Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

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A snake rests behind a monk in the Baungdawgyoke pagoda, outside Yangon. (AFP)
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Seeing a live snake slithering among Buddha statues is rare, and for some visitors, that serves as a draw to visit Baungdawgyoke temple. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018

Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

  • ‘People come here because they believe that their prayers will be fulfilled when they ask for something’
  • The mythical ‘naga’ – a Sanskrit word for snake – is a common figure seen in temples throughout Southeast Asia

YANGON: Crossing a bridge to the middle of a lake in Myanmar’s Yangon region, pilgrims arrive at a temple to pin their hopes on the pythons slinking across the temple’s floors and draped across windows.
“People come here because they believe that their prayers will be fulfilled when they ask for something,” said Sandar Thiri, a nun residing at the Baungdawgyoke pagoda – dubbed the “snake temple” by locals.
“The rule is that people can only ask for one thing, not many things,” she said. “Don’t be greedy.”
In the main room of the temple is a tree with figurines of Buddha around it. The serpents move slowly through the branches, their forked tongues darting in and out as they gaze down on the worshippers prostrating themselves.
Many locals regard the presence of the dozens of pythons, some measuring up to two or three meters in length, as a sign of the pagoda’s power.
Win Myint, 45, said he has been coming to Baungdawgyoke since he was a child.
“Now I am older and I come to give offerings, which has made some of my wishes come true.”
Nearby, a monk dozes on a chair with two serpents curled at his feet, their thick bodies holding 1,000-kyat notes (worth about 60 US cents) tucked in between their coils by hopeful visitors. A woman, brave enough to venture close to a python, gently caresses it.
The mythical “naga” – a Sanskrit word for snake – is a common figure seen in temples throughout Southeast Asia, where Buddhist, Hindu and animist influences are intertwined. Nagas are usually carved out of stone and placed at the entrances.
But seeing a live snake slithering among Buddha statues is rare, and for some visitors, that serves as a draw to visit Baungdawgyoke — a short drive southwest of downtown Yangon.
With snakes curled up next to meditating monks, the image is reminiscent of a story in Buddhist mythology when the Buddha sat under a tree to meditate.
According to the legend, as it started to rain, a cobra protected Buddha by fanning its hood wide over his head to act as a shelter.
Nay Myo Thu, a 30-year-old farmer, believes he will receive good fortune by bringing the snakes he finds in his fields to the temple instead of killing them, adhering to a Buddhist belief that all animals are sentient beings that can be reincarnated as humans.
“I don’t want to bring about any misfortune by killing a creature,” Nay Myo Thu said. “Catching and donating the snakes brings me good fortune instead.”


Europe’s ‘most wanted women’ targeted in new campaign

Iveta Tancosova. (Europol)
Updated 20 October 2019

Europe’s ‘most wanted women’ targeted in new campaign

  • The wanted suspects face a range of charges including murder, and human and drug trafficking

THE HAGUE: Europe’s policing agency Friday rolled out a new campaign to catch the continent’s most wanted female criminals, saying their crimes were just as serious as those committed by men.
Called the “Crime has no gender” campaign, Europol’s new website reveals the faces of fugitives wanted by 21 EU countries in an interactive way, Europol spokeswoman Tine Hollevoet said. Of those, 18 are women.
“People think that usually these crimes are not being committed by women, but they are and they are equally as serious as those committed by men,” she told AFP.
The wanted suspects face a range of charges including murder, and human and drug trafficking.
The interactive campaign first shows the suspects hidden behind spooky neon masks, before their faces are slowly revealed as viewers read the stories behind their crimes.
“After the last time a viewer scrolls, the face of the wanted fugitive is revealed and they will be able to see if it’s a man or a woman,” Hollevoet said.
“The idea is to attract as many visitors as possible, with experience showing us that the more eyes that look at the wanted fugitives, the higher the chance to locate and arrest the wanted person,” she said.
For instance, France is looking for Jessica Edosomwan, a Nigerian citizen who escaped after police raided a prostitution ring in the Lyon region in late 2007 and arrested 26 people.
The ring exploited some 60 prostitutes who were lured to France with the promise of a better future and were smuggled there through Libya.
Once in France, the destitute women were subjected to voodoo “juju” rites and their families threatened, French police told AFP.
The case against the suspects are expected to start in Lyon on November 6 and Edosomwan is the only suspect still outstanding.
She is believed to be either in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, police said. Another wanted suspect is Hungarian national Ildiko Dudas, 31, who is wanted for drug trafficking and child abuse. “Very often the suspect’s children were brought along to the drug transactions,” Europol said of Dudas.
Dudas was sentenced to six years in prison for crimes committed between 2011 and 2012 but her current whereabouts are unknown.
Europol’s “masquerade of crime” can be viewed on the following website www.eumostwanted.eu/crimehasnogender — along with instructions on how to send a tip-off to police.