Gadaw (Burmese: ကန်တော့, IPA: [ɡədɔ̰]; also spelt kadaw) is a Burmese verb referring to a Burmese tradition in which a person, always of lower social standing, pays respect or homage to a person of higher standing (including Buddhist monks, elders, teachers and Buddha), by kneeling before them and paying obeisance with joined hands, and bowing. This is usually done by students to their teachers or children or grandchildren to their elders (parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents), in order to show gratitude and reverence and an opportunity to ask for forgiveness, often involving gift-giving.
The tradition is widely believed to have Buddhist roots, as teachers and parents (မိဘ၊ ဆရာသမား) are honored as part of the Five Infinite Venerables (အနန္တငါးပါး), along with the Three Jewels, namely the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Moreover, the Mangala Sutta, the source of the 38 Buddhist Beatitudes, describes the importance of "honoring those worthy of honor" (ပူဇာ စ ပူဇနေယျနာနံ၊, pujā ca pujāneyyanānam) and lists respect, humbleness, gratitude and as among the highest blessings. Obeisance ceremonies are also held for neighborhood elders, and professional mentors, such as writers and actors.
The collective gadaw of teachers is called a hsaya gadaw pwe (ဆရာကန်တော့ပွဲ) or more formally acariya puja pwe or asariya puzaw pwe (အာစရိယပူဇော်ပွဲ), usually done formally during the month of Thadingyut (or World Teachers' Day on 5 October) by students or alumni at schools and universities throughout the country.
During the time of the Burmese monarchy, a ritualized gadaw ceremony called the gadaw pwedaw (ကန်တော့ပွဲတော်) was practised at least three times a year at the royal palace, by tributary chieftains and rulers as well as subjects to the king, as a symbolic form of allegiance. Gadaw nay (ကန်တော့နေ့) was one such time, occurring at the end of the Buddhist lent, and when tributes and gifts are formally offered to the king.
The traditional Burmese request of the Three Jewels (Triple Gem), a formulaic prayer (termed Okāsa or the "Buddhist common prayer" by Pe Maung Tin) that precedes most Buddhist ceremonies, explicitly references the gadaw of the Five Infinite Venerables (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, parents and teachers):
ဩကာသ ၊ ဩကာသ ၊ ဩကာသ။
I request! I request! I request!
A more ritualized form called the wai khru is found in neighboring Thailand. A similar tradition, called dam hua is practiced in the Lanna region of Northern Thailand, especially during Songkran, the Thai new year.
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