The Historical Roots of Thanaka
Legend has it that the use of Thanaka paste for its skin-nourishing properties was made popular by the queen of Beikthano. Her skin was the envy of many women and its soft, glowing appearance was attributed to using the paste made from mixing equal parts of ground Thanaka and water. However, the history of this amazing skincare product dates back to the founding of Myanmar (formerly Burma) during the 2nd century BC as the Pyu city-states.
The first written reference of Thanaka’s use in Burma was found in a poem written by King Razadarit’s companion during the 14th century. He was famous for reunifying southern Burma’s Mon-speaking regions and was also considered one of the country’s greatest monarchs. Other historic roots were demonstrated during a 1930 earthquake that destroyed an ancient pagoda. While digging through the ruins, a kyauk pyin (flat circular stone) was found. Supposedly, it belonged to King Bayinnaung’s daughter, the ruler of the country from 1550 to 1581. That showed that even then the aromatic wood was ground to a paste for application and must have been a well-kept royal beauty secret.
Thanaka is about Tradition, not Retail
Today, the history of Thanaka paste and the lengthy process involved in obtaining it is a testament to its value among the Burmese culture. Before the Thanaka tree is old enough to produce the high-quality cuttings required in making the paste, it must be at least 35 years old. Furthermore, it can take another 10 years before the tree attains a diameter of only 2”. Once the trees are large enough, they’re cut down. The paste is derived from grinding its bark or roots into a powder and then mixing it with water.
From a traditional perspective, Thanaka is sold in bundles or individually as small logs which the buyer will grind into powder. However, because of today’s consumer demand for convenience, you can now buy pastes and pre-ground powders from stores and vendors. However, many Burmese women have stayed true to the organic form as they are skeptical that other ingredients are mixed with these shelf products.
Thanaka as a Festival Paste
Because it has become such a significant component of Burmese culture, Thanaka has become a key element in many traditional festival rituals. Each year, the country celebrates the New Year the 4-day Festival of Thingyan (April 13th to 16th, 2021). The festival’s roots are found in the Buddhist belief that water brings with it happiness and prosperity. Consequently, the festival focuses on the exchange of good wishes and the splashing of water on its participants.
For additional information regarding Thanaka and its history, call Healing Bark today at (800) 770-9988 or click here to visit our website.