Burmese Nats | Deva Spirits
Burmese Nats | Deva worship – In Myanmar the main belief system today is Theravada Buddhism, although there is still a strong following in animist beliefs or spirit worship, and is evident in temples, pagodas, homes and shrines in many villages throughout Myanmar.
During the reign of King Anawrahta between 1044 – 1077 A.D., in the Pagan era, animism and Nat or spirit worship was popular with the people of Myanmar. King Anawrahta after his conversion to Buddhism by a Mon priest decreed that the Theravada School of Buddhism be the main form of worship and that Nat worship should be banned he then ordered the destruction of all shrines and statues related to Nat worship.
Failing to stamp out Nat worship he decided to adopt and formalize a group of Nats which are now referred to as the pantheon of 37 Nats which until current times co-exist and are worshiped alongside Buddhism.
The 37 Nat spirits chosen by King Anawrahta are representative of people who once lived, all with different attributes, some bring good luck, some are considered angelic and some are bad. He named Thagyamin as the head Nat or king of Nats. Thagyamin incorporates elements of both the Buddhist deva Sakra and the Hindu deity Indra.
The 37 Nats are made up of main Nats and lesser nats, all with their own history and stories relating to people or mythological animals with whom they represent. Nat and spirit worship in Myanmar is intertwined with Buddhism and it plays an important role in the lives of many Myanmar people.
Each year there are special days and festivals held specifically to honor and celebrate the Nats.