G713 A LARGE PAINTED WOOD FEMALE NAT FIGURE
H. 100 CMS, 39 ½ INS
A delightful and lively painted wood figure of Popa Medaw Nat, also referred to as Me Wunna, standing on a round base and finely detailed in polychromes, wielding a sword and wearing a tall headdress, a waistcoat and an ankle-length courtly robe.
Popa Medaw Wooden Nat, also referred to as Me Wunna, lady of Popa or Mother of Popa, although not one of the official 37 Nats is an important Nat in the Burmese spirit world. Me Wunna is connected to the Burmese myth of a flower-eating ogress from Mount Popa and is the mother of Min Gyi and Min Lay, also known as the Taungbyone brothers. She fell in love with Byatta, whose royal duty was to gather flowers from Popa for King Anawrahta of Bagan (1044-1077). Byatta was executed for disobeying the king who disapproved of the liaison, and their sons were later taken away to the palace. Me Wunna died of a broken heart and, like Byatta, became a nat. Their sons also became heroes in the king’s service but were later executed for neglecting their duty during the construction of a pagoda at Taungbyone near Mandalay. They too became powerful nats but they remained in Taungbyone where a major festival is held annually in August.
Nats are a group of spiritual beings whose worship predates the introduction of Buddhism to Burma, but continue to be worshipped today. Thirty-seven principal nats were identified by King Anawratha (1044-1077) and their images are sometimes seen at the base of Buddha statues, apparently acknowledging the greater spiritual path. In addition, other nats are worshipped at local level, being associated with the natural world, particular villages, the family and certain events and activities. Believed to be the immortal spirits of individuals who have died violently, they are a source of both fear and protection and offerings intended to placate them are left at their shrines. The foremost centre of nat worship in Burma is Mount Popa, a well–known landmark near Pagan.
For a fine, closely related figure of Popa Medaw in the Northern Illinois University Center for Burma Studies please visit the following link:
For a superbly illustrated book on nats see Sir R. C. Temple, The Thirty-Seven Nats: A Phase of Spirit-Worship Prevailing in Burma, London: W. Griggs Ltd, 1906. To see this book online please visit the following link:
Provenance: Private German collection