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Bamar
ဗမာလူမျိုး
Girl painted with thanaka.JPG
Total population
c. 30,000,000
Regions with significant populations
Burma
Languages

Burmese

Religion

Theravada Buddhism

Related ethnic groups

Yi, Nakhi, Tibetans and to a lesser extent Bodo and Karen

The Bamar (Burmese: ဗမာလူမျိုး; MLCTS: ba. ma lu myui:; IPA: [bəmà lùmjó], also called Burman), are the dominant ethnic group of Burma, constituting approximately 68% (30,000,000) of the population. The Bamar usually have straight black hair, and a relatively light skin tone (although intermixing makes skin tone vary).

The Bamar are frequently called simply Burmese, but this term is ambiguous as it can also refer to a citizen of Burma who belongs to a different ethnic group (Karen, Shan, Kachin, Mon, etc.). In general, the people of Burma use "Myanmar" to describe persons of all ethnic backgrounds in Burma.

Contents

Language

The Burmese language, the official language of Burma, is widely spoken by many of the ethnic minorities as well as the majority Bamar. Its core vocabulary consists of Sino-Tibetan words, but many terms associated with Buddhism, arts, sciences, and government have derived from the Indo-European languages of Pali and English. The Rakhine, although culturally distinct from the Bamar, are ethnically related to the Bamar and speak a dialect of Burmese that includes retention of the /r/ sound, which has coalesced into the /j/ sound in standard Burmese (although it is still present in orthography). Additional dialects come from coastal areas of Tanintharyi Division, and include Myeik (Beik) and Dawei (Tavoyan).[1] English was introduced in the 1800s when the Bamar first came into contact with the British as a trading nation and continued to flourish under subsequent colonial rule.

Origins

The Bamar are of East Asian descent, and speak a Sino-Tibetan language (related to Tibetan, and more distantly to Chinese). They migrated from the present day Yunnan in China into the Ayeyarwady river valley in Upper Burma about 1200-1500 years ago. Over the last millennium, they have largely replaced/absorbed the Mon and the earlier Pyu, ethnic groups that originally dominated the Ayeyarwady valley.

Distribution

The Bamar are most numerous in Burma, constituting the majority ethnic group. Many have settled in Europe, particularly in Great Britain. The Burmese diaspora, which is a recent phenomenon in historical terms and began at the start of World War II, has been mainly brought about by a protracted period of military rule and reflects the ethnic diversity of Burma. Firstly, the Anglo-Burmese following Burmese independence in 1948 began moving to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and North America, to be followed by the Bamar themselves. It is by no means confined to the West; Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Korea and Japan are also popular destinations. Burmese settled in Australia, New Zealand and the UK tend to be overwhelmingly of Anglo-Burmese origins.

Culture and society

The Bamar traditionally wear sarongs, known in Burmese as longyi (လုံချည်). Women wear a type of sarong known as htamain (ထမီ), while men wear a sarong sewn into a tube, called a longyi, or, more formally, a single long piece wrapped around the hips, known in Burmese as a paso (ပုဆိုး). Formal attire often consists of gold jewellery, silk scarves, and jackets. On formal occasions, men often wear cloth turbans called gaungbaung (ခေါင်းပေါင်း) and Mandarin collared jackets called taikpon (တိုက်ပုံ), while women wear blouses. Both genders wear velvet sandals called Mandalay pa nak (မန္တလေး‌ဖိနပ်‌), although leather, rubber and plastic sandals (ဂျပန်ဖိနပ်‌, lit. Japanese shoes) are also worn. In cities and urban areas, Western dress, including T-shirts, jeans and sports shoes or trainers, has become popular, especially among the younger generation. Talismanic tattoos, earrings, and long hair tied in a knot were once common among Bamar men, but have ceased to be fashionable since after World War II; men in shorts and sporting ponytails, as well as both sexes with bleached hair, have made their appearance in Yangon and Mandalay more recently, especially in the anything-goes atmosphere of the Burmese New Year holiday known as Thingyan. Westernization mostly comes via Japan and Singapore. The Bamar of both sexes and all ages also wear thanaka, especially on their faces, although the practice is largely confined to women, children and young, unmarried men. Western makeup and cosmetics have long enjoyed a popularity in urban areas. However, thanaka is not exclusively worn by the Bamar, as many other ethnic groups throughout Burma utilize this cosmetic.

Bamar cuisine contains many regional elements, such as stir-frying techniques and curries which can be hot but lightly spiced otherwise, almost always with fish paste as well as onions, garlic, ginger, dried chilli and turmeric. Rice (ထမင်း htamin) is the staple, although noodles (ခေါက်ဆွဲ hkauk swè), salads (အသုတ် a thouk), and breads (ပေါင်မုန့် paung mont) are also eaten. Green tea is often the beverage of choice, but tea is also traditionally pickled and eaten as a salad called lahpet. The most well-known Bamar-originated dish is mohinga, rice noodles in a fish broth. Dishes from other ethnic minorities (Shan, Chinese, Indian) are also consumed.

Traditional Bamar music consists of an orchestra mainly of percussion and wind instruments but the saung gauk (ဆောင်းကောက်), a boat-shaped harp, is often symbolic of the Bamar. Modern Bamar music is typically Westernized, with influences particularly from American country music. However, rap and hip-hop have also gained popularity. Traditional Bamar dancing is similar to Thai dancing, and is known as yodaya aka (ယိုးဒယားအက, lit. Thai dance). Puppetry is also a popular form of entertainment and is often performed at pwés, which is a generic term for shows, celebrations and festivals. In urban areas, movies from both Bollywood and Hollywood have long been popular, but more recently Korean and Chinese films, especially DVDs, have become increasingly popular.

Rites of passage are also of cultural importance to the Bamar. These include shinbyu (ရှင်ပြု), a novitiation ceremony for Buddhist boys, and na htwin (နားသွင်း), an ear-piercing ceremony for girls.

Buddhist festivals and holidays are widely celebrated among the Bamar. Thingyan, the Water Festival, which marks the beginning of the Burmese New Year in April, is one such example. Thadingyut, which marks the end of the Buddhist lent, is celebrated with the Festival of Lights in October. Kathina or robe offering ceremony for monks is held at the start of Lent in July and again in November.

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Religion

A nat ein in Downtown Yangon

The majority of Bamar are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. People are expected to keep the basic five precepts and practise dana (charity), Śīla (morality), and bavana (meditation). Most villages have a monastery and often a pagoda maintained and supported by the layfolk. Annual pagoda festivals usually fall on a full moon day, and robe offering ceremonies for monks are held both at the beginning and after the Buddhist lent which coincides with the monsoons, and during which uposatha (sabbath) is generally observed once a week. Children used to be educated by monks before secular state schools came into being. A shinbyu ceremony by which young boys become novice monks for a short period is the most important duty of Buddhist parents. Christian missionaries had made little impact on the Bamar despite the popularity of missionary schools in cities.

The Bamar practise Buddhism along with nat worship which predated Buddhism. It involves rituals relating to a pantheon of 37 Nats designated by King Anawrahta, although many minor nats are also worshipped. In villages, many houses have outdoors altars to honor nats, called nat ein (နတ်အိမ်‌), in addition to one outside the village known as nat sin (နတ်စင်‌) often under a bo tree. Indoors in many households, one may find a coconut called nat oun up the main post for the Eindwin Min Mahagiri (အိမ်တွင်းမင်းမဟာဂိရိ; lit. "Indoors Lord of the Great Mountain"), one of the most important of the Nats.

Naming

The Bamar typically use the day of birth (traditional 8-day calendar, which includes Yahu, Wednesday afternoon) as the basis for naming. Letters from groups within the Burmese alphabet are designated to certain days, from which the Bamar choose names[2]. They are chosen as follows:

Day Letters
Monday (တနင်းလာ) က (ka), (hka), (ga), (ga), (nga)
Tuesday (အင်္ဂါ) (sa), (hsa), (za), (za), (nya)
Wednesday (ဗုဒ္ဓဟူး) (la), (wa)
Yahu (ရာဟု) (ya), (ya, ra)
Thursday (ကြားသပတေး) (pa), (hpa), (ba), (ba), (ma)
Friday (သောက္ရာ) (tha), (ha)
Saturday (စနေ) (ta), (hta), (da), (da), (na)
Sunday (တနင်္ဂနွေ) (a)

In the past, the Bamar typically had shorter names, usually limited to one or two syllables. However, the trend of adopting longer names (4 or 5 for females and 3 for males) has become popular. Bamar names also frequently make use of Pali-derived loan words.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (2005). "Language Family Trees". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. SIL International. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_family.asp?subid=90255. Retrieved 2006-07-06.  
  2. ^ Shway Yoe (Sir James George Scott) (1882), written at London, The Burman: his life and notions, Macmillan (Reprint: Norton, New York, 1963) pp. 4-6

References

External links


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