GEOGRAPHY OF MYANMAR
Myanmar is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia.The country is bordered by the People’s Republic of China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, and India on the northwest, with the Bay of Bengal to the southwest. One-third of Burma’s total perimeter, 1,930 kilometers (1,199 mi), forms an uninterrupted coastline. In the north, the Hengduan Shan Mountains form the border with China. Hkakabo Razi, located in Kachin State, at an elevation of 5,881 m (19,295 ft), is the highest point in Burma. Three mountain ranges, namely the Rakhine Yoma, the Bago Yoma, and the Shan Plateau exist within Burma, all of which run north-to-south from the Himalayas. The mountain chains divide Burma’s three river systems, which are the Ayeyarwady, Salween (Thanlwin), and the Sittang rivers. The Ayeyarwady River, Burma’s longest river, nearly 2,170 kilometers (1,348 mi) long, flows into the Gulf of Martaban. Fertile plains exist in the valleys between the mountain chains. The majority of Burma’s population lives in the Ayeyarwady valley, which is situated between the Rakhine Yoma and the Shan Plateau.
CLIMATE OF MYANMAR
Much of the country lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It lies in the monsoon region of Asia, with its coastal regions receiving over 5,000 mm (200 in) of rain annually. Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm (100 in) , while average annual rainfall in the Dry Zone, which is located in central (Myanmar) Burma, is less than 1,000 mm (40 in). Northern regions of the country are the coolest, with average temperatures of 21 °C (70 °F). Coastal and delta regions have mean temperatures of 32 °C(90°F).
FLORA & FAUNA OF MYANMAR
Forests, including dense tropical growth and valuable teak in lower (Myanmar) Burma, cover over 49% of the country. Other trees indigenous to the region include acacia, bamboo, ironwood, mangrove, michelia champaca coconut and betel palm, and rubber has been introduced. In the highlands of the north, oak, pine and various rhododendrons cover much of the land. The lands along the coast support all varieties of tropical fruits. In the Dry Zone, vegetation is sparse and stunted.
Typical jungle animals, particularly tigers and leopards, are common in Burma. In upper (Myanmar) Burma, there are rhinoceros, wild buffalo, wild boars, deer, antelope and elephants, which are also tamed or bred in captivity for use as work animals, particularly in the lumber industry. Smaller mammals are also numerous, ranging from gibbons and monkeys to flying foxes and tapirs. The abundance of birds is notable with over 800 species, including parrots, peafowl, pheasants, crows, herons and paddybirds. Among reptile species there are crocodiles, geckos, cobras, Burmese pythons and turtles. Hundreds of species of freshwater fish are wide-ranging, plentiful and are very important food sources.
HISTORY OF MYANMAR
After the First (Myanmar) Burmese War, the Ava kingdom ceded the provinces of Manipur, Tenassarim, and Arakan to the British. Rangoon and southern Burma were incorporated into British India in 1853. All of (Myanmar) Burma came directly or indirectly under British India in 1886 after the Third Burmese War and the fall of Mandalay. (Myanmar) Burma was administered as a province of British India until 1937 when it became a separate, self-governing colony. The country became independent from the United Kingdom on 4 January 1948, as the “Union of Burma”. It became the “Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma” on 4 January 1974, before reverting to the “Union of Burma” on 23 September 1988. On 18 June 1989, they adopted the name “Union of Myanmar” for English transliteration. His controversial name change in English, while accepted in the UN and in many countries.
EARLY HISTORY OF MYANMAR
The Mon people are thought to be the earliest group to migrate into the lower Ayeyarwady valley and by the mid-900s BC was dominant in southern Burma. The Mons became one of the first in South East Asia to embrace Theravada Buddhism.
The Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu arrived later in the 1st century BC, and established several city states – of which Sri Ksetra was the most powerful – in central Ayeyarwady valley. The Mon and Pyu kingdoms were an active overland trade route between India and China. The Pyu kingdoms entered a period of rapid decline in early 9th century AD when the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao (in present-day Yunnan) invaded Ayeyarwady valley several times. In 835, Nanzhao decimated the Pyu by carrying off many captives to be used as conscripts.
STATES AND DIVISIONS IN MYANMAR
The country is divided into seven states and seven divisions. Divisions are predominantly Myanmar. States, in essence, are divisions which are home to particular ethnic minorities. The administrative divisions are further subdivided into districts, which are further subdivided into townships, wards, and villages.
CULTURE IN MYANMAR
An ear-piercing ceremony at the Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay is one of the many coming-of-age ceremonies in Myanmar culture. A diverse range of indigenous cultures exist in Burma, the majority culture is primarily Buddhist and (Myanmar) Bamar. (Myanmar) Bamar culture has been influenced by the cultures of neighboring countries. This is manifested in its language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre. The arts, particularly literature, have historically been influenced by the local form of Theravada Buddhism. Considered the national epic of Burma, the Yama Zatdaw, an adaptation of Ramayana, has been influenced greatly by Thai, Mon, and Indian versions of the play. Buddhism is practiced along with nat worship which involves elaborate rituals to propitiate one from a pantheon of 37 nats.
In a traditional village, the monastery is the centre of cultural life. Monks are venerated and supported by the lay people. A novitiation ceremony called shinbyu is the most important coming of age events for a boy when he enters the monastery for a short period of time. All boys of Buddhist family need to be a novice (beginner for Buddhism) before the age of twenty and to be a monk after the age of twenty. It is compulsory for all boys of Buddhism. The duration can be as little as one week. Girls have ear-piercing ceremonies at the same time. (Myanmar) Burmese culture is most evident in villages where local festivals are held throughout the year, the most important being the pagoda festival. Many villages have a guardian nat, and superstition and taboos are commonplace.
British colonial rule also introduced Western elements of culture to Myanmar. (Myanmar’s) Burma’s educational system is modelled after that of the United Kingdom. Colonial architectural influences are most evident in major cities such as Yangon. Many ethnic minorities, particularly the Karen in the southeast, and the Kachin and Chin who populate the north and northwest, practice Christianity.Members of the Buddhist monkhood are venerated throughout Myanmar, which is one of the most predominantly Theravada Buddhist countries in the world.
LANGUAGE IN MYANMAR
(Myanmar) Burmese, the mother tongue of the Bamar (Myanmar) and official language of Myanmar, is related to Tibetan and to the Chinese languages. It is written in a script consisting of circular and semi-circular letters, which were adapted from the Mon script, which in turn was developed from a southern Indian script in the 700s. The earliest known inscriptions in the (Myanmar) Burmese script date from the 1000s. It is also used to write Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism, as well as several ethnic minority languages, including Shan, several Karen dialects, and Kayah (Karenni), with the addition of specialized characters and diacritics for each language. The (Myanmar) Burmese language incorporates widespread usage of honorifics and is age-oriented. (Myanmar) Burmese society has traditionally stressed the importance of education. In villages, secular schooling often takes place in monasteries. Secondary and tertiary education takes place at government schools.
RELIGION IN MYANMAR
Eighty-nine percent of the population embraces Buddhism (mostly Theravada) in Myanmar, but other religions can be practiced freely. Four percent of the population practices Christianity; 4 percent, Islam; 1 percent, traditional animistic beliefs; and 2 percent follow other religions, including Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions and the Bahá’í religion.
LIFESTYLES AND ACTIVITIES IN MYANMAR
Despite modern changes and globalize cultural blending, Myanmar people have been able to preserve their own lifestyles and activities that have existed since time immemorial. The people of Myanmar communicate in their own language, wear their own style of clothing including the longyi, relish their own style of food, pray in their own way, play their own games, celebrate their own festivals, receive treatment with their own traditional medicines, and perform their own rituals remaining as Myanmar as possible in every aspect. Many of the life styles and activities are unique to Myanmar people. For example, the Shin Pyu or novitiation ceremony, which allows a young boy to experience temporary monastic life, is a religious practice virtually nonexistent in other parts of the world. Although some of Myanmar’s beliefs, superstitions, customs and lifestyles have gradually disappeared, many still remain and are cherished and highly valued by the majority of the people.