lady Bandy-legs, sister of Mandalay Bodaw), 37. Shin Mi Hne (Tiny woman with the flute).

Having said that, out of the 37 nats that are exhibited right here only four, particularly U Maung Tin Dai, Lord of the Good Mountain (Mr. Handsome), Daw Saw Me Ya (Sister Golden Deal with), Byatta and Mai Wunna (Popa Medaw) have their official spot of residence on top rated of Taung Kalat.

And there is, last but not minimum, the breath-having check out from the major of Taung Kalat on the bordering space. Because the weather is good right now we can see behind Bagan the Yoma Mountain range stretching from north to south alongside the Ayeyawaddy River.

Before we go away the temple platform I want to convey to you who Bo Min Khaung, the tiny statue of a person on a horse we have just handed on our way out, was or greater is. I say, “who he is” and not “who he was”, for the reason that the Burmese people today deem him a holy person and do strongly believe that that he is even now alive and on his way to Enlightenment. The state of enlightenment he has so considerably refused to attain due to the fact he wants to are living as extended as it normally takes that Arein Madeiya, the new Buddha also referred to as Meitreya comes. Bo Min Khaung made use of to be a human currently being just like we are but in fact he was not merely a male he was a Weizzar and worshipped in several Burmese households. These Weizzars have supernatural powers. What this implies to Burmese folks may come to be clear when you recognize that the term ‘Weizzar’ means in Pali wisdom. Weizzars, so it is considered, can fly in the air, dive into the earth, wander on h2o, make multiple bodies, be at many locations at the similar time, hear seems that are quite significantly away, can see items that are far, far absent or extremely, extremely little, browse other peoples’ minds, see matters as they genuinely are and not as they appear to be to be, materialise factors out of slender air, and so on. There are people today who say that they were being advised about Bo Min Khaung by persons that were being near to them (these kinds of as their fathers, elder brothers or academics) who claimed to have individually satisfied him (Bo Min Khaung). Well, to me (not being extremely superstitious and/or animist) all of this would seem to be to some degree weird but be that as it could, now you know who Bo Min Khaung is.

By the by, Popa also performed an essential part in the heritage of Burma as effectively as in the background and presence of hermits and Ari monks. They had been very powerful, fantastic exponents of alchemy and magic worshipped nats and represented a mixture of Animism and Buddhism called Ari Buddhism. Nonetheless, the sort of Buddhism they preached and practised has practically practically nothing to do with what is widely regarded and practised as Buddhism in all its a variety of varieties.

I hope you have savored our Taung Kalat/Mt. Popa tour I, for just one, did.