A very happy Tamil New Year! The Sarvari varusham is here. The Vasan thirukanitha panchangam (thirukanitha – mathematical calculations to arrive at precise planetary positions thus determining auspicious time for various activities) has been an integral part of every household and a new one is published just before the new year.
A morning trip to the store to find coconuts is futile. Result is no payasam or coconut based fare. Never mind. Picked up a few flowers on the way back and everyone was ready to usher in the New Year. On the occassion, offerings are made of rice, dals, coins, cash, jewels and clothes to signify prosperity and good health. Prayers to the panchangam are offered as well. Along with all of the above thin and spiced buttermilk (Neer mor) and a jaggery + cardamom + ginger powder based water (panakam) is offered as part of the prayer. A mango + neem flower mix, boiled with jaggery signifying the sweet, sour and bitter experiences is offered and later savoured. All experiences are to be treated equally and accepted gracefully.
The Hon’ble Prime Minister wished its citizens celebrating New Year and promptly announced the extension of the #lockdown. We were now heading in to #lockdown 2.0. His appeal was based on the need to save lives and livelihoods. All arms of the government along with state governmernts were taken on board before a decision was communicated to the citizens of the country. The second lockdown was to extend until the 3rd of May. The severity of guidelines were to be increased until the 20th of April post which sector wise easing was expected. This was the livelihood piece. Of siginificance here is the agriculture sector which had to get back to work to complete the harvest and be in readiness for the monsoon on which the country is dependant.
With the office headquarters in the country shuttered due to Tamil new year, the rest of the locations had a relatively easy day to contend with. However, calls that were already on calendars had to be honoured and those few hours were definitely required to get them completed. An afternoon movie on a regional channel was a good watch along with the Mrs. The movie was called Thambi.
Lunch was a simple Rasam prepared with neem flowers. The dish is a delicacy and is a great stomach cleanser.
With HQ coming back online, the day after was always going to be one where there would be no respite from the calls that infest the calendar.
In Part 1 of this blog series we explored the U-Bein bridge in Mandalay. In Part 2 of this blog series we explored the township of Mingun in the Mandalay region. In Part 3, we continued our exploration of Mandalay with a shore expedition to Innwa also called as Ava. In Part 4, we explored the raw energies of Bagan. Now, we set out to explore the key sights and sounds of Yangon during our first ever visit to this wonderful country.
Rangoon was the earlier name for Yangon since independence from the British in 1948. Yangon became the closest pronunciation to its original Burmese (Myanmar) name. The world now knows Rangoon as Yangon since 2006. We planned a two day tour of Yangon covering its key sights and sounds. A good Japanese made second hand rented, re-furbished and chauffered cab is usually available with the tour companies. They are well versed with the routes and are polite and very service conscious. If doing by self, taxis can be hailed but negotiation is a must before boarding.
Tamils have been an integral part of the ethnic fabric of Myanmar. Their presence dates back to the chola period between the 9th and 11th century AD. Later, after British annexation, many Tamils are said to have moved to Myanmar to work as labour in Rice fields and Rubber plantations. While current generation of Myanmar Tamils have embraced the Myanmarese way of life including their own name that resonates locally, they have kept their religious fervor alive by celebrating key Hindu and Tamil festivals. The Tamils inhabit townships in Yankin and Dala.
The Holy Trinity Church and Scotts Market
The Holy Trinity Church was the first Anglican church to be built in Yangon between 1886 and 1895 replacing a modest structure. The church was designed by a Madras (now chennai) based architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm and accommodated architectural styles to suit the climatic conditions of the city. The Scott market bult in 1926 is the former name of what is now called Bogyoke Aung San Market named after the founding father of modern day Myanmar. The name Scott is said to have been attributed to Mr. Gavin Scott , a former Municipal Commissioner of the area. The former colonial era building now virtually sells everything; You may call it the Alibaba / Amazon of Yangon.
Yangon CityHall area
The City Hall area gives you one place to marvel at all the colonial era buildings of Yangon. It is estimated that that Yangon has the most of these buildings in almost all of South East Asia. The City Hall is the administrative seat of the Yangon Development Council. The building dates back to 1936. In its vicinity are the Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandula Park, The High Court, Main Post offices and other structures. There are numerous snack and betelnut vendors and plenty of open space to just sit and indulge in people and building watching
Travelling to Myanmar
Travelling to Myanmar is now a breeze. Number of airlines fly in to Yangon with a single stop at any popular hub. Mandalay and Bagan are well connected from Yangon.
Air India offers twice a week flight between Kolkata and Yangon on Saturdays and Mondays. Its a surprise that the two countries which share such a common heritage still dont have good direct connectivity.
Tourists can check visa requirements on The Myanmar eVisa website. This is a government website and one can apply online for an e-visa. Check out for countries for whom Visa is provided on arrival. Indians can now apply for visa upon arrival. A recent government order to this effect. However, as a travel best practice it is always wise to utilize the e-visa facility offered. One however has to be careful while entering the passport details in to the Visa application form. Mismatch very clearly results in deportation.
In part 2 of Sights and Sounds of Yangon, we explore the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Reclining Buddha