Mythical creatures in Burmese folklore

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Male and female forms of the Belu, depicted in a 19th century watercolour

A wide variety of mythical creatures are found in Burmese folklore and in mythology. Many Burmese creatures are part human or creatures capable of assuming human form. Most mythical creatures are endowed with humanistic mentalities, ability to converse with humans and also supernatural powers. During the 20th century, the role and diversity of Burmese mythical creatures were diversified by Shwe Thway comics which depicted the life of the Buddha, the Jataka tales and Burmese history.[citation needed]

The most common mythological being is the Belu, an ogre. The popularity of the Belu is due to the Yama Zatdaw, the Burmese version of the Ramayana, a very popular play in Myanmar, and also their roles in the Jatakas.

A Thaman Chah or tree tiger, from a 19th century Burmese watercolour

List of beings and creatures[edit]

The following is a list of beings and creatures in Burmese mythology:

Creatures mentioned in plays and Burmese literature[edit]

  • Athura - the lowest form of deities which have pleasure half the day and suffer the other half.
  • Belu - usually man-eating humanoid beings capable of shapeshifting.
    • Pan-kike Belu - (lit flower biters) Belu with straight fangs which eat humans. Generally malevolent.
    • Panswé Belu - (lit flower danglers) Belu with curved or hooked fangs which eat flowers and fruits. Generally benevolent. An example would be Popa Medaw.
  • Byala - Rakhine version of the Nawa Rupa.
  • Chinthe This creature is Lion; commonly referred to as a Lion Dog; seen outside pagodas in Burma.
  • Galone - garuda, nemesis of the Nāgas.
  • Hintha - Hamsa bird, symbol of the Mon people, Mon State and Bago Region.
  • Karaweik - from the Pali "karavika", a bird with a melodious cry.
  • Kinnara, male and Kinnari, female - half human, half bird lovers; associated with the Shan and Kayah States.
  • Magan - crocodile-like sea monster with prehensile snout.
  • Manotethiha (Manussiha in Pali) - man with torso of two lions.
  • Nāga - serpentine dragon-like beings with great powers, nemesis of the Garudas. They are described as being able to swim in the earth as if it was water, and fly in the sky. According to the Bhuridatta Jataka the 6th of the 10 last lives of the Buddha, the Buddha was a Nāga prince.[1]
  • Nat (spirit) - spirits of humans (especially those who died violent deaths). They grant supernatural powers to those who devote but are imperceptible in the mortal world.
  • Nawa Rupa - (lit nine bodies); a creature made from the amalgamation of parts of nine different animals.
  • Ngamoeyeik - large crocodile and character of Min Nandar and Shin Hmwe Loon the Burmese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Otta-saunk or Ottsar-saunk - beings cursed to roam the earth due to their strong attachment to objects or places.
  • Peik-ta - beings punished with perpetual hunger or thirst.
  • Pyinsa Rupa - (lit five bodies); a creature made from the amalgamation of parts of five different animals, mascot of Myanmar Airways International.
  • Sarmaree - vain long-haired ox which values its hair.
  • Toe-nayar - four-legged serpentine dragon or Nāga.
  • Yetkhat - benevolent guardians of buried treasures and those hidden in tree roots.
  • Yama Yazar - Lord of Death.
  • Zawgyi (mythical) - an alchemist with supernatural powers and often seen with a stick and a red hat.

Creatures mentioned in stories[edit]

  • Kyut - malevolent pangolin or armadillo like creatures which can assume human form and trick humans into the forest
  • Thayé - ghosts
  • Sone - hags or witches
  • Spider of Pindaya - a giant spider which held 7 princesses captive in Pindaya region.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Htin Aung, Maung Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

External links[edit]