Getting married in Myanmar: traditions and beliefs | The Myanmar Times
Because of the current regime's lack of legitimacy and poor human rights record, it is common practice outside the country not to use the name Myanmar. How that ritual takes place, however, depends on the beliefs and practices of the In Myanmar society, a husband and wife can announce their marriage simply by date and time of the ceremony, as well as the colour of the wedding dress. The "arranged marriage," customary in so large a part of Asia, is still to be found in . We have no such tradition in Burma, but I don't think that our women feel.
Men usually feast first and then women take their turn. The money that the groom brings to marriage is placed in an earn next to offerings of fruit. For a Buddhist wedding, a senior, respected man or monk chants some Buddhist scripture. The groom enters and sits on a cushion. The bride does the same to the left of the groom. The couple leans forward with flowers in their hands and bows as Buddhist scriptures are read by elders and monks to show their reverence to the Triple Gems and to their parents.
The monks are offered alms. The ceremony ends when the couple places their right hands together in a container of water. The couples bedroom is decorated with silk and paper flowers.
Guest walk through it and admire it. Wedding ceremonies are relatively simple except among wealthy families. After speeches by the parents, members of the families and guests share pickled tea. Big weddings are usually held at hotels. There is often music, and singing and dancing troupes to entertain the guests. Conch shells are blown and silver coins and confetti are thrown. Cakes, sandwiches and ice cream are served at the reception. If they are young and are not financially stable a cash gift in multiples of a hundred to symbolise a long life is suitable.
Gifts that are taboo include scissors, knives and anything black in color. Among office colleagues a collection will normally be made to buy a gift for the couple or give the cash collection outright. Traditional Burmese Wedding According to the Myanmar government: Parents, relatives, honourable guests and friends are invited. As marrying is a once in a life time occasion Myanmar women regard the wedding ceremony very seriously.
You can be sure the bride will be having cold feet, butterflies in her stomach and perspiration on her forehead as she faces this very special day of her entire life.
Parents of the bride and bridegroom heartily welcome their guests with smiles and handshakes and wedlock couple gives away thank-you cards. In the old days, as wedding hall filled up, guests were entertained with a traditional glass- mosaic-embedded, gold-gilded Myanmar Orchestra. Nowadays, due to time changes, guests are entertained with modern musical instruments.
He recites a special poem directed at families of the bride and groom and showers praise on the bride and groom, wishing them a life-long union and prosperity. Then the most experienced singer from the band begins to sing a classical auspicious song, praising the occasion and the participants.
Walking on the flowers is meant as good omen for their life-long union as husband and wife. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. This is the auspicious moment! The bride and groom enter the ceremonial hall, attended by the best man and bridesmaids, and followed by their parents.
Upon reaching the stage and before seating themselves they turn towards the guests and, with hands clasped together, pay their respects with their heads bowed. The garlanding of the auspicious couple is one of the auspicious customs in Myanmar weddings. In ancient days it was the custom for the bride and groom to garland each other, but nowadays a couple with a long martial standing, and who have only been married once, bestow the garlands—and wedding rings—on the couple.
After the wedding rituals are completed the guests are treated to refreshments offered by the couple. The married couple warmly greets and thanks the guests who have attended their wedding. The guests in return bestow on the couple their best wishes for prosperity and a long and happy married life! After the wedding ceremony, when the married couple arrives home, they pay their respects to parents of both sides according to traditional Buddhists customs.
In turn they are blessed by their parents. A lot of boisterous bargaining and negotiating follows until both sides agree to a negotiated amount. After passing through this last obstacle the married couple will carry on with their life in building a long lasting and happy marriage for themselves! Another part of the wedding is offering food and alms to the Sangha monksThe bride and groom work hand in hand untiringly to prepare food and other alms for the Sanghas. Elders from both sides of the family offer sumptuous food and snacks to the monks.
The bride and groom offer food, robes and other alms with the firm belief that it is the harbinger of auspicious and happy life for the future. The couple to be married also prepare and stuff a silver bowl with cash and confetti for the ceremony. The monks grace the new home by reciting Parittas to ensure good luck and happiness.
The monks deliver sermons to the gathering, blessing the newlyweds and sharing their meritorious deeds. To commemorate the successful wedding ceremony cash and confetti are strewed among the attendees. The guests happily pick up the cash to keep as amulet, which are believed to ward-off the bad and bring in good fortune.
Court Legal Marriage Ceremony in Myanmar There are also court marriages usually performed by judges ranging from township to Supreme Court Justices, depending on the wish and accessibility the partners. Wherever the wedding is performed, the couple wants to show and receive acceptance from society that they are eligible and duly married before respectable personages.
These too can be joyous occasions with a large number of guests. Court marriages require judges as well as witnesses. The wedding ceremony is usually presided over by a judge and witnessing law officer, both of whom are accompanied by their wives.
Firstly the bride signs her name to two copies of the marriage documents and the groom follows suit. After the witnesses sign the document the judge gives his blessing and best wishes and signs the document and the court register. With the successful conclusion of the ceremony the invited guests are given refreshments offered by the newlywed couple.
Divorce, Polygamy and Mistresses in Myanmar Polygyny is rare.
MARRIAGE AND WEDDINGS IN MYANMAR | Facts and Details
Far more common is the practice of wealthy and powerful men having an informal second wife. Divorce is relatively common and usually involves the couple ceasing to live together and dividing their property. Divorces are easy and informal to get but generally rare after children have been born.
If a couple divorces common goods are usually divided equally and the wife retains proceeds from her commercial activities. If there is mutual consent to the divorce, if the husband and wife both decide — for whatever reason — that they cannot live together, they simply announce the end of the marriage to the headman of the village or to the heads of the two families. But even without this amicable arrangement, a woman can divorce her husband for cruelty, serious misconduct, or desertion, regardless of his consent.
If she leaves him for a year and takes no maintenance from him during that time, he can claim a divorce. A man, on the other hand, must leave his wife for three years before she can get an automatic divorce. The reason for this difference of time is, of course, that business or professional duties are more likely to keep a man away from his family for long periods, but Burmese women often joke about how this just shows that a woman can make up her mind two years faster than a man.
A man cannot marry for a second time without the consent of his first wife, and he must abide by her decision because otherwise she can sue for divorce and a partition of the property. Polygamy is not practiced very much nowadays, especially among educated people, but I remember hearing about the days of my great-grandparents and how government officials who were sent on a tour of duty to the provinces would keep one wife up-country and one in town.
Now one seldom hears of such things on that level of society, though the practice still continues in the lower economic groups. The revolutionary government attempted to remove the landlord class and turned all land over to peasant producers while retaining ultimate ownership for itself. In practice, agricultural tenancy was not eliminated, and producers had the added burden of state intervention.
Afterthe government allowed a greater role for the private sector and foreign investment. While these reforms have allowed greater private ownership, considerable insecurity remains among those who own property.
Sincethe military regimes have emphasized self-sufficiency and tried to limit imports. The largest companies and financial institutions are state-owned, with the private sector limited mainly to small-scale trading.
In recent years, however, more imported goods, especially from China, have appeared in local markets A Burmese woman at a lacquer factory. The main cities and many smaller towns have one or more central markets that sell a wide variety of domestic and imported goods, including clothing and cloth, tobacco, food, baskets, jewelry, toiletries, and electronic goods. There are also specialized markets, such as the iron bazaar in Rangoon's Chinatown. Industrial production focuses on goods for local consumption, although a handful of factories produce for exportation.
Local industries include textiles and footwear, wood processing, mining, the production of construction materials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer manufacturing. Although the country has substantial gem, oil, and natural gas reserves, extraction and processing capabilities are limited.
There is a small tourist industry. There has been a dramatic growth in the number of hotels built since the introduction of economic reforms. Travel restrictions and poor infrastructure have concentrated the tourist industry in a few areas. Legal exports include timber, rice, beans and pulses, fish, garments, precious stones, and rice.
Legal imports include construction materials, plant equipment, and consumer goods. The difference in the value of imports and exports is covered in large part by revenue from narcotics and other illegal exports. Under British colonial rule, Burma was the world's leading exporter of rice, and rice remains the major legal export. Logging was also important in the colonial economy, but excessive harvesting and poor forestry management have resulted in a sharp drop in the availability of teak.
China, Thailand, and India are their main markets for timber, but most wood is exported illegally. Burma is famous for rubies and jade, but sincea lack of capital and expertise has hindered that industry. As with timber, most ruby and jade exports go through illegal channels. Burma is the world's largest supplier of illegal opiates opium and heroinand the export of amphetamines has increased.
Money from the illegal narcotics trade plays a crucial role in the national economy and in keeping the regime solvent. Much of the production of illegal narcotics, however, is in the hands of ethnic rebels in Shan State.
Recent peace accords between the government and some rebel groups have given the regime access to income from narcotics. Thailand and India are Burma's primary sources of legal and illegal imported goods. Small amounts are also imported from other neighboring countries such as India, Malaysia, and Singapore. There is little specialization in the agricultural sector.
Small-scale commercial trading is done by both men and women, with men being primarily responsible for the transportation of goods. Ethnic Indians and Chinese are an important segment in commercial trading, but many Burmese and others are involved in commercial activities. Few tasks or professions are the monopoly of a single ethnic group.
There are various forms of traditional craft specialization. This includes making lacquer ware, stone working, fine wood carving, and working with metal.
Modern technical professions such as medicine and engineering are related to one's level of education and specialized training. Those in the higher levels of commerce and administration generally come from the families of prominent members of the regime, and connections with the regime are important factors in amassing wealth and power. Social Stratification Classes and Castes. Not only is poverty widespread, there is marked inequality.
Essentially, the society is divided into a tiny elite, a fairly small middle class, and a large number of very poor people. While there are traditional elites within most of the ethnic groups and new elites in some groups whose wealth comes from smuggling, the national elite is overwhelmingly Burmese.
In recent years income from the narcotics trade has been an important source of wealth for members of the elite. Although some segments of the middle class have prospered from the economic reforms of the late s, most have not done well and remain poor.
The military has ruled the country since In the face of growing opposition to the government and its socialist policies, Ne Win and President San Yu resigned in Julyand widespread civil unrest followed.
MARRIAGE AND WEDDINGS IN MYANMAR
Elections were held for the member People's Assembly in The People's Assembly was never convened, and many of its leaders were arrested or forced into exile. The military began drafting a new constitution inbut this task has not been completed. The council includes a chairman and twenty other members. The government formed by the council consists of a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and thirty-seven ministers. Leadership and Political Officials.
Political leadership revolves around political intrigues and struggles for power within the military. From untilGeneral Ne Win was the dominant political figure, with other officers and their associates jockeying for positions underneath him. General Than Swe's hold on power since has been far less absolute.
She is currently under house arrest in Rangoon. The majority of the small inner circle around Aung San Suu Kyi are former military officers and associates or followers of Aung San.
Both the regime and its leading opponents therefore form a small political elite. There is an ethnic dimension to political office holding and leadership. The and governments A young child at an initiation ceremony in Mandalay. Those policies sparked ethnic insurgencies led by ethnic elites, and the situation deteriorated when the regime passed a law in that created three tiers of citizenship rights based largely on ethnicity.
At the bottom was a category of "other races" that included naturalized immigrants, mainly from India and China, whose ancestors arrived during the colonial period. Those assigned to this tier cannot run for political office or hold senior government posts. The regime signed peace accords with most of the insurgent groups, but national leadership has remained in the hands of the Burmese.
Social Problems and Control. The authoritarian military regime has been harsh in its treatment of ethnic minorities and rules by decree, without a constitution or legislature. The regime systematically violates human rights and suppresses all forms of opposition. The judiciary is not independent of the military regime, which appoints justices to the supreme court. These justices then appoint lower court judges with the approval of the regime.
Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. The regime reinforces its rule with a pervasive security apparatus led by a military intelligence organization known as the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence DDSI.
The regime engages in surveillance of government employees and private citizens, harassment of political activists, intimidation, arrest, detention, and physical abuse.
The movements and communications of citizens are monitored, homes are searched without warrants, and people are forcibly relocated without compensation. There is no provision for judicial determination of the legality of detention.
Before being charged, detainees rarely have access to legal counsel or their families. Political detainees have no opportunity to obtain bail, and some are held incommunicado for long periods.
After being charged, detainees rarely have counsel. In ethnic minority areas, human rights abuses are widespread, including extrajudicial killings and rape. The regime justifies its actions as being necessary to maintain order and national unity. Although the regime officially recognizes the NLD, political rights are limited. There is virtually no right of assembly or association.
Intimidation of NLD supporters forced the party to close its offices throughout the country. Opponents of the regime have disappeared and been arrested. Detainees often face torture, beatings, and other forms of abuse. There is little academic or religious freedom.
Under the constitution, the regime required religious organizations to register with it. Religious meetings are monitored, and religious publications are subject to censorship and control. Buddhist monastic orders are under the authority of the state-sponsored State Clergy Coordination Committee. The regime has attempted to promote Buddhism and suppress other religions in ethnic minority areas. Workers' rights are restricted, unions are banned, and forced labor for public works and to produce food and other goods and perform other services for the military is common.
Military personnel routinely confiscate livestock, fuel, food supplies, alcoholic drinks, and money from civilians. Sincethe military the Tatmadaw has been the dominant political and economic force, with a large proportion of the population serving in the armed forces since the s. Inthere were an estimatedmen and women in the military; another 73, were in the People's Police Force and 35, served in the People's Militia. Reflecting the country's poverty and international isolation, the military is poorly armed and trained.
Direct spending on the military declined from about 33 percent in the early s to about 21 percent inrepresenting less than 4 percent of the gross domestic product. This decline in personnel and expenditure was reversed in Bythe military had grown to overand military spending had increased greatly. At present, military spending by the government is greater than nonmilitary spending.
Military officers and their families play an important role in economic affairs outside the formal activities of the military. This is true both in the formal economy through government economic entities and in the black market, especially narcotics smuggling. The military's formal role includes intimidation of the population and waging war against ethnic insurgents.
Both men and women do agricultural work, but individual tasks are often gender-specific. Men prepare the land for planting and sow seeds, and women transplant rice seedlings. Harvesting is done by both men and women. Men thresh the rice.
Most domestic work is done by women. During ceremonies, however, men are involved in food preparation. A variety of traditional handicrafts are made within the household or by specialists. Items of metal, wood, or stone generally are made by men, and weaving usually is done by women. Pottery, basketry, plaiting, making lacquerware, and making umbrellas can be done by men or women. Small-scale market selling and itinerant trading are conducted by both sexes.
Transportation of goods or people by animal, carts, boat, or motor vehicle is done mainly by men. Religious specialists and traditional curers generally are male, but sometimes they are female. Spirit mediums can be male or female.
Traditional theatrical and musical performances involve both genders. Women work mainly in teaching and nursing. The Relative Status of Women and Men. Traditional society was known for the relatively high status of women. If a couple divorces, for example, common goods are divided equally and the wife retains her dowry as well as the proceeds from her commercial activities.
However, military rule has undermined the status of women, especially at the higher levels of government and commerce. Women, however, play a significant role in the political opposition to the regime. The higher levels Mingalla Market, Mandalay. Men and women engage equally in small marketplace selling and trading. Marriage, Family, and Kinship Marriage. Individuals usually find their own marriage partners. Arrangements for the marriage may be made by the parents of sometimes an intermediary is employed.
If the parents oppose the union, often the children elope and later the parents condone the marriage.
Getting married in Myanmar: traditions and beliefs
When a man asks a woman's parents for their consent, it is common practice for him to bring a gift for the woman. Wedding ceremonies are relatively simple except among wealthy families. After speeches by the parents, members of the families and guests share pickled tea. Far more common is the practice of wealthy and powerful men having an informal second wife. Divorce is relatively common and usually involves the couple ceasing to live together and dividing their property.
A newly married couple may live with the parents of one partner often the parents of the wife but soon establish their own household. The nuclear family is the primary domestic unit, but it may include extended family members such as unmarried siblings, widowed parents, or more distant unmarried or widowed relatives.
The husband is nominally the head of the household, but the wife has considerable authority.
Culture of Burma - history, people, clothing, traditions, women, beliefs, food, customs, family
Women are responsible for most domestic chores. Property generally is divided equally among the children after the parents die. Descent is reckoned bilaterally. Traditionally, there were no family names. Young children receive a great deal of attention. Newborns are placed in very carefully made cradles. A mother keeps her baby with her when she leaves the house. Burmese women carry babies on the hip, while most hill-dwelling peoples hold them in a sling on the back. Young children are pampered, given considerable freedom of movement, and allowed to handle virtually anything that catches their attention.
Weaning usually takes place when a child is two to three years old. Relative or friends may nurse an infant. Adults take a great deal of interest in children, including those who are not their own.
Child Rearing and Education. Young children undergo several rites of passage.
When a child is a A child carrying baskets on a shoulder pole. Traditionally, all boys of eight to ten years of age attended school in a Buddhist monastery. Children in rural areas grow up surrounded by the implements that they will use when they grow up and watch adults performing domestic, agricultural, and artisanal tasks.
In the past, all boys eight to ten years of age would begin attending school in a nearby Buddhist monastery, where they would learn about Buddhism and be taught to read and write. Those schools gradually gave way to public schools, but many young men continue to receive some education in monasteries.
Under that system, few women were educated; their education took place mainly at home as they learned how to perform domestic tasks. Modern education began under King Mindon —who built a school for an Anglican missionary. Under the British, secular education spread and the country achieved a relatively high level of education. Sincethe educational infrastructure has deteriorated.
Today two-thirds to three-quarters of children drop out of elementary school before the fifth grade. The curriculum is scrutinized by the military regime, and it often is forbidden to teach in languages other than Burmese.
There are forty-five universities and colleges and technical and vocational schools. There has been a steady erosion of higher education since After the civil unrest induring which many students were involved in antigovernment activities, there were widespread closures of universities and colleges.
Since that time there has been a repeated cycle of opening and closing the universities and colleges that has made serious study virtually impossible. The universities and colleges were closed inand only a few were reopened in Etiquette It is considered improper to lose one's temper or show much emotion in public, but the Burmese are a very friendly and outgoing people.
The Burmese and other Buddhists follow the Buddhist custom of not touching a person on the head, since spiritually this is considered the highest part of the body. Patting a child on the head not only is improper but is thought to be dangerous to the child's well-being. A person should not point the feet at anyone. Footwear is removed upon entering temple complexes for religious reasons, and it is polite to remove footwear when entering a house. Almost 90 percent of the people are Buddhists, and the proportion is higher among the Burmese majority.
Burmese follow the Theravada form of Buddhism, which is also known as Hinayana Buddhism and the doctrine of the elders or the small vehicle. In Theravada Buddhism, it is up to each individual to seek salvation and achieve nirvana. Buddhism is believed to have been introduced to Burma by missionaries sent by the Indian emperor Ashoka in the third century B. Buddhism is followed by many of the non-Burmese ethnic groups. While all these groups follow Theravada Buddhism, there are some differences between the in beliefs and practices and those of the Burmese.
Buddhist beliefs and practices include animistic elements that reflect belief systems predating the introduction of Buddhism. Among the Burmese, this includes the worship of nats, which maybe associated with houses, in individuals, and natural features. An estimated 3 percent of the population, mainly in more isolated areas, who adhere solely to animistic religious beliefs. Another 4 percent of the population is Christian 3 percent Baptist and 1 percent Catholic4 percent is Muslim, 4 percent is Hindu, and 1 percent is animist.
Christian missionaries began working in the country in the nineteenth century. They had relatively little success among Buddhists but made numerous converts among some of the minority groups. Between ages of ten and sixteen, most young Burmese men and some young women become Buddhist novices and go to live in a monastery.
While most young men remain at the monastery for only a short time before returning to the secular life, some become fully ordained monks. A person who wants to become a monk is expected to be free of debt and certain diseases, have the permission of his parents or spouse, agree to follow the disciplinary rules of the monkhood, and not become involved in secular life.
While monks are expected to lead a life of aestheticism, they perform important functions in the community, especially as counselors. A variety of religious practitioners are associated with the animistic beliefs of most Buddhists, including spirit dancers who become possessed by spirits and may engage in healing and fortune-telling. There are also astrologers, other types of healers, tattoists with occult knowledge, and magicians. Rituals and Holy Places.
Thingyan, the water festival, marks the advent of the new year in mid-April. Buddha images are washed, and monks are offered alms. It is also marked by dousing people with water and festive behavior such as dancing, singing, and theatrical performances.
Kason in May celebrates Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and entrance into nirvana. The day includes the ceremonial watering of banyan trees to commemorate the banyan tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment.
A ceremony is held in July to mark the start of the three-month lenten period and commemorate Buddha's first sermon. It is at this time that young males become novices. Lent is a period of spiritual retreat for monks, who remain in their monasteries. During this time people may not marry. Lent ends in October. Over a three-day period, candles, oil lamps, paper lanterns, and electric bulbs are lit to show how angels lit Buddha's return from heaven.
Many marriages are held at this time. A celebration is held in November to produce new garments for monks and Buddha images. People come to complete the production of the cloth within a single day. Death and the Afterlife. Buddhists believe that those who die are reborn in a form that is in keeping with the merit they accumulated while alive.
The cycle of death and rebirth is believed to continue as long as ignorance and craving remain. The cycle can be broken only through personal wisdom and the elimination of desire. Funerals involve either burial or cremation. The ceremony includes a procession of monks and mourners who accompany the coffin to the cemetery or crematorium, with the monks chanting and performing rites. Funerals for monks tend to be elaborate, while those who have died a violent death generally are quickly buried with very little ceremony, since their spirits are believed to linger as malevolent ghosts.
Medicine and Health Care The use of traditional forms of medicine remains important, especially among the ethnic minorities. Few young people, however, receive training in these forms of medicine by an aging group of traditional healers and many traditional practices and the knowledge of traditional remedies are being lost.
Serious health problems are reaching crisis proportions, and nontraditional health care by the public and private sectors has deteriorated. Malaria, AIDS, and malnutrition and related diseases are a serious problem. Intravenous drug use formerly was a problem mainly in the northeast among ethnic minorities, but sincedrug used has spread to the lowlands and the urban areas inhabited by the Burmese majority.
There are only hospitals and 12, doctors. These facilities are in very poor condition, and funding for medical care and training is inadequate. These are occasions for the regime to promote nationalist sentiments, and some are accompanied by festive events. Far more important for most Burmese are the older celebrations associated with agriculture and the Buddhist religion.
The Arts and Humanities Support for the Arts. Until the s, the nobility was an important source of support for artists. After the fall of the monarchy, support came from newly rich merchants and British colonial officers. From the s to the s, there was relatively little support from the government or the public. State schools for the fine arts were opened in A woman carrying grasses in Maymio, Burma. Women had high status in traditional society, which has been lessened today by the militaristic government.
Rangoon and Mandalay inand there was a revival of interest in traditional art forms. The military regime of encouraged art forms supportive of its nationalist and socialist agenda.
Sincethere has been little government support. The focus of writing within Burmese society was, and to a large extent still is, focused on writing for theater performances pwe and producing texts relating to Buddhism. In addition, since the nineteenth century there is a fair amount of popular fiction. There is also some British fiction from the colonial period that is set in Burma. Among the early British works of fiction concerned with the Burmese are two novels by H.
The Soul of a People and Thibaw's Queen By far the best known British novel set in Burma is George Orwell's Burmese Daysa critical examination of British colonial rule. The graphic arts include temple sculpture in wood, stucco, stone, and wood; temple mural painting, usually in tempera; other forms of wood carving; ivory carving; work in bronze, iron, and other metals; jewelry; ceramics; glassware; lacquerware; textiles and costume; items made of palm and bamboo; and painting on paper or canvas.
Lacquerware entails the covering of an object made of bamboo or wood with a liquid made from tree sap. These objects include containers as well as tables, screens, and carved animal figures.
The process preserves, strengthens, and waterproofs objects and has been developed into a decorative art form. Its origins are ancient. Pagan is the largest and most important center for lacquerware. The Government Lacquerware School was established by local artists in Pagan in The Shan also have a distinctive lacquerware tradition.