Full moon day of Kasone: Buddha Day

Buddhist devotees water the Bo Tree at Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw to mark Buddha Day which falls on the Full Moon Day of Kasone. Photo Kyaw Ye Swe
Buddhist devotees water the Bo Tree at Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw to mark Buddha Day which falls on the Full Moon Day of Kasone. Photo Kyaw Ye Swe

By Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt, Maha Saddhamma Jotikadhaja, SithuKasone, the second month in the 12 month

Lunar Calendar of Myanmar is the peak of Myanmar Summer.
Geographically the Sun has moved from the Tropic of Capricon to the Tropic of Cancer which is directly on Myanmar. Therefore direct sun rays hit Myanmar causing warmest season. Myanmar sayings go တန်ခူးရေကုန်၊ ကဆုန်ရေခန်း [water diminishes in Tagu. It dries up in Kason];တန်ခူူးကဆုန်ဆွေ့ဆွေ့ခုန် [ In Tagu and Kasone it is unbearable hot ]. But to balance these sayings is another saying ကဆုန်မိုးသေး၊မြက်သားမွေး [Early showers make tender grass]. Early showers occasionally come down to release us from intensive sun heat.
Traditionally termed as the flower of Kasone month is champak [mioheia] saga in Myanmar which is the native flower of Mt. Popa Area. It is a limbe tree flower, medicinal and religious. Astrologically Kasone is called Vrishabba [Taurus]. Its zodiacal sign is Bull. In the night firmament the moon and Witha Kha asterism rival their lights. Philologists opine that Kasone has two words combined; Ka means water;Sone means to pour. So Kasone means to pour water. But Pali scholars say Kasone is derived from Pali word “Kachina’’ meaning water shortage. Both interpretations are plausible because the former implies the supply of water and the latter the demand for it.
Full moon Kasone is Buddha’s Day for all Buddhists across the world. Abroad this Day is celebrated as Vesak Day or Buddha’s Day it. Four major events in the life of Lord Gotama Buddha took place on the full moon day of Kasone. Firstly it was on the full moon day of the Kasone the Lord Dipinkaya Buddha gave divine prophesy to Hermit Thumeda that the Hermit would become Lord Gotama Buddha. Secondly that it was on the full moon day of Kasone in the Maha Sakarit year of 68 that baby Prince Siddhartha was born of Queen Maha Maya. Thirdly it was on the full moon day of Kasone in the Maha Sakarit year of 103 that Prince Siddhartha after six arduous years of practicing austerity as a recluse in the Uruvela forest, became enlightenment, became Gotama Buddha. Fourthly it was on the full moon day of Kasone in Maha Sakarit year of 148 that Lord Gotama Buddha entered Maha Parinibanna [Demise].
Bodhi means wisdom or enlightenment or Buddhahood. Any Tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment is Bodhi Tree. Bamboo Tree, Gantgaw Tree, Kyaung Shar Tree, Yey Tha Phan Tree under the shade of which previous Buddhas become enlightened are also Bodhi Trees. Because Gotama Buddha became enlightened under the shade of the Banyan Tree [ညောင်ပင် Nyaungbin] we regard Bannyan Tree only is the Bodi Tree. Besides, Bannyan Tree are of different species – Nyaung Kayey, Nyaung Thahye, Nyaung Moke Seik, Nyaung Chey Htaut etc. So we Myanmar celebrate the festival of water pouring of Bodhi Nyaung bin Tree.
We may safely say the festival of water pouring at Bodhi Banyan Tree appeared in Myanmar when Buddhism arrived in the country in the Maha Sakarit year of 103 Buddhist Era. Eight sacred hair relics of Gotama Buddha granted on request of two merchant brothers Taphutha and Balika of Ramanya Desa [Today Mon State]. They also brought seeds on saplings of Maha Bodha Tree [Lin Lun Banyan Tree]. Nyaungbin under which Gotama Buddha became enlightenment. Since then Bodhi Nyaungbin has spread across the country due to Buddhist monks, Buddhist missions and Buddhist kings and Buddhist public efforts of planting sacred Bodhi Banyan Trees. First from Budha Gaya, later when Buddhism was taken to Lankadipa by Bhikku Mahenda and Bhikkuni Shanga Mitta who planted the south inching branch of Bodhi Banyan Tree of the original at Bodha Gaya, and well known as Dekhina Thakha tree [Bodhi Tree of the south].
At every major pagoda` and monastic compound is Bodhi Nyaungbin where water pouring festival is held on full moon Kasone. In Mandalay there is well known Bodhikone founded by King Mindon in the Tuesday direction of his palace he was Tuesday born. Also in old capital city Amarapura there are three well known Bodhi Nyaungbin trees where on full moon day of Kasone water pouring festivals are held without fail. Shwekyetyet, Shwekyetkya Pagodas.
Bodhi tree planting in Myanmar continue in modern time. A hill range near Monywa town, upper Myanmar was turned into a man-made arboreal by planting one thousand Bodhi Nyaung Trees. In the precinct of Shwedagon Pagoda are the Bodhi trees – the one at the north west corner was planted on the day of the regaining of Myanmar independence January 1948. Next to it on the right is the Bodhi Tree planted in 1905. Another Bodhi Tree at the south east corner [Tuesday direction] was planted by head monk Meidet Sayasaw. Here takes place annual water pouring event on full moon day of Kasone.
One court poet and minister of Konbaung Period of Myanmar history Letwethondara composed a complete set of three stanzas ratu describing the festival of water pouring festival in Meza hill near Katha town. He was exiled there by king Hsinbyu Shin of Konbaung dynasty. He eye-witnessed the people of Meza people happily celebrating water pouring festival at Bodhi Nyaungbin.

ပွဲခါ ညောင်ရေ
ရိုသေသဒ္ဓါ၊ ထုံးစဉ်လာဖြင့်
မဲဇာရပ်သူ၊ တောင်းဆုယူသည်
At the Nyaungye Festival
Meza people all devout
Duly fall in prayer and pour
Water to the Banyan Tree

In this complete 3 stanza ratu poem, the poet expressed his heart felt for his King & his family left at the capital. When his Meza Taung Chey Retu was presents to the King, His Majesty pitied him and pardoned him and called back and reinstated to his rank and position.
In the countryside Kasone water pouring festival bears not only religious but also social significance. Young village girls carry pots of water with Eugenia sprigs on their heads. Each carrying more than one pot [up to 10 pots] on the head walk to the Bodhi Nyaungbin with steps in tune with the music played by armature village swains, who help the girls every way, never missing the chance of courting and making love overture to them.
In modern parlance Kasone water pouring festival is public awareness of the importance of green environment and activity in preservation natural environment.

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