A Burmese spirit similar to the Thai
chao thi and which
can be both a nature spirit and a spirit from mythology (fig.), especially the spirit of someone who
met a violent
and unjust or untimely death. Of those who died an unnatural death there is a pantheon 37 nats in total. Since they have been both human and spirit they are considered appeasing and disciples
Buddha, and thus are highly respected
and worshipped in Burmese culture.
who had converted to Buddhism through a missionary, wanted to outlaw
the worship of nats, but in doing so had angered his subjects who
protested and resisted the ban. Thus, the King allowed the nats to
be incorporated into the Buddhist religion and declared the Buddha
to be the greatest of the nats, whose official number he limited to
37. All 37 nats in this
official pantheon are since known as inside nats and have their
spiritual abode on Mt. Popa (map
fig.), an extinct volcano which is over 1500 meters high and an important place of pilgrimage
for many Burmese (fig.), while other nats that continue to be worshipped
are known as outside nats, such as e.g.
Ma Ngwe Taung.
is considered the leader of all other nats, and is often depicted
conch in both
hands, or a conch in one hand and a
fly whisk in the other, and sometimes standing on the three-headed
Erawan. The worship of nats is by and large based
on fear of being harmed by them, and the hope that favours would be granted in
return for offerings and prayers. The most famous animist festival in
Nat Pwe, the
of spirits’, celebrated annually in
August at Taungbyon, approximately 20 kms North of Mandaley.
typically bring nats offertories called
offerings of hands of
bananas and a single
decoratively arranged in a basket or onto a tray (fig.).
Nats are traditionally also depicted on
medicine boxes (fig.),
which now are considered antique and have become a collector's item
The summit can
only be reached by a staircase and along the way are several shrines
with effigies of nats, but there is also shrine at the base,
opposite of the entrance, and another one around the corner, a bit
up hill. Mt. Popa also has packs of pesky
that patrol the area and follow visitors boldly, hoping to get or
steal some food, fruit or drinks.
Law Ka Nat and
OF BURMESE NATS, and
TRAVEL PICTURES (1),