At the outset I want you to know that for a proper understanding of this article it is important to take into account that there is a close relationship between Burma, the Burmese people and elephants and want to briefly explain why this is so. The elephant is the largest land animal (mammal) and in all countries with or without wild elephant population elephants have always been well liked and admired for their massive size, enormous strength, intelligence, cleverness and sheer grandeur. In countries such as India in which Hinduism is a dominant belief and in Asian Buddhist countries such as Burma (since 1989 also called Myanmar) the elephant is also deemed highly auspicious and is worshipped for his spiritual significance.
For those not so familiar with Hinduism and Buddhism to understand why – particularly the white – elephant is sacred and so closely associated with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs it is important to know that, for example, the religious Indian figure that is always depicted with an elephant head is the powerful Hindu god Ganesha (in Burma known as Maha Peinne) one of the globally best-known (because of the elephant head) and most worshipped deities of the Hindu heavenly abode and that the later Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was according to legend conceived by his mother
Queen Maya after a white elephant was presenting her with a lotus flower the common symbol of wisdom and purity on the eve of giving birth and after she had dreamed that a white elephant had entered her body. And what concerns the Burmese nat worshipper and the nat worshipping part of Burmese Theravada Buddhism there is the powerful guardian spirit of the elephants, Uttay Na, who is worshipped by everyone who has to do with elephants (this includes the people making the elephant figures for the dance competitions) and, last but not least, there are also the nats Ngazishin, Lord of the five white elephant as well as Aungbinle Hsinbyushin, Lord of the white elephant from Aungbinle
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