myanmar-junta-claims-white-elephant-as-good-omen,-legitimacy-for-its-rule

The birth of a rare albino Elephant is being portrayed by Myanmar’s junta as a ground for legitimacy of its rule due to the revered status of the rare tusker in the Burmese culture. According traditional Burmese beliefs, the region’s ancient rulers regarded white Elephants as extremely auspicious. Their birth as well as sudden appearance in an area was conceived as a symbol of righteous political power.

The pale white Elephant will feature on a special postage stamp to mark Myanmar’s 75th independence day, state media said on Tuesday.

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A set of gold commemorative coins bearing the animal’s image is also already being cast for the occasion, another report said.

The rare tusker’s highest-profile engagement so far was a meeting with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in October. During this meeting, the senior general bestowed it the name, Rattha Nandaka, at a televised ceremony.

‘Rattha Nandaka’ comes from the ancient Pali words for ‘country’ and ‘happiness’. 

In Myanmar, the craze for white elephants goes back hundreds of years. Traditional chronicles tell of kings in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar warring to capture the beasts from rivals.

The ruinous cost of keeping them in appropriately lavish style gave rise to the modern expression in which a “white elephant” is a useless, if beautiful, possession.

One creature inherited by a 19th century Burmese king was waited on by 30 servants and dressed in a “fine red cloth plentifully studded” with rubies and diamonds, according to a visiting British official.

The king, who had usurped his brother, “would gladly hail the capture of a real white elephant in his own day as an assent from the Powers of Nature to his own legitimate royalty,” the envoy added.

But the fortunes of the creatures are tied up with the ruler under whom they were captured.

Two elephants, once feted by a former junta, are now confined to a damp, out-of-the-way compound in commercial hub Yangon where they receive few visitors.

“Rattha Nandaka” will spend its days in a special compound for white elephants in military-built capital Naypyidaw, AFP reported. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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