The significance Muthu Kuda to Buddhists

Muthu Kuda

The modern-day umbrella as we know it today is primarily a contraption to keep people dry in rain. However, its original purpose was to shade a person from the sun. There is an abundance of references to the usage of umbrellas in art, literature, and Buddhism, particularly in Asia. Hence, it is a symbol of both protection and royalty.  

The noble past of the umbrella

The earliest known umbrellas can be seen in Egyptian artistic form dating back to the fifth dynasty, circa 2450 BC. Even today one can see many temple wall paintings depicting a servant holding a parasol (umbrella) over a God during a procession. In fact, due to the intricate expertise needed to hand-make them in ancient times, umbrellas became objects of power and status. In particular, they were used to protect important people such as gods, royalty, and religious leaders. This led to many religions adopting umbrellas as part of their ceremonies.

What is a Muthu Kuda Umbrella?

In Sri Lanka, a Muthu Kuda is not used by all and sundry. In effect, they are primarily used to shield Buddhist monks. The ostentatious use of the Muthu Kuda signifies it as a step above the ordinary. Henceforth, that is why we don’t see a layman carrying or using a Muthu Kuda.

What is the main difference of a Muthu Kuda?

Fabric colour: The fabric of the canopy is mostly made out of polyester fabric and is golden while some are made up of Saffron colour. We also see many Muthu Kuda in orange colour. Why orange? Orange is associated with the Theravada Buddhist followers in Southeast Asia. Thus, there is a connection

The tip: of the umbrella also called a ferrule is made out of a carved wooden object signifying a sphere.

Wooden Handle: Apart from the canopy, the wooden handle is the single most customisable element of the Muthu Kuda. Accordingly, the wooden handle dominates a greater portion of the shaft.

Perimeter tape: The perimeter tape is adorned with ornate sequins and tussles giving the Muthu Kuda a majestic look.

Shaft: The pole or shaft of the umbrella symbolises the celestial pole representing the connection between the heaven and the earth. Consequently, Buddhists give the Muthu Kuda the pride of place as it can be associated with a temple in motion

Shape: Muthu Kuda made to Octagonal shapes are common. To enumerate, the octagon shape represents the Nobel Eightfold path, one of the principal teachings of Buddhism. For instance, it consists of eight practices: right view, speech, resolve, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and right samadhi.

Types of Muthu Kuda

There are plain Muthu Kuda designs and ones embellished with triple pagodas. Especially, the triple pagodas suspended on top of each other signify the triple gem. Also available are Muthu Kuda printed with various Buddhist iconography like the heart-shaped “Bodhi Tree” leaf, dharma wheel representing knowledge, and lotus flower representing purity and enlightenment. While the conch shell represents spreading the teachings of the Buddha far and wide.  Also, one will find models ornately decorated with sequins.

Muthu Kuda and Buddhism

Muthu Kuda in Sri Lanka

When a Muthu Kuda is put up (some call it open) the shape is similar to a dome or a stupa housing sacred relics. Uniquely, it is associated with the Buddha, casting its shadow of protection on the earth. The Muthu Kuda is carried above an important person or to shield the image of a deity. Besides, the use of the Muthu Kuda denotes that deities are entitled to respect.

Wheel of the Buddha

Just imagine a Stupa or a dageba and the Kotha, affixed right at the top. In essence, the tip of the Muthu Kuda fastened at the pinnacle is fashioned like a “Kotha” made out of carved wood, placed at the top of the spire. While the Ribs of the umbrella fastened to tips of the perimeter tape provides the canopy with its structure and shape. Markedly, from inside it is like a Dharma Wheel or ‘Dharmachakra’ (Sanskrit). In reality, the spokes of the wheel denote wisdom and the perimeter tape or the rim concentration. By all means, the perfect form of the Wheel signifies the universal monarch’s sovereignty over the Universe, and the Buddhists adopted the same form of the wheel to signify the Wheel of the Law of the Buddha

How many panels does an umbrella have?

The usual umbrella has eight panels, and as many as twelve can occasionally be found. In most instances, a well-constructed Muthu Kuda will have 16 panels. At one point, the number of panels in an umbrella was an indication of quality or at least of the amount of attention the umbrella maker paid to his product. That is to say, the more the panels an umbrella has, the more sturdy and long-lasting it will be.

Where to buy a Muthu Kuda?

Muthu Kuda can be purchased online through leading E-commerce sits in Sri Lanka. Further, they are available at Atapirikara shops (Religious goods stores) located in any major town. In general, a high quality four and a half feet Muthu Kuda is priced around LKR 5,350 upwards. Moreover, there are elaborate designs priced around LKR 10,000. 

What can you gift a Buddhist Monk?

When a Monk or a group of Monks visit a home or business establishment to chant blessing, it is a traditional norm to give them a gift or offering. Indeed, such gifts form an appreciation a layperson can portray to the faith. However, giving a gift is not considered charity. But rather an exchange, as the Monks have provided his gift in the form of Buddhist teachings. All in all, many things can be given as gifts like soap, toothpaste, washing powder, tea, preserved foods (day to day items that a Monk would need). At the same time, Atapirikara and the Muthu Kuda is given as religious offerings.

Thai Muthu kuda

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Muthu Kuda

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