Taungbyon Brothers

Taungbyon Brothers

The Two Lords

ALSO KNOWN AS:

Taungbyon Min Ni Naung

CLASSIFICATION:

Nat

In life, the Taungbyon Brothers were carousers, drunks, and seducers. They are now the subject of Myanmar’s most beloved annual Nat Pwe (festival), which is famous for carousing, too. The two brothers, Shwepyingyi and Shwepyingge, are subjects of a complex myth: The story begins in 1038 CE, when a wealthy merchant from Malabar was shipwrecked off the coast of Myanmar (Burma). He died, but his two young sons—Abraham and Ibrahim—survived, drifting ashore at Thaton where they were rescued by a Buddhist monk who raised them in a monastery.

The monk secretly possessed the corpse of a magician/hermit allegedly preserved for medicinal purposes. One day, left unsupervised, the two brothers ate the corpse and instantly acquired incredible psychic and supernatural powers, which they began to Demonstrate—attracting the king’s attention. He ordered the boys captured and brought to him. The older brother, captured via treachery, was killed and dismembered. His body was placed beneath the king’s palace to serve as a supernal guardian, while his intestines were divided into four parts and buried under the city’s walls facing in each direction for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, the younger brother escaped to the forest, where he fell in with thieves sent by Anawratha, King of Pagan, to steal Buddhist texts from the King of Thaton. The thieves were unable to enter the city because the spirit guardian/older brother would not admit them. The older brother appeared in the younger brother’s dreams and revealed the only possible entrance. The younger brother stole the texts and took them to Anawratha, who rewarded him by appointing him Flower Officer in charge of gathering flowers from sacred Mount Popa.

The younger brother fell in love with the spirit of Mount Popa. They had two sons, Shwepyingyi and Shwepyingge. The Flower Officer eventually fell from royal favour and was killed by the king. The two boys were raised on Mount Popa by their mother. King Anawratha ordered the boys to go to China to retrieve Buddhist relics. Their mother refused to let them go; the boys refused to leave their mother. The king sent an officer to force them, but the boys hunghim upside-down by his heels over a high cliff until he begged for mercy. The king sent the officer back with a magic wand, which compelled the spirit mother and her sons to roll down Mount Popa. The boys were seized, and their mother died of a broken heart. (She is now the Nat, Popa Medaw, Mother of Popa.)

The boys went to China with the officers and returned with relics, including an emerald Buddha. On the way back to Pagan, the white elephant carrying the relics halted and knelt at Taungbyon Village. The king took this as a sign to build his pagoda there. Each soldier had to participate by contributing a brick. The brothers, whether slackers or conscious resisters, did not participate. They sat around playing marbles instead, the upshot being that two bricks were missing from the pagoda.

The supervisor of the building site was the same officer they had hung upside-down. He had never forgiven them, so he took this opportunity to report them to the king, who ordered the brothers flogged. The brothers escaped but were captured. They were so powerful that beating had no effect, but they were killed when their testicles were crushed. In death, they transformed into the Taungbyon Nats, even more powerful carousers. They appeared to King Anawratha and terrorized him into building them a shrine. The king ordered their annual festival, still the most popular in Myanmar.

The Taungbyon Brothers are served by female shamans who engage in sacred marriages with the brothers as well as by cross-dressing male shamans. Channeled via spirit mediums, the brothers heal illness and infertility, reveal the future, and provide prosperity and gambler’s luck.

ATTRIBUTE:

Marbles

Animal: Tiger

Plant: Ferns

Mount:

The Taungbyon Brothers ride tigers

Festival:

The Taungbyon Festival lasts approximately a week, beginning on the eighth day of the waxing moon of the Burmese month of Wagaung and lasting until the full moon. This typically occurs in the Western month of August. The festival is held in Taungbyon Village, approximately twenty miles north of Mandalay. A festival honoring their mother follows shortly afterward, during the waning moon phase.

OFFERINGS:

Liquor, bananas, coconuts, fabric, cash, bouquets of ferns and flowers

SEE ALSO:

  • Cerridwen;
  • Golden Boy;
  • Nats

From the 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.

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