Why am I calling this country Burma as opposed to Myanmar? It's not meant to confuse, rather that Burma seems more familiar. The books I read, the family history in which my mother recounted stories of the 'bungalow' in Burma, all used this title and so my brain wants to use it, my fingers type it automatically.
We went this time with one goal in mind. As we were obliged to go out of the country for visa purposes, I wanted to return to Bagan and get photos of the other two standing Buddha images at the Ananda Temple to make the set complete. We set off the first day with that purpose firmly in mind. Then fate stepped in. There was a long procession heading towards us.
'Novitiates', our driver said. No other explanation because his English wasn't too good, perhaps he said 'novices', I don't know, but there we were with me scrambling to get the cameras out and onto to road before I missed the event.
The procession of women and children was a long one, followed by the young boys, the novitiates, on horses and then the families in carriages drawn by decorated bullocks.
The young girls were carrying fans made of money, their mothers were carrying food and drink to keep them going. Everyone had gifts which would go to the temple.
The boys were very young, apparently they are accepted into the temple, given their robes and introduced to the precepts. They may stay for a few days or a month. They can at any time return to the temple and resume their study but only at 20 years old can they study to be ordained as a monk.
The boy above was the youngest. He was a tiny young thing on an enormous horse and his hands were very tense at times I wonder if he was at all aware what was going on. This is a great honour for the family and the number of noviciates, five, and the length of the procession, showed how important this event was to everyone, family and village members.
The families brought up the rear in their carts the proud parents basking in reflected glory.
I have saved the dancer until the last. He was at the head of the procession, before the women and the children.
He was sublime.
And we still hadn't got to the Ananda temple. Burma is like that. Thanks for reading.