Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Than Shwe offers golden lotus to Uppatasanti

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The military Head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, on Monday made an offering to the newly built Uppatasanti (‘Peace’) Pagoda in the capital of Naypyidaw.

The state media 'New Light of Myanmar' on Tuesday said that Than Shwe and his family offered golden lotus robes to Uppatasanti Pagoda, built as a replica of Rangoon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda.

"Senior General Than Shwe and wife Daw Kyaing Kyaing and family offered alms, fruit, flowers, water and golden lotus robe to Maha Manimaya Kassapa Buddha Patima Yadana Jade Image," the state media reported.

Meanwhile, with the completion of the Peace Pagoda there is speculation among the exile Burmese community as well as inside Burma that the downfall of Than Shwe, who presided over the 2007 military crackdown of mass protests resulting in at least 30 civilian deaths, is nearing.

Burmese kings, since the 11th century Bagan dynasty, have long undertaken oversight in the construction of pagodas either in devotion to Buddhism, to secure their power base or to simply ease guilt – a tradition continued by Burmese leaders after Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Burma's first democratically elected Prime Minister, U Nu, constructed Kaba Aye Pagoda in 1952, only to be brought down in a 1962 coup. His successor, General Ne Win, built Maha Wizaya Pagoda in 1987 but was toppled during a pro-democracy uprising but one year later.

Moreover, the Swedawmyat (‘Tooth Relic’) Pagoda was completed by the military regime in 1997, seven years after which the influential ex-Prime Minister and security guru Khin Nyunt was placed under house arrest.

Pyannya Zawta, Chairman of the India-based Buddhist Monks Association, or Sasana Moli said Than Shwe is trying to win the hearts of the people in Burma, where almost 90 percent of the population is Buddhist, by building the pagoda.

However along with Buddhism, Burmese society, including the ruling elite, is still imbued with a belief in fortune telling and astrology.

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