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Monk Cremation Ceremony (Phone Gyi Pyan)

  A monk's funeral rite is one of the most important religious occasions among Myanmar Buddhists because the highly revered monks have taken an influential role in society since the time of royal monarchs. They set disciplines and examples for the lay people and help them in the areas such as education, organization, welfare and counseling in addition to religious services. Consequently, when the chief monk of a monastery passes away, the whole community mourns, takes part in his funeral rites, and celebrates on a grand scale in his honour.

The origin of the Buddhist cremation ceremonies can be traced back to Indian customs. In fact, all the Buddhist monks and laities follow the example of the Buddha, who had His remains cremated after his demise and whose relics were subsequently distributed and enshrined in many parts of the world.

In a typical Myanmar funeral, when the incumbent of a monastery dies, the body is usually embalmed so as to extend the time for final tribute while preparations are made for the funeral. The coffin, covered with a decorative and richly embroidered piece of velvet, is placed on a stately bier with royal ensigns at the four corners. On the day of the funeral, the coffin is placed on a hearse that is either a motor vehicle or a trailer drawn by the cortege. People from far and near throng to attend the funeral procession. In rural areas, some form of entertainment usually accompanies the occasion in order to attract or please the visitors. When the bier has reached the cemetery, the coffin is placed on top of the catafalque which has been filled with combustibles and sandalwood. Finally, the pyre is ignited from a distance by means of rockets, creating a spectacular fiery experience for the mournful onlookers.