Pages

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Laphet-waing | notes and study aids on Myanmar language: The Karen in Myanmar historiography (4)

Laphet-waing | notes and study aids on Myanmar language: The Karen in Myanmar historiography (4)

The Lehkai

The Lehkai



The Lehkai (Ariya) Religious
Sect
[1]

 
One
of many animist sects that mix Buddhism and the traditional Karen legends of the
Golden book. The Lekei was formed in the early 1860’s and bases its beliefs on a
prophetic book (consisting of 49 scriptures) that is written in Leit San Wait, a
type of writing best described as Chicken Scratch Script (literal translation of
the words). Orginally from the Kyondo area, the sect still flourishes with
monastries and schools in Kya-in-Seikkyi, Pa-an, Hlaingbwe and Kyaik-marraw
townships with the latter being in Mon state.
In Karen state there are 17 schools teaching over 1000
students.

The
Lehkai continue to hold ceremonies to the traditional Karen spirit (see animism)
of Hpee Bu Yaw in addition to three other major festival, a bonfire festival
combined with that of Hpee Bu Yaw, another for the safe spawning of marine life,
another for the safe return of those spawns and finally a thanksgiving festival
to celebrate a bountful harvest.
 Similar to animist rites, the tying of a couples hands are
used as the main part of the Lehkai wedding ceremony, where the couple to be
married are required to make an offering of uncooked rice in a bowl, 3 balls of
cooked rice,  patties of sticky rice, bunches of bananas, flowers and skein of
white thread. After the hand tying ceremony a large vegetarian feast is held. 
Funeral rites share similar animist overtones with corpse
being bathed by the sons and daughters of the deceased, scented water of Thanaka
is then applied. Three bowls containing bananas, betel leaves, nuts, tobacco,
edibles limes and candles. In one of the bowls 1 Kyat 25 pyas and a 4-cubit
length white cotton cloth is placed. Before leaving Three lamps are lit, the
room sprayed with scented water whilst the priest recites prayers. The coffin is
taken out of the house whilst water is poured behind it from an earthen pot. The
coffin is placed in the ground with the head facing east a bowl is place at the
head, one in the middle and, one at the feet. The money is for the priest
performing the ceremony.
The children of the dead invite the corpse for a last meal
after this a coconut is cut open and nuts and juice are into the grave. The
ceremony concludes with a vegetarian meal, after which the preist must spend the
night in the funeral house. The next morning members of the household have their
wrists tied with cotton thread  
 The stated five aims of the Lehkei are: 
  1. To spread knowledge of the Lehkai religious sect.
  2. To the spread knowledge of the chicken scratch script
    and writing.
  3. The maintenance of’Zayats’ and monastries belonging to
    the Lekhai.
  4. The continued maintenance and storing of the communal
    granary of Hpee Buh Yaw.
  5. The prohibition of the cooking of meat and flesh for
    meals in the Zayats and Monastries and the prohibition of  alcoholic drinks.
Priests are
forbidden from involvement in politics and must venerate the 3 gems, namely: the
Lord Buddha, the Law and Priesthood


 
horizontal rule


[1]

Information for this article is taken from ‘A brief outline on the
Traditional Background of the the Lehkai (Ariya) Religious Sect.’ by Saw Kya
Shin, Kyaw Paung Yei, Kyau Taing Lone Gay and Mahn Gyi Sein.
Photographs: Jean De La Tour