Monday, March 30, 2015

The Funeral of Buddhist Monk

The Funeral of Buddhist Monk by Ashin Siri Okkantha

When a monk dies in the village, the villagers in the neighbourhood come to help and take part in the funeral ceremony. The dead body is not cremated on the same day. It is preserved with medicines first in a wood-made coffin, especially built for the purpose, for some months of about a year, keeping it visible to the public in a glass coffin where the dead body is shifted for cremation.
 Singing the cradle-song (Photo: က်ိန္းရိပ္ သဇင္)

 Before the ceremony is held, two or three pandals and more pandals built and then decorated with colourful flowers near the local monastery. The ceremony is generally held for three or seven days. The eldest monk or the eldest of his disciples start the ceremony by citing Metta Sutta and Asubha Bhavana. The dead body is replaced, as noted earlier, from a wooden coffin to a glass coffin before the ceremony. The young girls and boys give theirs teacher their homage, and then they put the body in a cradle decorated with colourful flowers and jewels, and swing it by singing a cradle-song according to the tradition. After the cradle-song, young boys replace the coffin on a bier built as a temporary made of bamboo and colourful paper and play with the cradle gaily, pray for the teacher as their last homage. 

 The Villagers seeing off  the teacher's dead body as their last chance (Photo: က်ိန္းရိပ္ သဇင္)

A wooden chariot is also built where the body is placed. On this occasion, a large gathering is held. People from around participate in it and draw the chariot to earn some merit. There are so many Tala (the temporary temples) due to senior. Kastala: (the temporary temple of bier), San Kyaung: (a temporary temple for swinging and singing the cradle-song), and Laung-teik: (the biggest temporary monastery) and locally made rockets are fired at a distance to the Laung-teik where the dead body is kept on sandal woods. At last the Mangaladone (the biggest rocket) is shot out to the biggest temporary temple, where the body is kept on sandal-wood, burns. Thus the body is cremated in a ceremonious way.

 Locally made-rockets that are fired at a distance to the Laung-teik where the dead body is kept on sandal woods (Photo from : Facebook)

Locally made-rockets that are fired at a distance to the Laung-teik where the dead body is kept on sandal woods (Photo from : Facebook)

At the time of the cremation, the people, in multitude from all villages, collect together and present offerings of flowers and incense sticks. When this is finished, the glass coffin is lifted on the pile over which oil of sweet basil is poured, and then a light is applied. While the fire is blazing, every one, with reverent heart, pulls of his/her upper garment, and throws it on the fire and with his/her feather-fan and umbrella, from a distance into the midst of the flames, to assist the burning. When the ceremony is over, they collect and preserve the bones and ash, and proceeded to erect the memory stupa. 


(Photo: က်ိန္းရိပ္ သဇင္)
The Following Video Clips are called Rakhaing Roe Rar Ta Lar A ka (ရခိုင္႐ိုးရာ တလားအက) or Rakhaing Roe Rar Thaing A Ka (ရခိုင္ရိုးရာသိုင္းအက) (it can be translated the dance into English as Rakhaing Traditional Buddhist Monks-Coffin Dance)
Rakhaing Roe Rar Ta Lar A ka (ရခိုင္႐ိုးရာ တလားအက)

Ta Lar Dance Part 2 (တလားအက -၂)

This Article is  from "History of Buddhism in Arakan" by Ashin Siri Okkantha (Ph.D Thesis, University of Calcutta, 1990,  Unpublished), P. 150, 151. 

The article is about how Arakanese/ Rakhaing/ Rakhine celebrate "The Funeral of Buddhist Monk" in their traditional way. 
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