By: Harry Hpone Thant

Kyezu Kabar Sai Yaw (Thanks Be To You)

Kachin Manau Festival

Since the dawn of time people had thanked Mother Earth for providing them with food and shelter. Communities hold ceremonies to mark and thank Mother Earth for the bountiful harvest she had provided for the previous year and to pray for the same in the years to come.

December brings in the icy winds across the high summits and by January winter is already in the northern regions of Myanmar. But by that time the harvest has been gathered and new fields must be readied for the next cultivation season. So it is a good time to remember Mother Earth and all the gods of the universe.

Our mountain cousins, the Kachins and the Rawangs who live on the high mountains in the north of the country celebrate this occasion with communal dancing and rejoicing while at the same time paying respect to the various gods of the fields and the forest, the mountains and the rocks, the steams and the rivers as well as to the good and the evil spirits that are integral to their lives.

On research into the Myanmar Encyclopedia we find that there are many kinds of Manaw celebrations in the Kachin traditions. And also many differing stories on the emergence of Manaw dance as described in the Myanmar Encyclopedia. One theory is that the birds who attended a dance by the Gods witnessed this dancing and on their return danced around a tree in imitation. A human couple saw the dancing birds, taught to dance like them and it spread out from that time. The second is that when the Gods that govern the universe and the earth came down from their abode, lesser gods and humans went to welcome them. On reaching earth all danced in joy and jubilation and thus was born the Manaw celebration dance.

There are 4 main Manaws as per the Myanmar Encyclopedia. Manaws are celebrated to mark many aspects in the life of the Kachin clans. Padang Manaw is performed to mark victory. Another is for house warming. Ju Manaw is to ward off the evil spirits if there is an epidemic in the locality. But the Sut Manaw is a Manaw for Praying for Prosperity and Thanksgiving.  This would be the Manaw that will be celebrated annually at Myitkyina.

Kachin Manau Festival at MyitkyinaThe Manaw Kwin or the venue where the Sut Manaw will be held is just at the outskirts of the town. The centre of the grounds is dominated by what are known as Manaw Taings or Ceremonial Manaw Poles painted with traditional Kachin motifs. On the appointed time the shamans (native nat sayar) will lead the paying of respects and obeisance. They will ask for favorable harvests and good fortunes for the community to the various nat guardians with food and fermented rice wine together with the clan elders in front of a Nat shrine erected inside the grounds. Traditional gifts are exchanged with good wishes for health and prosperity to all present. Clad in colorful costumes with plumes of peacock feathers bobbing on their headdresses they lead the dancers and start the ritual dance. The people follow them like in a conga line. The males with swords waving and the women with fluttering handkerchiefs will wind around and around the ceremonial grounds to the sounds of the traditional music. Other visitors can join in also as this is a communal celebration of thanksgiving, a tribute to Mother Earth and all those that guard the forests and the fields.

But whatever the reason or ritual the Manaw celebrations at Myitkyina has become an annual occasion where not only the different clans of the Kachins but other nationalities of the country plus our foreign friends all join in  and dance in the true spirit of friendship and unity.


Article Source: courtesy of www.enchantingmyanmar.com

Photo Credit: Sonny Nyein


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