The golden land of Myanmar is full of colour,whether natural or man-made.This colour is enhanced to some extent by all manner of umbrellas and parasols.The Pathein parasol for one is simply enchanting ,with it’s beautiful design containing sort of artistic painting on them.
The umbrella is just a personal item ,helping to protect one from the sun or the rain.It is essential in a tropical country with a good rainfall.But in Myanmar,the role of the umbrella runs from mundane to the most sacred ,as tje ornamented finial on our pagodas and temples is also called ‘ Htee ‘ (umbrella).In time of yore ,the umbrella was part of the royal regalia,or a symbol of rank.It still is a symbol of high honour in Myanmar monastic life.
Myanmar is also well-known for it’s handicrafts; hand-made silverware ,lacquer ware,artistic wood carvings,caneware,bamboo ware , mother – of – pearl products,ivory carvings,so on and so forth.Umbrella -making does not figure much among them.Yet it is a pure ,traditional handicraft in it’s own right.
We may know leave alone making the ornamented finial of a pagoda ,or miniature paper umbrellas used as offertory.
Traditional hand-made parasols are still much used by our Buddhist monks and nuns,even as foreign-made steel and nylon umbrellas are gaining their favour .Tje traditional parasol for laymen’s use is now virtually extinct ,while the Pathein parasol is gradually becoming a decoratibe thing ,or a souvenir item to be picked up by the foreign visitor .The Myanmar traditional parasol is mostly a bamboo and oiled cloth affair ,while most of its raw materials are locally produced.The ‘Tin Wah’ is the gavourite bamboo out of which 18″ -20″ .Strips are made.The bamboo is soaked for some time in foul water ,to prevent it from the danger of insects later .The head and sliding hub of the parasol are made of teak ,manufactured by using the turning lathe.The other important parts are the frame work of ribs ,the covering or leaves ,the rib,the trigger ,the handle and the shaft ,which is of various kinds.
The radius for a man’s parasol ‘s leaves is 16 inches ,a woman’s parasol 14 inches and the children’s parasol 10 inches respectively .Tje number of ribs with props for each parasol also differ .However,all these measurements and numbers are only general .They could differ from locality to locality.It is said that ,in this handicraft,putting the covering (leaves)on the frame is the most difficult ,to be mastered only after about three years’experience .The special cloth is weaved in Amarapura near Mandalay .Before cutting the cloth,sheets of paper cut to scale have to be made to be put thereon.On the covering of a woman’s parasol are painted natural scenery and landscape.The covering of a man’s parasol has two white bands between which are seen painting of landscape and royal cities.The monk’s or nun’s parasol is painted red all over.As mentioned above,the man’s parasol has almost gone out of use.The woman’s parasol ,called Pathein Htee or Aindawyar Htee ,remains somewhat in use.In this modern era,most people including the clergy tend to favour the folding steel and nylon (or stain) affairs.
Myanmar parasols have their origin in Pathein ,a town in the Delta Region.Hence their name -Pathein Htee in Myanmar Language.In fact ,it also is produced elsewhere in the country.When it is manufactured at Aindawyer ,a ward in Mandalay .It could be called Aindawyar Htee .The parasol is also made in Yangon,meaning Umbrella Row.
Umbrella manufacture is said to have originated in Pathein more than a hundred years ago.A group of people came down from Pyay ,rather upcountry ,and initiated the trade in Pathein.The covering of parasols at first was paper to be replaced later by cotton ,silk and taffeta .Oil -Soaked cloth is good for long lasting use.
Pathein parasol are well-known for their beautiful designs and dashing colours.The designs are usually floral.The pathein parasol has seen a booming business ,aided in no small measure by the appreciation of foreign visitors.
The designed and construction of the Myanmar parasol is quite distinct from the Chinese or the Japanese ones.To describe it briefly ,the shaft and ribs are of bamboo which are carefully smoothened to uniform sizes ,and these ribs are hinged on to the main shaft by threading with twine.The shades are of gay coloured cotton ,rayon,silk or stain .To add to the covering’s brightness,attractive designs of flowers and sceneries are painted thereon with either oil or water colours.
There are flat – topped parasols and also another type with its shade slightly curved downward at the outer edge.Most of them have coloured tassels attached to the end of each rib .There are inexpensive ones with wooden handles and the special ones with carved silvered handles.
Regarding the traditional umbrella manufacture as a whole ,the golden umbrella manufacture should remain for a long long time because it is part and parcel of Myanmar Buddhist rites and customs.But the rest might be a dying art .The Pathein parasol is becoming a souvenir item ,a curiosity ,or just a decorative thing at trade shows.We should put our heads together to promote it.Such a beautiful thing as the Pathein Parasol needs all the protection it can get.