Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nearly Extinct Traditional Festival Being Held Across Arakan

1/30/2010

By Takaloo, Maungdaw: A traditional Arakanese festival of "tug of war", which nearly disappeared from urban Arakan, is now being held in many urban and rural areas across the state this year with a common aim to preserve this historic cultural tradition, report local sources.


The Arakanese "tug of war", known locally as Rahta-Swe-Bwe, or "carriage-pulling event", is distinguished by the use of a four-wheel wooden carriage with full decorations in the center of two pulling teams. This is a seasonal festival in Arakan and was traditionally held on the full-moon day in the month of Tabotwe, the eleventh month in the Arakanese lunar calendar, which usually coincides with January on the English calendar.

The festival is being held in the border towns Maungdaw and Minbya for three days from 27 to 29 January, and is being celebrated in Arakan's capital Sittwe from 25 to 29 January. It is also being held in rural areas in Mrauk U, Kyauk Taw, and Kyauk Pru Townships on 29 January, report sources.

In the festival, two teams comprised of at least 100 people each have to compete in three rounds of pulling the carriage, with the goal of pulling it to their side for a win.

The festival has been a rural even for ages in Arakan, but has been held in Maungdaw annually since 1986. It was just revived in the capital Sittwe last year, and is being held in Minbya for the first time again this year.

According to Arakanese historical records, the game was invented during the Mrauk U Era in 1535 CE as an Arakanese national game.

One member of the festival committee in Maungdaw said that the town dwellers have organized this traditional festival at their own expense in order to preserve their historical culture in spite of political repression and economic hardship.

"This is our traditional festival and we should never let it die out. Due to political repression and economic hardship, almost all parts of our state have forgotten that we have such a lovely traditional sport. It has already been more than 20 years that we have been celebrating this festival with an aim to preserve our historical value," said the committee member on condition of anonymity.

He said that there will also be some performances of traditional dances and a raffle held alongside the Rahta-Swe-Bwe. The competition will include not only teams from Maungdaw Township, but also teams from neighboring Buthidaung and Rathidaung Townships.

The final award ceremony will be held before midnight of the final day, which is the full-moon day of the month. In old days, the winning team was given the right to burn the carriage on the final day, but winners nowadays are also awarded gold and silver cups.

Ref: Narinjara

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