Shan Sand Stupa – TwanteMyanmar.
In Twante, which is a religious place in Myanmar, lies May Ru Da Hill, where Buddha spent his two past lives, as a stag (Thamin Min) and an elephant (Sin Min).
It is also a hill where Shwesandaw Pagoda (which means Golden Hair Relic) is located and the pagoda is said to have six strands of Buddha’s hair and also one of the popular tourist destination and pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Twante, also known as Kalathapura, is famous for its ancient pottery. The town has a village called Shan Village where Shan people live. Every year, at Sunday’s part (north-east part) of the Shwesandaw Pagoda, the Shan villagers and the people from the town celebrate Thae-pone Zedi.
How do they celebrate Thae-pone Zedi ? Well, Thae means sand and Pone means pile. So, Thae-pone Zedi is a temporay pagoda built with mud or sand.
For a sand pagoda, the people from each of the four Shan villages usually start building parts of the pagoda in turn from the eve of Thingyan to the final day. Thingyan, the water festival, is the celebration for Myanmar’s New Year.
The ceremony of laying foundation of a sand pagoda is usually celebrated at 5.30 pm of the final Thingyan day.
What is more unusual about Twante is that the Shan sand pagoda festival, the Thingyan festival and the Shwesandaw Pagoda festival are celebrated at the same time of the year and the events are well attended.
Then, on the very first day of the Myanmar’s New Year after the Thingyan, the Shan villagers from Nyaung-ta-gar village and the sand pagoda team who are responsible for setting up five bamboo-frameworks for the terrace and the shaft of the pagoda, start working together.
The sand for pagodas is donated mainly by the four Shan villages and by the donors across the town. They have to deliver sand to the north-east of the pagoda before the eve of Thingyan. For their good deed for the first day of New Year, many generous donors await on the floor of the Shwesandaw Pagoda at the crack of dawn.
After the first bamboo-framework for the first tier is laid down, devotees start to fill up the plinth of the pagoda with sand and continue filling up the first tier as well. Sand filling is done by putting sand into bags or trays and passing them from one person to another in the line in relays or sometimes by mucking in.
There are typically five tiers for sand pagodas, tapering to the top. Each tier is flanked by bamboo-frameworks. Indefatigably and enthusiastically, they keep filling sand up to the fifth or topmost tier. As the pagoda is being built, some young Shan ladies from the villages offer Shan dance and the event becomes alive with a teeming crowd.
After the umbrella crown or Hti is placed on it and venerable monks consecrate the pagoda, devotees offer fruits, flowers and other offerings and circle around the pagoda three times in a clockwise direction. Then they express their wish that others may also acquire the benefit from this meritorious deed equally.
Building a pagoda is not an easy one but the Shan people from Twante have celebrated Thae-pone festival for over 400 years. They even did it during World War I and World War II without fail.
And it is believed that this virtuous action or merit will definitely bring prosperity not only in this temporal world but also in the afterlife.
Sharing is Caring !Golden Twente
Writer – WYS
Translator – Aung Thet Naing
Photography – Kyaw Soe Naing