The Mythical Creatures of Myanmar influence not only Southeast Asian culture but world and literary culture as well.Asians are some of the most superstitious people in the world and the Burmese are no exception. Local legends and cultural beliefs have been heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism (Myanmar is over 90% Buddhist) so it’s readily apparent where these beliefs come from. Mythical Creatures are found throughout the Golden Land – and with this guide you can spot them for yourself! Myanmar has a number of its own mythical creatures reminiscent of Greek mythology that either resembles real-life or imaginary animals having a single combined form of several animals. Many mythical creatures originated in the life stories of the Buddha. The most famous of these is probably the Chinthe, a mythological lion who is known for his bravery and stateliness, and therefore considered as appropriate to guard religious shrines. In this page, I’ll explain the mythological creatures that roam the Myanmar landscape and assemble at various Pagodas and religious shirnes.
Chinthe (Lion)The Chinthe (Burmese: ခြင်္သေ့; Mon: ဇါဒိသိုၚ; Shan: သၢင်ႇသီႈ) is a leogryph (lion-like creature). According to Myanmar legends, lions are noted for their bravery and magnificence and thus considered the best guardians for religious shrines, pagodas and edifices. They are often seen at the entrances of pagodas and temples in Myanmar and other South and Southeast Asian countries. Chinthe are almost always depicted in pairs and locals believe they serve to protect the pagoda. As this is Myanmar, there is a great story as to why the Chinthe guards the entrances of pagodas: A princess had a son through her marriage to a lion, but later abandoned the lion. The lion became enraged and set out on a path of terror throughout the lands. The son, unbeknownst to him that the furious lion was actually his own father, went out to slay him. The victorious son came back home to his mother stating that he slew the lion and was then informed that he killed his own father. The son later constructed a statue of the lion as a guardian of a temple to atone for his sin. The Chinthe is revered and loved by the Burmese people and is used symbolically on the royal thrones of Burma. Predating the use of coins for money, brass weights cast in the shape of mythical beasts like the Chinthe were commonly used to measure standard quantities of staple items. Today, the Chinthe is featured prominently on the Kyat, Myanmar’s currency.
Belu (Ogre)The Belu (Pan-Kike Belu: Belu with straight fangs which eat humans, generally malevolent; Panswé Belu: Belu with curved or hooked fangs which eat flowers and fruits, generally benevolent) is a giant ogre similar to an oriental gargoyle. It is a common creature in the stories of the Buddhist scriptures representing a huge, cruel, humanoid, shape-shifting and man-eating monster. It’s not all horror with the Belu, however, as an example of a benevolent Belu is the famed Popa Medaw, the namesake of Mount Popa in Shan State. Popa Medaw (also known as Queen-Mother of Popa, Lady of Popa or Mei Wunna) is a nat (spirit) of Myanmar. She was a flower-eating ogress of an extinct volcano 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bagan.
MaganThe Magan in Myanmar is a mythical sea monster resembling a crocodile with a prehensile snout and vice-like jaws. In Hindu mythology, can be depicted as a half-terrestrial animal in the frontal part (stag, deer, crocodile or elephant) and half-aquatic in its hindquarters (usually a fish or seal tail, though sometimes a peacock or even a floral tail is depicted). Also known as Makara, it can take many different forms throughout Asia. In Hindu astrology, Makara is equivalent to the sign of Capricorn, tenth of the twelve symbols of the Zodiac.
SarmareeThe Sarmaree is a large long-haired wild or domesticated ox. This vain creature greatly values its hair.
Nagar, Nayar, Toenayar (Dragon)The Myanmar version of a dragon, the Nagar (also known as Nayar or Toenayar) is roughly a snake with a dragon head. The serpent-like mythical creature has no legs (yet sometimes depicted with four legs – Naga), can breathe fire and turn objects or creatures to ash just by looking at them.
Nawa Rupa (Rakhine Version – Byala)An amalgamation of nine animals in one creature (similar to the Pyinsa Rupa mentioned above), the Nawa Rupa (Nawayupa) is a national symbol of Rakhine State (formerly Arakan State). The locals believe this symbol brings good luck and is commonly found throughout the ancient kingdom of Mrauk U.
Keinayee-Keinayar (Kinnara, Kinnari)
Karaweik BirdThis is a mythical creature of a bird that supposedly possesses a pleasant and melodious cry. Traditionally, a barge in the shape of a Karaweik was used in formal ceremonies as a royal commuter boat. The Karaweik Palace at Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon is perhaps the most well-known symbol of the Karaweik Bird. Considered a sacred commuter bird, the ancient Burmese kings used a boat shaped like the Karaweik.
Galone (Garuda Bird)In Hinduism, Garuda is the mount (Vahana) of the Lord Vishnu. Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila. The brahminy kite and phoenix are considered to be the contemporary representations of Garuda.
NgamoeyeikA very large crocodile and along with the character of Min Nandar and Shin Hmwe Loon they make the Burmese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.
Spider of PindayaResources: Mythical Creatures in Burmese Folklore Wiki Myanmar.cm Burmacenter.org Myanmars.net