Waso robe offering occasion arrives, but robe market sees sharp decrease

30 June 2020

Myanmar people preserve a tradition of offering Waso robes to members of Sangha in agreement with their belief of religion in Myanmar, a country allowing all citizens to believe in the religion that they like in an independent manner during the rainy season from July to September. 

The sales in monks’ robes and religious items were worth hundreds of lakhs of kyats in the market due to donation events. But in 2020, the current outbreak of COVID-19 has become an obstacle to mass gatherings and events as well as festivities to hold donation ceremonies. There are restrictions on celebration of donation and pagodas are also closed. These reasons have brought about a sharp decrease in the market of selling religious items including monk’s robes.  

U Ye Aung Naing, Head of Office of Shwedagon Pagoda’s Board of Trustees, said, “As the religious belief, Myanmar people usually bring robes when they come to the pagodas and monasteries and they are donated. A variety of religious items are also donated to members of Sangha. During the period of the closure of the pagoda, the staffs of pagoda’s board of trustees offer meals, water, and flowers to Buddha images at the pagoda under the arrangement of the pagoda’s board of trustees. According to the traditions, dawn meal and day meal as well as fruits are offered at the pagoda. Moreover, flowers, water and candle are offered at four Aryongan gateways and 12 satellite posts of the pagoda. Previously there were donors for the pagoda every day. During the closure of the pagoda, the staffs have to perform the tasks of offering dawn meals, day meals, flowers, water, light and fruits at the pagoda.”

Myanmar people go to the pagodas and monasteries, bringing offertories including robes while keeping sabbath there. Ceremonies of offering robes to members of Sangha are held every year. For these reasons, the demand for robes is very high. At such a time purchase from countryside is a great deal.

Daw Lwin Mar Aung, junior manager of Zawtika Monks’ Robe Shop from Myanmar Big Shop Center, said, “Now we have a few purchasers. During the previous days, the customers were very rare because of the impact of the COVID-19. This time previously was the best in our sales. The COVID-19 brought the sale force to go down. We can’t say when our business recovers. This time previously we earned 20 to 30 million kyats a day. Now we receive 100,000 to 300,000 kyats day and the difference is a big gap. I suppose that our sale force will be back to a right track only after the virus disappears.”

In the current monks’ robe market, the prices for one set of robe range from 12,000 to 40,000 kyats. Some kinds of robes are worth 150,000 kyats. The buyers prefer to buy robes sewed with the cloth coming from Japan.

Daw Tin Waing, owner of Gyomin Monks’ Robe Shop, said, “I haven’t called back the workers yet. I am sewing the robes by myself. The workers rang me up to return to me. I don’t tell them to come back because I can’t tell when the market recovers. Our business is good when Full Moon Day of Waso gets near. I wish all the people not only from our country but also from the world will meet good health and all the situations will return to normal. The price of one set of robes made with Chinese CYC costs 10,000 or 11,000 kyats. The price of one set of robe made with 333 of Singapore costs 16,000 or 17,000 kyats. The price of one set of Thai robe costs 25,000 to 35,000 kyats. The robe market was not good this year because there were no one who wanted to enter monkhood.

The robe shops earned 1.5 to 2 million kyats this time last year and large shops earned more than 10 million a day. But now some shops do not earn even about 100,000 a day.

The robe market has been good starting February to the end of the summer holidays every year. Also in the rainy season, the sale force of the robes is favourable as Waso robe offering ceremonies are held. Kathina robe offering ceremonies come after the rainy season. For that reason, it can be said that the robe sales is good throughout the year. But this year, the robe market is affected by the COVID-19.

Zwe Mahn