ALSO KNOWN AS:
Min Mahagiri; The House Nat
Once upon a time, a blacksmith named Nga Tin De (“Mr. Handsome,” also known as U Tin De) and his sister, Shwem Yethna (“Golden Face”) lived in the city of Tagaung. Both were kind, generous, gorgeous, powerful, and beloved. Nga Tin De was so strong he wielded two hammers at once, one in each hand. They were not just siblings; they were best friends. King Thinlik yaung (344–387 CE) resented the blacksmith’s magical powers and spiritual authority, not to mention his physical strength. The king sent an assassination squad to cut his throat while he slept, making it look like a robbery so the king wouldn’t be suspected. One assassin secretly warned Mr. Handsome, who fled into the forest.
Meanwhile the king, smitten with beautiful Golden Face, allayed her suspicions, admitting that he sought to capture her brother but only to discover whether he was plotting against the throne. Golden Face married him, becoming one of his queens. (It’s never clear whether his love is sincere or if it’s all a ploy to capture her brother.) The king explained to Golden Face that since he and Nga Tin De were now in-laws, the blacksmith had nothing to fear. She fell for his argument. As a truthful, honest person, she expected her husband to behave likewise. Golden Face sent a messenger to the jungle inviting the blacksmith to join her at court.
She traveled to the forest’s edge with the king and royal entourage to greet her brother, or so she thought. As Mr. Handsome emerged, guards grabbed him, bound him to a saga tree, piled tinder around him, and set him on fire. Not believing her eyes, Golden Face attempted to intervene, but guards restrained her. Finally realizing that she’d been used to betray her beloved brother, she shouted out a curse, broke free of the guards, ran to the tree, and flung herself on the flames. Brother and sister burned to death, in the process transforming into angry Nats who dwell in the tree. Only their heads were left unburned.
• Legends circulated regarding how generous the two had been toward poor villagers.
• The royal court was plagued by disasters ranging from epidemics to lost treasure.
The poor and oppressed began to worship the Nats. The king’s original fears about Mr. Handsome proved true: in death, the blacksmith’s power began to rival his own. The king ordered the saga tree chopped down and thrown into the Irawaddy River. The ruler of the rival kingdom of Pagan, aware of the situation, had the tree fished out of the river as it floated downstream. He commissioned beautiful images of the brother and sister, which were enshrined atop Mount Popa, transforming the blacksmith and his sister into benevolent oracular spirits, known as Min Mahagiri—“Lords of the High Mountain” even though one is a lady.
There are technically seven Mahagiri Nats:
• The blacksmith Min Mahagiri
• Shwei Na Bai, his dragon wife
• Shin Byu and Shin Nyou, their sons
• Golden Face, his sister who died with him
• Ma Htwei Byu, another younger sister
• Ma Ne, his younger sister’s daughter
Min Mahagiri are considered the oldest of the thirty-seven official Nats. Brother and sister are venerated together, but she is now somewhat subordinate to her brother. (Other members of their family are enshrined with them, too.) Although theoretically, Thagya Min (Indra) is chief of the thirty-seven official Nats, in reality, Min Mahagiri the blacksmith is their leader. For centuries, until King Anawratha abolished Nat veneration, the first act of Burmese kings upon coronation was a pilgrimage to the Min Mahagiri shrine, where brother and sister would manifest and prophesize.
The Mahagiri Nats provide blessings of all kinds. Pilgrimages are still made to their mountain shrine. They are also household Nats, guarding individuals and their homes. As he was a blacksmith in life, it’s considered wise to acknowledge him when working with metal. Offerings are placed beside the appliance, machine, or tool in use. The Mahagiri Nats protect against thieves and illness but, like most Nats, are volatile. If they perceive disrespect, they cause illness or otherwise Demonstrate displeasure, usually via domestic disharmony.
Min Mahagiri may be represented by a coconut.
Saga (Michelia champaca), also known as champa or champak
In addition to the shrine on Mount Popa, Min Mahagiri is also the official household Nat who lives within the coconuts hung in his honor in Burmese homes.
Ritual: Traditionally a coconut, representing Min Mahagiri’s presence and protection, is hung from a beam or post. Replace when the stem falls off or it begins to rot or decay, whichever comes first. Make offerings to Min Mahagiri when the coconut is replaced.
Coconuts (the juice soothes their burns), jaggery, sticky rice, plain cooked white rice, bananas, pickled tea leaves, sandalwood
A coconut traditionally hung from the home’s southeastern pillar is simultaneously an offering to Min Mahagiri, an image of Min Mahagiri, and a home for Min Mahagiri.
- Nats, Thirty-Seven
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.