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Myanmar > Pictures and travelogues > Mount Popa and Nats in Myanmar

Mount Popa and Nats in Myanmar: Mount Popa and Nat worship in the Mandalay region.

Mount Popa in Myanmar 
Mount Popa in the Mandalay Region in Myanmar. 

Mount Popa is a sleeping volcano that is located in Upper Burma in the region of Mandalay. With an altitude of 1518 m, it is the highest peak of Myanmar. Mount Popa is also the name commonly given to the Taung Kalat, a sheer-sided volcanic plug which lies to the southwest of the volcano, about 50 km from Bagan. Taung Kalat is 737 m (2,417 ft) high.
 
Mount Popa (Taung Kalat) is the refuge of the most powerful nats of Burma. The Nats are good spirits. They were venerated by the Burmese before the introduction of Buddhism in Burma. They are still today worshipped in Burma, in particular in the countryside, in conjunction with Buddhism. Therefore, Mount Popa is a pilgrimage site.

The Mount Popa area has over 200 springs and streams which feed a rich vegetation growing on fertile volcanic soil. Therefore, it is a kind of green oasis in the arid centre of Myanmar.

You can access the top of Taung Kalat by climbing the stairway of 777 steps (approximately 20 minutes). On the way, you will see Macaque monkeys. A Buddhist monastery and some shrines are set up on the top of Taung Kalat. At the foot of the mountain, a sanctuary is dedicated to the mother of Popa and other main nats.

Nats by Mount Popa in Myanmar 
Nats at the foot of Mount Popa in the Mandalay region in Myanmar. 

Nats have been worshipped in Burma since antiquity. There are many nats. In the 11th century, King Anawrahta, founder of the first great Burmese dynasty, embraced Theravada Buddhism. Failing to eradicate ancient beliefs from his kingdom, he established a list containing only the main 37 nats. Moreover, he appointed Thagyamin (the Hindu deity Indra) as king of the 37 nats. Since Thagyamin is also the Buddhist deva Śakra, the official nats were somehow subordinated to Buddha.

The worship of nats has been then integrated into that of Buddhism in Burma. The main nats are mostly people who had a violent death and who have been "sanctified" for some reasons. Several of them were members of one of the royal families who ruled over parts of Burma at one time or another. 

Panoramic view from Mount Popa, Myanmar
Panoramic view from Mount Popa, Myanmar.


 

See also

Myanmar > Pictures and travelogues > Fishing and floating gardens in Inle Lake
Myanmar > Pictures and travelogues > Beaches in Ngapali

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Mount Popa and Nats in Myanmar: Mount Popa and Nat worship in the Mandalay region. Comprehensive travel guide to Myanmar with 200 great pictures.