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Myths

 

Legend about Ox Mother (Nan Karaing Mei Daw)

A long time ago, there was a powerful king who fathered a son. The court prophet informed the king that the child would overthrow his father and take control of the kingdom.  After hearing this prophecy, the king ordered guards to abandon the infant in a field to die.

The baby was alone in the field for a long time, helpless and afraid. After a while, there was a great rumbling noise. A stampede of oxen was approaching the field at a frenzied pace.  A female ox at the front of the herd heard the infant’s cry and thought, “If I do not do something, that baby will be trampled to death.” She crouched over the infant boy, protecting him from the flying hooves of her herd. The female ox, who quickly became attached to the child, decided to raise the boy as her own. The mother ox fed the infant her milk, and invited a human shepherd into the herd to accompany her new son.

As the boy grew up, he became a handsome man and sought to win the heart of a beautiful princess. For her hand in marriage, the princess wanted the prince to retrieve a diamond from the head of the mother ox. The son was highly troubled because he was in love with the princess, but taking the diamond stone out of his mother’s head would surely kill her. When the ox mother saw her troubled son, she asked him what was wrong. The son sadly explained the situation. The ox mother’s love for her son was so strong that she cut off her own head. She told her son to be happy and to take the diamond to the princess. The son, seeing his mother sacrifice herself, died of a broken heart. When the shepherd found both the mother ox and the prince dead, he also died of a broken heart.

The ox mother became one of the nats, or animistic spirits, in Myanmar. She is known as the Nan Karaing Mei Daw, or alternatively, Bago Mei Daw. There are 37 official nats in Myanmar, but the Nan Karaing Mei Daw is not one of them. However, she is often worshipped by people in certain regions of Myanmar. She is known to destroy enemies if worshippers offered her fried fish. A figurine of the Nan Karaing Mei Daw is available through SEAP’s Myanmar explorer box, accompanied by the prince and shepherd figurines.

 

 Legend about Chinthe

A chinthe is a creature that greatly resembles a lion. The chinthe is a powerful protector who can pounce on enemies from nine different directions. Statues of chinthe are often found outside pagodas and temples in Myanmar. Here is a Burmese myth about why chinthes guard the entrances of pagodas and temples:

Once upon a time, there was a princess who married a lion. They had a son together, but the princess was not happy. She decided to run away, taking the child with her. The lion was enraged and he set out to terrorize the lands in his fury. When the boy was older, he decided to slay the lion. He did not know that the terrible beast was his father, and only wanted to protect the land.

 Eventually, the prince found his father, and shot an arrow at him. The lion loved his son very much, and as a result, the arrow bounced off the lion’s body. The boy continued to shoot arrows at the lion, until the lion became very angry. By the fourth arrow, the lion was so angry that the arrow pierced his heart, and killed him immediately. Thus, the lion died because he allowed anger to eclipse love in his heart.

 The boy returned triumphantly home, only to discover that lion was his father, not just an animal. In Buddhism, the slaying of one’s parents is one of the most terrible sins a person can commit. To redeem himself, the prince constructed a statue of the lion, to protect the temples from harm.