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Gossips & Travel Stories

Shin Pyu Ceremony

Ten years ago a German friend of ours met 5 year-old Maung Chit Swe at the jetty of Bagan. He arranged transfers and they traded ball-point pens. Since then, he has been so impressed that he never lost contact with this little businessman.

Chit Swe, third-youngest son among 11 children, lives in Taung Bi, a small village near Bagan.

He attended primary school, and of course helps his father at the peanuts field on one of the little islands in the Ayeyarwaddy River.

Chit Swe, his family and friends at the shin pyu ceremony, myanmar

Festivities at shin pyu ceremony

Buddhist novice on horse's back, shin pyu ceremony, myanmar

Umbrella man at shin pyu ceremony, myanmar

Now, at 15 years of age, time came for him to be novitiated. But his parents could not afford their son's Shin Pyu, the ordination ceremony of a Buddhist novice into the order of monks, the Sangah. Buddhist parents never feel the importance of being parents so much as when the time comes to send their son as monk to a monastery for a period of time.

As our friend's birthday was coming soon he decided to become the donor of the Shin Pyu Ceremony of his friend Maung Chit Swe. The parents were exited about this and all was arranged for the big day to come in a short time. Yellow robes and all the paraphernalia of novices were bought and on the appointed day we arrived at the village. The welcoming 'umbrella man' with his transportable orchestra and his huge grammophone - blasting traditional percussion music - made sure that latest now everybody knew that there was a Shin Pyu Ceremony going on.

And there were the proud parents next to their son whom we did not recognize anymore. In a beautifully, princely robe of white silk and gold, on a decorated horse's back, the gilded umbrella covering his head, he looked with a serious face down to us. The procession thus started, the dancing 'umbrella man' leading, hundreds of villagers following to one of the oldest teak monasteries in the Bagan area.

Surrounded by shady trees, the monastery's compound well kept, we finally arrived at the novice's destination. There was our prince - sitting on a red velvet sofa, surrounded by the donors and family members.

Last pictures were taken, before the shaving knife of the monk touched the boy's head. The parents held a snow-white sheet to receive his hair, which they intended to bury near a pagoda. Only we heard the our friends speaking: "Poor boy, poor boy, now he is bald!". Luckily his parents did not hear that, because for them it was the happiest day in their life.

Chit Swe was led to the chief monk, U Than Wara, who was to be his teacher during his 10 days stay at the Nat Htaung Monastery. With the yellow robe in both hands, he begged permission in Pali to be novitiated, promising not to lie, steal, kill, interfere with wives or daughters, gossip or speak rudely, sing or dance, drink alcohol, or eat in the afternoon.

Novice gets a hair cut from buddhist monk, shin pyu ceremony

His worldly attire was changed and there he stood looking pure and serene in his yellow robe. Now it was time for the parents to paying respect and they knelt down at his feet and paid obeisance to him, with their hands clasped palm to palm and raised to touch their foreheads. Their eyes were filled with tears of joy - what more can a Buddhist parent ask for?

Travel stories:

A Glimpse into the World's most secretive Country
(October 2008)

Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal   (August 2007)
My favourite place in the Golden Triangle  (June 2007)
Finding the Touch of the OC in a tiny Burmese Village (OC Metro) (March 2005)
EU's Hollow Lectures on Human Rights (IHT) (June 2004)
"Pass the Nyapi, Please!" (February 2004)
Travel Report from International Travel News (ITN) (June 2003)
Adventures with the Tuesday Club (March 2003)
About Myanmar Rumours and Unspoilt Beaches (October 2002)
Service in the Tourism Industry here and there - Still a long Way to go... (Summer 2002)
Near the Land of the Golden Triangle (May 2000)
A Heavenly Journey to Mt. Victoria (April 1999)
Shin Pyu Ceremony (April 1999)

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1999 Myriam Grest Thein