Mt. Popa is the abode of the Nats a two hour trip out of Bagan. This is extinct volcano with a monastery on the top at 1500 meters, dedicated to the them. Since time immemorial people pray to them. This are ghosts never seen but strongly believed , according to the believe there are Nats of the earth, water and sky, the word actually meant “ruler”.
They are the protective spirits of everything that exists in the world: There are Nats, just for the protection of a single tree, a hill, a lake, a river, a house. Others are for an entire village, a whole City or an entire area.
The power extends over all people, animals and plants
of that territory who are there and have been there. Everyone should do it right by give enough attention to them and show their respect by offering food, drinks or clothing or even simply by a deferential gesture. In return as the as the Burmese believe they give them protection. Until today small shrines can be found on the outskirts of towns, in front of a house, in a tree where fruits, rice and flowers are placed. This are “houses” of the the local spirits. Often, they have no name, all this is very similar to Thailand.
This reminds to the oldest stage of animistic forms. In the old times they were not personified.
Only later they morphed into 36 basic personifications, but there are still much more Nats out there.
They received their particular name, a biographic and its iconography for representations.
By the emergence of this “Supernats” the power of the local Nats was not diminished but a rather subordinate position.
Actually this animistic believe is also still the same in Thailand, where the same shrines can be seen on many places.
In the 11th century the first ruler of the Empire of Bagan, King Anuruddha, after the unsuccessful fight against the animist cults, formed a Pantheon of the 36 Nats and placed Thagyamin, the King of Nats on top of them.
Mt. Popa is the abode and Thagyamin is the “King” there. These animistic beliefs live in Myanmar or Burma with Buddhism peacefully together.
Pantheon of the 36 Nats
Pray to the Nats
They share their influence and functions. Nats are responsible for the every day life and protect the people from all kind of evil.
They are also helpful when it comes to a good harvest, for family life, health, and happiness.
Buddhism on the other hand, serves the long run, the future to nirvana, the ideal every Buddhist aspires. These two religions live together in perfect harmony. So peaceful that some researchers believe Buddhism has simply absorbed the local animistic cults in itself. But it doesn’t really look like that not. The animistic cults have all characteristics of a independent religion.
There is a pantheon of God, clear on the upper level, blurred and not personified on the lower level. There are special rituals to show devotion, sacrifice acts of cult festivities, which until today are always celebrated at full moon.
There are also people functioning as servants of this cult, as medium with dancing, singing and sacrifice ceremonies on the organized celebrations dedicated to them.
Nat pwe to inaugurate a house