Astrology

   The "science of the stars," originally brought from India, continues to have a strong grip on the minds of many Burmese. Traditionally, the exact moment of a person's birth becomes the basis for a horoscope (sada in the Burmese [Myanmar] language), which is drawn up by an astrologer and serves as a lifelong guide to prudent behavior. Inscribed on a palm leaf, the sada is filled with complicated symbols and figures and is often destroyed when the bearer dies. Depending upon which day of the week he or she was born, a person is believed to be under the influence of the planet corresponding to that day (e.g., Mars is the planet for Tuesday). The Burmese believe in nine planets, eight of which have astrological influence that can be either favorable or unfavorable, depending on the relationship with one's birth-planet and a number of other complicated factors. Pagoda platforms, most famously the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon (Yangon), have separate shrines at the cardinal points of the compass for each of the eight planets and birth-days. Thus, astrology has connections with Buddhism. Those most addicted to astrology will undertake no major enterprise, such as going on a journey, concluding a business deal, or getting married, without getting an astrologer to examine their horoscopes to find an auspicious day. Following astrological advice, people often change their names to avoid misfortune.
   The exact time and date of Burma's independence from Britain, the early morning of January 4, 1948, was determined by astrological calculations. Ne Win was famous for his belief in astrology as well as other occult arts, such as yedaya and numerology. The interior ceiling of the Maha Vizaya Pagoda, built largely through his sponsorship in the 1980s, contains astrological symbols, and journalists report that his astrologers used a planetarium located near the Shwe Dagon Pagoda and donated by the Japanese government (for educational purposes) to chart the movements of the planets. Though educated Burmese generally disparage it as unscientific, astrology remains important in the lives of ordinary people and many members of the military elite. This can be explained as part of a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity: the lack of a rule of law, which encourages governmental abuses of power; the State Peace and Development Council's fears about popular unrest; worsening economic conditions; lack of social welfare facilities to deal with sickness or loss of income; and the declining quality of education for most Burmese.
   See also Names, Burmese; Week, Burmese.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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