Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ

Seated Buddha

Date     : 13th–14th century
Culture  : Burma
Medium: Stucco with traces of lacquer and polychrome
Dimensions:H. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm); W. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line:Purchase, Foundation of Fine Art of the Century Gift, 1986
Accession Number:1986.334
This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 250 Gallery 250
Note; The above sculpture displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art but to me it does not look like 13-14th C, my comments for this sculpture is about 17th C central Myanmar influences although fingers are curved as human figure which is same as late Bagan period. 

Drawings from the Burmese court at Mandalay  

Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ in

Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. A robed Brahmin priest (Poona) of the court holding a conch shell and fan.
Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A

Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. Wife of a King's Merchant. In front of her are arranged objects appropriate to her rank: a betel nut stand (containing four small vessels) and three other containers. Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A
Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. Princely figure on throne (Chobwa) accompanied by his insignia of rank: umbrella, sword on stand, large container for betel nut and other vessels. Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A

This rare album of 48 paintings depicts a range of officials and their wives from the last Burmese court at Mandalay (1853-1885). Included are grades of court officials, high ranking army officers, princes and other significant court figures of the time, including Brahmin priests, together with representatives of regional ethnic groups such as Shans. Costumes are carefully and sensitively depicted and each figure is also accompanied by his or her insignia of rank such as swords, musical instruments and betel nut containers. It is likely that the album was created on the orders of a European visitor using local court artists, and an inscription on the fly leaf reads '48 drawings each cost 5 Rs '.

The album not only provides a rare and revealing window onto a now vanished royal court but significantly illustrates and enhances the V&A's existing unique collection of 19th century Burmese court costume and regalia. Several illustrations relate directly to the dress pieces and other insignia in the collection.

The album was collected by Robert Hoe during his lifetime (1839-1909) and bears his bookplate. This American businessman was an art collector and first president of the Grolier Club, a New York society devoted to the promotion of bookmaking as an art. It was later acquired by Doris Duke the renowned collector of South East Asian art who collected Thai and Burmese objects during the 1960s.

Ancient Arakan by Pamela Gutman  

Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ in

Title: Ancient Arakan
Authors: Gutman, Pamela
The Australian National University
Department of Asian Civilisations
Keywords: Arakan
eastern India
Arakanese culture
votive inscriptions
Buddhist and Hindu images
cultural history
art and architecture
east Bengal
Issue Date: 2008
Description: The early history of Arakan has been generally considered to be that of a province of eastern India, and hence its study has been neglected by both Indian and Southeast Asian historians. This dissertation seeks to examine the dynamics of the history from the beginnings of urbanization until the rise of the Burmese empire which subsequently dominated Arakanese culture. The first chapter deals with the geographical and ethnolinguistic background to the development of the earliest cities. In the second, all the inscriptions of the period, in Sanskrit, Pali and Pyu are catalogued and edited. The inscriptions issued by the kings establish a chronology for the period and illustrate the nature of the cult surrounding the institution of kingship, while copper-plate and votive inscriptions elucidate the nature of state organisation and the popular religion. Chapter Three deals with the coinage which emerged following the development of a centralised economy, and discusses the impetus for this and the role of the king on whom the prosperity of the country depended. A comparison with similar coin types in Southeast Asia is made and the catalogue includes all the coins yet discovered. The sites of the most important monuments are discussed in Chapter Four, which catalogues all the architectural and sculptural remains. A comparative analysis of the Buddhist and Hindu images and of the minor arts reveals, to a greater extent that do the inscriptions, the nature of contact with India and the rest of Southeast Asia. The conclusion deals with the political and cultural history which thus emerges, examining in detail the rationale behind the development of the concept of divine kingship in Arakan.
Appears in Collections:ANU Digital Theses

Arakan, a Buddhist Kingdom of Southeast Asia  

Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ in

It's not easy to collect information, record and thesis regarding about history and culture of Arakanese in Burma. In my personal point of view, there are only a few scholar that they are willing to public in Myanmar language. Therefore, when I study about Arakanese history and historical art objects, most of references are from foreign sources that done by foreigner. I would like to share one of the best talk by Jacques Leider which is full of resources and knowledges. It would be most appreciates that you comments something for this talk.

Original Link @
230th Meeting – Tuesday, November 26th 2002
Arakan, a Buddhist Kingdom of Southeast Asia
A talk by Jacques Leider

Present: Dianne Barber-Riley, Mark Barber-Riley, John Cadet, Kate Callahan, Bill Dovhey, Roshan Dhunjibhoy, Leo A. Von Geuson, Peer Hijmans, Carole Hernandez, Otomi Hutheesing, Maggie McKerron, Ranee Lertleumal, Brian Migliazza, John Moncreif, Niels Mulder, Nicole Ngo, Mark Osborne, Pierre Quartier, Emmanuelle Richaud, Ian Ross, David Steane, Duang Tan Le, Alix Txe, Michael Vickery, Ricky Ward, Arthur Wright. An audience of 26.
The full text of Jacques Leider’s talk.

1. The geographical setting and the population
Starting on Bangladesh’s eastern border, Arakan covers the stretch of land which runs south to Cap Negrais where we reach Lower Burma. Arakan's heartland is the fertile plains of the Kaladan and the Lemro River running in a north-south direction towards the Bay of Bengal.

The classic Pali name of this area is Dhanyawati, which means rich in grain, and indeed, rice cultivation has always been the backbone of Arakan's economy. A striking feature seen on any topographic map is the mountain barrier which separates Arakan from the Irrawaddy valley. This is the Arakan Yoma running down from the Himalayas in a north-south direction. It is a mountain range densely covered with jungle forest. Passes crossing the Yoma were few and they needed to be cleared, roads had to be repaired and taken care of annually. Monsoon rains in Arakan are among the heaviest in the whole of Southeast Asia and can reach a level of over 5 metres or 16 feet per year. Climatic conditions render coastal navigation difficult for many months of the year. Nonetheless, when you are in Arakan it is easier to go to Bengal than to Burma. The study of Arakan's history and culture can only be undertaken if we pay attention to its close connection with Burma, Bengal and India at large.

Who are the contemporary inhabitants of Arakan? Like everywhere else in Myanmar, we face a complex situation. The so-called Arakanese nowadays form the majority of Arakan's multi-ethnic population. They are a Tibeto-Burman group closely related to the Burmese and they speak a Burmese dialect with archaic features when you compare it with the modern Burmese language. Scholars generally consider that the Burmese settled in the Kyaukse area in Upper Burma during the ninth century AD. So the Arakanese may either have arrived earlier or roughly around the same time, being merely a branch of the Burmese in ethno-linguistic terms.

Hill tribes like the Mro, the Daingnak, the Kami and the Cak are Tibeto-Burman as well and likely settled in the country before the arrival of the Rakhine-tha, as the Arakanese call themselves. The British annexed Arakan after the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). During the early colonial period, there was a heavy influx of Muslim Indian labour, coming mainly from Chittagong. This led to a demographic imbalance, notably in the border areas with Bengal where, since the 1920s, the Indian Muslims formed an overwhelming majority of the population. This situation led to communal and political problems that have not been solved up to now. It is possible that the Muslim population of Indian origins now forms roughly a third of Arakan's population.

2. Early History of the Kaladan and Lemro valley (Central Arakan)
The early history of Arakan is still largely a blank spot on our map of Southeast Asian history and has as yet not attracted sufficient scholarly attention. While many studies have been dedicated to the Indianization of Southeast Asia by way of the sea, there has been barely any effort to understand the connection by land between India and Burma. Arakan is obviously one of the frontiers between South Asia and Southeast Asia and thus should recommend itself as an interesting field of study. The land connection involves for example the question of how Indian Buddhism expanded into Burma and what forms of exchange and communication between Burma and India passed by the land route, i.e. through Arakan.

Our actual knowledge of the early history of Arakan is restricted to the Upper Kaladan valley. Traces of settlement in this area go back to the 2nd century AD. Attention of local scholars and archaeologists has focused on the site of Vesali where excavations were undertaken only twenty years ago. It is probable that Vesali was for some time the centre of a local chiefdom that flourished between the 4th and the 8th century AD. Our knowledge of the civilization of Vesali is based on the archaeological evidence of the foundations of brick buildings, a city wall and a surrounding moat, on iconography, and coins bearing the srivatsa symbol and occasionally the name of a king.

In terms of political and dynastic history, our most precious source is a list of kings given on the so called Anandacandra stone pillar placed near the Shit-taung pagoda in Mrauk U, the later capital. Besides a succession of legendary kings, the Anandacandra inscription contains a list of kings who reigned between the fourth and the seventh centuries AD. They all bear titles which included the name of Candra. These Candra kings were very likely related to the Candra dynasty of Harikela in southeast Bengal.

Hinayana and Mahayana forms of Buddhism and possibly Brahmanism coexisted in Vesali. We can only speculate on the population of this early kingdom. It is reasonable to assume that they were of Aryan stock and probably mixed with a local Tibeto-Burman population. At what time exactly the Arakanese or Rakhaing as they call themselves, immigrated and settled in Arakan is, as I previously said, a matter of further research, but it could be tentatively dated to the 8th or early 9th centuries AD. Were there any Mon in this area? Do Pyu coins found in Arakan suggest that there were Pyu people living in Arakan? We do not know. The problem is similar to the one we face elsewhere in Southeast Asia, for example the arrival and progressive settlement of the Thai people in the river plains of Thailand. Did they conquer the country? Did they peacefully mix with the already established population? Did they arrive by waves or they trickle down south? And so on. As for Arakan, we simply do not know.

Local dynastic lists, as found in the Arakanese chronicles, reach back to a legendary king Marayu who would have lived in the 3rd millennium BC. The strong feeling of religious identity of the Buddhist Arakanese has developed around the myth of the Mahamuni statue. According to Pamela Gutman, an Australian scholar who did research on the early Arakanese history, the Mahamuni is a statue of the Buddha, probably Mahayanist, and dating back to the 4th to 6th century AD. For most Arakanese, though, it is an unshakeable article of faith that during the lifetime of Lord Buddha,

King Candasuriya of Arakan invited the Buddha to Arakan. The Enlightened One flew through the air and descended on Mount Selagiri near the modern Kyauktaw village where King Candasuriya requested the favour of having a true to life copy made of the Buddha. The veneration of the Mahamuni by the Arakanese and the importance of this paragon statue for the Arakanese monarchy for centuries is next only to the prestige and the status of the Phra Kaew in Thailand. In one way or another, the Arakanese have always ascribed a magical power to the sheer presence of the Mahamuni statue on their soil and so the fate of their kingdom was, in their perception, intimately linked to the statue. In 1785, the Burmese, led by the son of King Bodawphaya, conquered Arakan and deported the statue to Upper Myanmar.

The history of Arakan from the 9th to the 13th centuries AD is still hidden in the dark. It is generally referred to as the Lemro period. Lemro means 'four cities' in Arakanese, and indeed this is the period of a succession of four cities whose names were Pin-sa, Pa-rein, Khreip and Laung-krak. Lemro is also the name of the river along which these cities were situated. Apart from the last one of these cities, not much is known of the other ones, where there have been no archaeological excavations at all. There has been as yet no serious study of the chronology of the period. We have at the moment only various dynastic lists whose dates do not match each other.

The greater part of the 14th century, for example, is covered by the reign of a king who is said to have reigned for a total of 106 years (Min Hti 1279-1385).

This period runs parallel to the rise and splendour of Pagan in Upper Myanmar. Tilman Frasch noted that the inscriptions of Pagan contain hardly any useful information regarding Arakan. In the later chronicles, it is said that King Alaungsithu of Pagan invaded Macchagiri, which could possibly be identified with northern Arakan, but even if we accept this evidence, there is little more that could be said about the matter. At least one of the Arakanese chronicles also refers to an intervention of King Alaungsithu, but one can hardly interpret this single fact as a sign of Pagan hegemony.

The study of Bengal's history, too, does not provide hard facts that could, even partly, dispel the mist surrounding Arakan's history during these centuries. As Pagan art and architecture are so much indebted to the Pala art of Bengal, it is not so far fetched though, to believe that there were likely direct contacts made between Upper Myanmar and Bengal which involved Arakan as well. We know very little about the kingdom of Patteikhaya situated in the area of Chittagong and from where King Kyanzittha received a bride.

It is also not so far fetched to consider that Buddhist monks fleeing the progress of the Islamic expansion found a refuge in Arakan and Upper Myanmar, as they did during an earlier period in East Bengal and Assam. Muslim power in Bengal was established in the 13th century, but while the Buddhist university of Nalanda may have died a sudden death, it is likely that Buddhist communities in East Bengal stayed on for a longer period and could have ultimately repaired to Burma and Arakan, where Buddhism was strongly established.

3. The Rise of a Kingdom: Arakan's Age in the Bay of Bengal
The emergence of a kingdom - 15th and early 16th c. (1404-1531)
The mist surrounding Arakan's early history gradually disappears at the end of the 14th century as the historiographical sources, though written later, contain slightly more factual information on the reigns of the kings. We also have various dynastic lists, some references in the Burmese chronicles, coins and a few inscriptions. But much information regarding the early kings of the so-called Mrauk U dynasty is legend and myth. There are clearly facts behind these legends, but to state them in clear terms involves some degree of speculation.

At the end of the 14th century, the political situation in the capital Laung krak had deteriorated and the kings of Ava succeeded in appointing, at least for a few years, a member of their own royal family to the throne of Arakan. In 1406, an army sent by Ava invaded the country, the Arakanese king ran away, and the Burmese appointed a governor. But this man was ejected a few years later when Mon troops sent from Pegu (in Lower Burma) took control over the country.

This situation, when Mon and Burmese kings fought for control over Arakan, lasted until around 1426, when the king who had fled the Burmese invasion twenty years earlier, came back. He came back allegedly with the help of Muslim fighters. As there are no contemporary Bengal sources available, we do not know if these Muslim troops were mercenaries or if they were indeed provided, as an Arakanese chronicler wants us to believe, by the Sultan of Bengal. (Sultan Jalal-ud-din). As these later chronicles contain even more unlikely stories surrounding this king, official support from the Sultan of Bengal is doubtful.

The king we are referring to was Min-co-mwan, who then became king for the second time around 1426. In 1430, he founded the city of Mrauk U, which remained the capital of the Arakanese kingdom until 1785.
The successors of King Man-co-mwan enlarged their territory along the coastline to the north-east and to the south where Mon governors under the authority of Pegu were probably still in charge until the middle of the 15th century.

These Arakanese kings also fought the hill tribes of the Sak in the north. Sak is the name of an ethnic group of northern Arakan which is now very small. I believe that the term as used in the chronicles refers to the Tripuras of Eastern Bengal. Slowly these Arakanese kings grew more confident of their power and were able to deal on a par with their neighbour kings of Ava. In 1454, the Arakanese king met his counterpart from Ava and they agreed on a common border, the watershed of the Arakan Yoma, the mountain range which separates Arakan from Burma.

From the second part of the 15th century on, the Arakanese kings were also taking part in the struggle for the control of the port-city of Chittagong. Their competitors were the Sultan of Bengal, the local Muslim governors and the kings of Tripura. At the end of the 15th century and during the first part of the sixteenth century, Chittagong was the most flourishing port of the sultanate of Bengal. We are rather well informed about the importance of Chittagong, which received its first visitors from Portugal around 1516.

The Portuguese sailors and chroniclers called it Porto Grande and many of them who did not want to live under the control of the Estado da India based in Goa, came to settle there.
In relation to the rest of Bengal, Chittagong was situated somewhat on the periphery. Unsurprisingly this situation allowed its local governors to be relatively independent and the 1521 description of the Portuguese embassy to Bengal clearly demonstrates that a cosmopolitan elite of Muslims coming from the Middle East and Western India unselfconsciously dominated the city.

This point needs to be emphasised as Chittagong lay closer to Arakan than to the greater part of Bengal and when the Arakanese succeeded, three decades later, in firmly controlling the city, it had for them an incomparable strategic advantage and became of major economic importance.

Stepping out of Bengal's shadow (1531-1571)
Up to the early 16th century, the small kingdom of Mrauk U grew in the shadow of the great and prestigious sultanate of Bengal. Under the dynamic reign of King Man Pa (1531-1553), Arakan developed a profile of its own and clearly demonstrated its strength, its pride and its ambitions.

Man Pa attacked southeastern Bengal and probably succeeded in maintaining Arakan's sway over Chittagong for several years. Unfortunately the indigenous sources on Man Pa eulogise the king's military expeditions to a point that makes it rather difficult to say when, and up to where the Arakanese troops actually marched. It probably happened around 1539 or 1540. After this date, the Decadas da Asia of Diogo do Couto, (Portuguese chronicles) are suddenly silent regarding Portuguese activities in the area of Chittagong. On the other hand, the unstable political situation in southeast Bengal, and notably in Chittagong in 1538 and 1539, makes an Arakanese invasion at that time likely.

In 1545/1546, Man Pa successfully resisted a Burmese invasion, by land and by sea, led by the first emperor of the Taungngu dynasty, Mintayashweti or Tabinshweti. We would be going too far to state that the Arakanese won the battle against the Burmese. It was rather their skilful defence system that helped them to dissuade the Burmese from staying in the country. The defence system comprised of a system of dykes and water reservoirs that flooded the surroundings of their capital, and also, the city was defended by an intricate combination of the natural protective shield of the surrounding hills and successive ranges of brick walls, artificial lakes and stonewalls.

According to the Arakanese sources, in 1534 the king also successfully beat off a Portuguese armada. To celebrate his success, he founded, it is said, the Shit-thaung pagoda. This pagoda remains until today the most important sanctuary of Mrauk U and its architecture demonstrates a strong influence of Bengal's 16th century Muslim architecture.
There is no doubt that the invasion of Bengal and the resistance against the Burmese invaders, firmly established the kingdom's reputation in the region. But the confusing account of battles led by Man Pa's successors against Tripura and the local Muslim lords of the Chittagong area shows that Arakan in the middle of the 16th century was only one among several more or less equal competitors. This changed at the end of the 16th century.

The Age of the Warrior Kings (1571-1638)
I have called the decades from 1571 to 1638 the age of the Warrior Kings as war and expansion are the hallmarks of this period. During the successive reigns of three kings, Man Phalaung, Man Rajagri and Man Khamaung, Arakan vastly expanded its territory. During the early seventeenth century it succeeded in controlling the whole coastal strip from the Feni River, far north of Chittagong, down to Cape Mawdin/Negrais, the southwestern tip of Lower Burma. It threatened both Eastern Bengal, which was frequently invaded, and Lower Burma.

In 1576, an important year in Indian history, the troops of the Mughal emperor Akbar conquered Bengal and put an end to the independent sultanate of Bengal. This conquest destabilised the political order in south and eastern Bengal. Afghan Muslim lords fled with their troops to East Bengal, many local lords, Hindu or Muslim, resisted the conquerors, so that despite the annexation, the Mughals had to struggle for three more decades before they really controlled the whole country.

Bengal was weak and the Arakanese kings immediately seized the opportunity to renew their control over Chittagong. This time they maintained their power over the flourishing port-city. From approximately 1578 to 1666, Chittagong was the most important port of trade of Arakan and a pillar of its economic life. The export of locally made textiles, slaves captured from all over Bengal thanks to annual slave-raids, salt, sugar-cane, elephants from Arakan's jungles, and rubies coming over the Arakan Yoma from Ava, ensured a flow of income which the earlier kings had never known. This newly found wealth further stimulated the territorial ambitions of the kings.

In 1580, merely two years after occupying Chittagong, King Man Phalaung successfully resisted a new attempt by the Burmese to conquer Arakan. Bayinnaung, the Burmese Napoleon, the conqueror of Ayutthaya in 1569, failed dismally. The chronicles don't elaborate, but the reasons for this failure were probably the same as the first time. The Arakanese successfully ruined the progress of the Burmese troops who finally negotiated their retreat.

About twenty years later, in 1598, King Man Rajagri, the son of King Man Phalaung, allied himself with the king of Taungngu (in Central Burma) and laid siege to Pegu, the capital of the Burmese empire. Pegu fell. The Burmese emperor Nandabayin, who for over a decade had bled white the rural countryside to conscript men, mostly Mon, into the armies he sent against Siam, was deported to Taungngu and sometime later executed. The Arakanese king, quite rapidly, had returned home with a white elephant, a princess and other members of the royal court of Burma, and thousands of Mon, who were resettled in the Kaladan valley. But when the King of Siam, Naresuan, invaded Lower Burma to get his share of the booty, the Arakanese came to help the King of Taungngu's relatively weak forces. They sent another fleet to cut off the waterways so that the Thais, lacking provisions, were forced to retreat.

Probably around the same time, the Arakanese took advantage of the power vacuum in Lower Burma and occupied the port-city of Syriam, one of the three main Burmese ports integrated in the Bay of Bengal trade network. As the Arakanese king did not feel himself able to revive the flow of trade that had been hit by several years of warfare and severe depopulation, he entrusted Syriam to one of his Portuguese captains, Felipe de Brito y Nicote. De Brito had been in the service of the Arakanese king for twenty years, and now he saw the opportunity to make himself independent. He went to Goa, asked for the help of the Estado da India and returned not only with a daughter of the Vice-king, but also with a promise of future military support. Basically he had to count on his own forces, but in a way he had redeemed himself with regard to the Portuguese crown and with official backing, he could reject the authority of the Arakanese king. In 1602, de Brito was firmly in power, a power based on a bunch of fellow Portuguese countrymen, on alliances with local Mon lords, and probably also on favourable terms to revive the local trade. As a matter of fact, the Arakanese who had hoped to derive some profit from this trade and from the control of Syriam came out as the big losers. In 1605 and 1607, the Arakanese sent fleets and tried to regain control over Syriam, but on both occasions their fleets failed to get the better of the Portuguese artillery and the newly erected stone fortifications. But in 1613, the Burmese troops of the King of Ava successfully attacked Syriam and put an end to de Brito's mini-state. A Portuguese fleet sent from Goa arrived late and could not prevent the disaster. It was unable to help de Brito, who was soon executed by the Burmese, and his surviving men, who were deported to the region of Shwebo in the north. On Arakan's northeastern frontier, the king faced a comparable situation.

On the island of Sandwip lying at the mouth of the Meghna River to the northeast of Chittagong, another Portuguese captain, who, unlike de Brito of Syriam had never been at the service of the Arakanese king, behaved as an independent lord. His name was Sebastiao Tibau and for the Arakanese he was, for a number of years at least, more of an annoyance than a threat.

Just like de Brito, Tibau appealed to Goa for help to maintain his local power. When the fleet sent by Goa to save de Brito in Syriam failed to do so, Tibau called for their help to attack the capital of Arakan and thus take control over the whole country. In 1615, the Goan fleet took the lead in the attack and sailed up the Kaladan River. But as the Arakanese were well prepared and had the support of two Dutch ships, the Portuguese fleet failed dismally. The year 1615 marks the end of more than a decade when Portuguese captains were able to shape events in the region.
These details explain why at the time and for succeeding decades, Portuguese communities still flourished along the coast of the northeastern Bay of Bengal and why Portuguese mercenaries became an essential part of the troops of the Arakanese kings.

Arakan's rise was possible because of the weakness of its neighbours at the end of the 16th century. But in the 1620 and 1630s, the Mughals had full sway over Bengal and a new reinvigorated Burmese kingdom had taken root around the capital of Ava. So any further expansion of Arakan was impossible. Arakan lived under a constant threat by its hostile neighbours, but this threat did not jeopardise Arakan's regional hegemony towards the end of the 17th century.
Contentment and prosperity (1638-1692)
In 1638, a former minister, Narapati, took power and gave rise to a new dynasty on the Arakanese throne. This happened, curiously, in the year 1000 of the Arakanese Era (sakkaraj). The new king spent several years to firmly establish himself on the throne. But this dynastic break did not fundamentally change the policy of the Arakanese kings.
What were the human and material resources that enabled these kings to be what they were and to do what they did?
First of all, one should recall that the valleys of the Kaladan and Lemro rivers are fertile plains for rice culture, and could thus feed a large population. Rice was a staple product that became a major export item during the 17th century.

Secondly, Arakan suffered little from deportations due to invasions, unlike what happened in other parts of Southeast Asia, so that the population may have been growing over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Nonetheless, the kings of Arakan pursued a keen policy of increasing their demographic base by deporting large numbers of Bengalis from East and South Bengal's countryside. At the end of the sixteenth century, these deportations were probably directly linked to the expansionist designs of the kings, but during the seventeenth century, they were actually at the core of a flourishing slave trade that made Arakan the main 'producer' so to speak for slaves in the Bay of Bengal.

The slave trade as such lay in the hands of the mixed Portuguese community settled in the Chittagong area. With their Arakanese crews, they sailed or rowed up the rivers of Bengal and deported the population of whole villages to Arakan's ports. The policy of the kings was such that all people who had any kind of professional qualification and technical abilities had to join the royal service groups, while all the other unqualified people were sold into slavery.

From the 1620s to the 1660s, many thousands of slaves were bought by the Dutch VOC and deported to Batavia. The Dutch would probably have bought more than they did, but hundreds of slaves often died before they even reached the Dutch ships. Ironically many of these Bengalis caught in East Bengal were sold in a market on the opposite Coromandel coast.

The Arakanese of today do not appreciate when the Burmese refer to their dark complexion as coming from their mixing with Indian blood. There is no doubt though that in the 17th century whole villages in Arakan consisted of Bengalis who were either Muslims or Hindus and worked as lamaing, agricultural service groups, on the lands of the kings.

Thirdly, after the Arakanese conquest, Chittagong maintained its importance as an entrepôt port on the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal. Besides rice and slaves, locally produced goods such as cotton textiles, sugar, salt and betel nuts were exported. As we mentioned, rubies from Upper Burma found their way over the Arakan Yoma mountain range and were exported to India. Arakanese elephants were also exported.

There was no indigenous trader class. Most traders were Muslims from South and Southeast Asia and they created the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Arakan's capital, which was described by Sebastiao Manrique, a Portuguese monk, and Wouter Schouten, a Dutch doctor, in the middle of the 17th century. On the other hand, Dutch sources make it clear that members of the royal house were involved in the export trade. Here lies one of several similarities with Ayutthaya, whose kings also had commercial assets besides their territorial i.e. agricultural wealth. (Similarities: importance of trade for the state, traders-identities, and involvement of the court)

One should not forget that, as a consequence of successful wars and invasions, the kings readily amassed a considerable fortune. One may think for instance of the booty made when Pegu was taken. If we can believe Portuguese and Italian descriptions of the early 17th century, Pegu must have been one of the richest cities in the world at the moment when the first Taungngu Empire was dismembered. One may also think of the royally sanctioned piracy that went on for decades, until the eighteenth century when Arakan lost its prestige as a regional powerhouse, but kept its image of seafaring terror.

Fourthly, the main tool of territorial expansion and defence was the Arakanese navy. In a country where rivers are the most convenient way to go from one place to another, it seems obvious that boats are the principal means of communication. In terms of military power, it was the fleet that was the main instrument of the kings' power. As in Burma, a large part of the population in Arakan was organised in royal service groups. Some would be sweepers, craftsmen, artists or farming the royal rice fields. A lot of them were soldiers and they were living with their families in villages, many of which had originally been founded for the establishment of specific royal service groups. We do not unfortunately have many details about these matters, but the case of the Mons deported in the early seventeenth century becomes rather clear through historiographical and administrative sources.

A sizable number, probably a third of the Arakanese royal forces, were not ethnic Arakanese. Besides the Mon and the Portuguese who have been highlighted, there were also Muslim mercenaries in Arakan. Some Afghan lords may have fled with their men to Arakan after the Mughal conquest of Bengal in 1576. Well educated Muslims also gained high positions at the court of Arakan. Some of them had earlier been captured by Arakanese fleets on the high seas and deported to Arakan.

The fleet manned by all these men counted several hundred and even thousands of boats and ships. Portuguese and Dutch sources do indeed occasionally talk of thousands of boats. Besides the two-masted sailing ships, probably manned by Portuguese and Portuguese mixed bloods, the main force of the Arakanese fleet were mostly sturdy rowing boats used on the rivers as well as for navigating along the coast. Their construction allowed them to survive storms. At the same time, they allowed fast movements that could surprise an enemy and thus have a psychological impact that was undoubtedly part of a well-calculated tactic for gaining an early advantage over the enemy.
In 1624, the Arakanese fleet destroyed an entire Mughal fleet lying near Dhaka. They performed a similar deed in 1664 when Bengal's government was weakened by a year of transition between two governorships. But two years later, the new governor of Bengal, Shaysta Khan, put into effect a well-planned and masterly organized military campaign to re-conquer Chittagong. In 1666, Chittagong fell.

The Mughal governor Shaysta Khan, who had also taken the lessons from the earlier Mughal failures to invade the coastal strip north of Chittagong, had bought off many Portuguese. Chittagong was lost and with it went a great part of Arakan's trade and the revenues of the kings. Arakan itself was not invaded by the Mughals, though there had been plans to do so.

It very much seems that, despite the considerable loss, the court of Arakan and the king himself were not seriously weakened during the next two decades. One may think that the royal house was rich enough to sustain the military establishment that had been created to defend the kingdom. While thousands of Bengalis tilled the rice fields of the Kaladan valley, many thousands of Arakanese settling around the capital had been at the kings' disposal to man the fortresses at Chittagong and around the city. These men had been annually shifted. Where were they to go? After 1666, after the Mughal conquest of Chittagong, the court probably faced a big problem of integrating a massive flow of people who came back to Arakan's heartland. Nonetheless the country remained stable and the royal authority did not waver until the end of the King Candasudhammaraja's long reign of 32 years. Candasudhammaraja died in 1684. A few years later, the kingdom of Arakan was in shambles. Towards the end of the century, the inner political order literally broke down because kings lacked the resources to maintain the full control of the country.

The palace guard set up kings who were puppets. Pretenders to the throne were roaming the countryside and trade was badly hit by the decline of a central political authority. This situation lasted until the early 18th century. But even if the kings then recovered part of their earlier power, the kingdom never regained its former extension and strength. It was the Burmese King Bodawphaya who in 1784 sent his troops to Arakan and took control of the country. The Mahamuni statue was taken to Mandalay. The court of Arakan, the Brahmins and many Arakanese were deported to Upper Burma as well.

6. Studying Arakan's Cultural Development
Obviously Arakan's history can just be studied for itself. But this approach may be somewhat narrow and borders in some ways on a form of self-centred local history, nationalist history or contributes to the building of a myth of Arakan. If we take a broad approach, extending our view to the neighbouring areas in the Bay of Bengal, to India, to Burma and the wider world of Theravada Buddhism, we may have a chance to get a better understanding of Arakan's unique past.

1. A cultural frontier
First, there is a tremendous interest in studying Arakan as a frontier area. It lies at the border where South Asia hits Southeast Asia. It is a part of Southeast Asia, but it cannot be studied without directly referring to Indian's culture and history and especially Bengal, which is its closest neighbour. Looking at the neighbouring regions from an Arakanese point of view, Bengal is indeed more accessible than Burma proper.

On the one hand, we have to acknowledge that Southeast Asia and South Asia are geographical and cultural spaces that can be differentiated. On the other hand, any study of a frontier like Arakan points to the fact that we are dealing with open frontiers where there is as much a coexistence of differences as a field of mutual influence and exchange. So scholars may wonder what we can know about the relationship between Arakan and its neighbours beyond the outline provided by the chronicles and other narrative sources? What kind of influences can be identified in the fields of art and architecture, iconography, numismatics, religious cults? One may focus more generally on the relations between Islam and Buddhism. Was there any kind of religious or cultural syncretism?

A number of facts are known already, but need much further investigation. The cult of the pirs, Muslim saints at places called Badr Maqam along the coast from Bengal to Tenasserim is well known, but has never received thorough academic attention. The field of Arakanese numismatics, where the influences of Bengal are clearly perceptible, needs further investigation.

In an inspiring paper, Swapna Bhattacharya from the University of Calcutta has analysed the poetry of the Muslim poets of Bengali origin who lived at the 17th century Arakanese court and could relate their work to the political context of Arakan-Mughal relations. (Dawlat Qazi and Al Alaol)

Arakan itself is a cultural ground much more complex than the historical narrative of the kings may suggest. We have to pay attention to the diversity of its population (ethnic groups), the opposition between people of the plains and people of the mountains, the differences of the conditions of people living in North and Central Arakan, closer to Bengal, and those of South Arakan, closer to Lower Burma. In the context of such an approach, the contemporary political border separating Bangladesh, India and Burma has no intrinsic meaning. Unfortunately there is no culturally sensitive dialogue or productive academic exchange between these countries, focusing on the issues outlined here.

2. Arakan as a part of Myanmar/Burma
Another approach could focus on Arakan's place in the context of Burmese history. Mon and Pyu influences have been discussed in relation to Burmese culture and history, but close to nothing has been said about the Arakan-Burma relationship. Arakan's historical development is distinct and quite original and it definitely shows many differences with the evolution in Burma proper. On the other hand, it shares with Burma many ethnic, religious and cultural affinities. Anthropologists may even reject the label of "ethnic minority" when referring to the Arakanese.

In the context of Myanmar Studies, Arakan is thus of special interest. First of all from the point of its linguistic development. Arakanese is an archaic dialect of Burmese that shows a lot of regional varieties that have not hitherto been studied. It is an Arakanese poem that is generally accepted as the first piece of Burmese literature. But historians of Burmese literature generally assume that Arakan was influenced by the Upper Myanmar kingdoms, rather than the other way around.

In ethnic terms, the Arakanese are closely related to the Burmese, but they have developed distinct cultural traits. This cultural variety has also up to now been poorly acknowledged. How much is this cultural development due to a distinct development, to a mixed ethnic and religious heritage or to the cultural impact of the neighbouring areas? Such a study is not without social and political overtones. To tell a Buddhist Arakanese for instance that the status of women in Arakan seems to have been strongly influenced by Islamic customs will speedily raise controversy.

We do not know exactly when the so-called Arakanese arrived in Arakan and how we have to imagine their invasion or penetration into Arakan. This problem raises the question of the later relations between the Tibeto-Burma population of Arakan and the emerging kingdoms in the Irrawaddy valley. At least for the last five hundred years, it should be possible to further develop the study the relations between Arakan and Upper and Lower Myanmar.
Looking at the architecture of religious monuments, there is a clearly perceptible switch from an Indian/Western influence during the 16th century to a Lower Myanmar influence starting at the latest around 1630. Mention Buddhist iconography and you find another field to explore.

Such an approach questions the nationalist approach where all history is history of the Burmese majority while local and ethnic history gets attention only when like a minor river, it flows into the greater stream of the culturally predominant. National and nationalist historiographers are successors of the colonial historiographers who were mainly interested in the history of the Burmese who had left texts and monuments, while equally culturally important or relevant minorities such as Mon, Arakanese or Karen would not deserve an autonomous existence as objects of study.

SHORT PIPE ( Late 18th C Burmese Classic Poem)  

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A pipe ... a puff...
short as a finger...
I give you
for smoking.

" If I do not take it
you will think me crude
If I accept it
you will think I like you.

If you want me
to smoke it
put it near the bed,
my dear one. "

Poet name: Mae Khwe

Mae Khwe was the daughter of the Mayor of Sittaung and she was married to Maung Swe. When King Bodawpaya ascended the throne in 1782 C.E, Mae Khwe became a Court Poetess.

In Burmese version as below, please download zawgyifont and install if you cant see Burmese Font/Language.

ေဆးတံတို တညိႈးေလာက္ ၊ ေရာ့ေသာက္ေတာ့ေပး၊
မယူလိုက္က မိုက္လို႕ထင္ ၊ ယူလိုက္ျပန္က ၾကိဳက္လို႕ထင္၊
ေသာက္ေစခ်င္၊ ကုတင္တြင္ ေထာင္ခဲ့ကြဲ႕၊
ညိဳႏြဲ႕ရဲ့ေလး ။ ။

စာဆို- မယ္ေခြ

Jasmine (19th C Burmese Classical Poem by U Pon Nya)  

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When jasmine
Is not in bloom
In palace gardens
Courtiers must
Bedeck themselves
With Kan flowers

When jasmine
Is in full bloom
In Mandalay's
Palace gardens
Courtiers never
Adorn themselves
With Kan flowers

Then Kan flowers
Find favor only
Among villagers

By U Pon Nya
Note: U Pon Nya was one of the best poet in the reign of King Min Don ( 1853-1878). The King awarded to U Pon Nya as a noble title a pieces of land as a fief. Jasmine has a sweet odor and is beautiful whereas kan flower although beautiful have no ordor.

This classical poem was translated by The most Rev, FRIEDRICH V. LUSTIG, Buddhist Archbishop of Lavita.

In Burmese version as below, please download zawgyifont and install if you cant see Burmese Font/Language.


ပန္းစံပယ္ နန္းလယ္မေပၚခိုက္ဟာမို႕
အလိုက္ေတာ္တန္သင့္႐ံုပ ခံပြင့္ကိုကုံး

နန္းရေဝ မန္းေျမ စံပယ္လိႈင္ေတာ့၊
ခံပန္းခိုင္ ယာယီေရြ႕တယ္ ၊ ေတာေလ့ရြာသုံး


Dr Elizabeth Moore  

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Name: Dr Elizabeth Moore
Department of the History of Art and Archaeology
Reader in the Art and Archaeology of South East Asia

Centre of South East Asian Studies
Member, Centre of South East Asian Studies

SOAS Food Studies Centre
Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre
Email address :
Telephone : 020 7898 4452
Address :School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Building :Brunei Gallery
Office No :B408

Authored Books
Moore, Elizabeth ( 2006 ) Early landscape of Myanmar. Bangkok: River Books.

Moore, Elizabeth and Mayer, H ( 1999 ) Shwedagon: Golden Pagoda of Myanmar. London: Thames & Hudson.

Moore, Elizabeth and Stott, P. ( 1996 ) Ancient Capitals of Thailand. River Books, Bangkok; Thames & Hudson, London.

Book Chapters

Moore , Elizabeth ( 2008 ) 'Thagara and the pilgrimage sites of Dawei: Buddhist narratives and ancient topography.' In: Gutman, P., (ed.), Buddha and the Sacred Mountain. Bangkok: Silkworm Press. (In Press)

Moore , Elizabeth (2008 ) 'Myanmar archaeology: Tagaung and ‘Pyu'.' In: Pautreau, J-P and Coupey, S and Rambault, E and Zeitoun, V, (eds.), From homo erectus to the living traditions: choice of papers from the 11th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists: Bougon, 25th-29th September 2006. Chieng Mai: Siam Rattana, pp. 183-192.

Moore, Elizabeth (2007) 'Spaceborne and Airborne Radar at Angkor: Introducing new technology to the ancient site.' In: Wiseman, James and El-Baz, Farouk, (eds.), Remote Sensing in Archaeology. New York: Springer, pp. 185-216.

Moore, Elizabeth and Swe, Than (2006) 'Early Walled Sites of Dawei: Thagara and Mokti.' In: Bacus , Elizabeth A. and Glover, Ian and Piggot , Vincent C., (eds.), Uncovering Southeast Asia's Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists. Singapore: National University Press, pp. 271-282.

Moore , Elizabeth (2005) 'Stone tools and rings: Neolithic and Bronze Age Change.' In: Essays in Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Myanmar Historical Commission (1955-2005). Yangon: Ministry of Education, pp. 203-227.

Moore , Elizabeth (2004) 'Ancient Knowledge and the Use of Landscape. Walled Settlements in Lower Myanmar.' In: Traditions of Knowledge in Southeast Asia, Part I. Proceedings of the Traditions of Knowledge in Southeast Asia Conference 17-19 December 2003. Myanmar Historical Commission, Ministry of Education, pp. 1-27.

Moore, Elizabeth and Han, N and Maung, W (2002) 'Prehistoric Grave Goods from the Chindwin and Samon River Regions.' In: Green, A. and Blurton, T., (eds.), Burma: Art and Archaeology. London: British Museum Press.

Moore, Elizabeth (2000) 'Ritual continuity and stylistic change in pagoda consecration and renovation.' In: Proceedings of the Myanmar Two Millenia Conference, December 15-17, 1999. Part 3. Yangon: Universities Historical Research Centre, pp. 156-191.

Moore, Elizabeth ( 1998 ) 'Religious Architecture.' In: Tettoni , Luca Invernizzi, (ed.), Myanmar Style: Art architecture and design of Burma. London: Thames & Hudson, pp. 20-58.

Moore, Elizabeth ( 1998 ) 'The Prehistoric Habitation of Angkor.' In: Manguin, Pierre-Yves, (ed.), Southeast Asian Archaeology 1994: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference of the Eurpopean Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, Paris 24-28th October 1994. Hull: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hull, pp. 27-36.


Moore, Elizabeth (2010) 'The Williams-Hunt Collection, Aerial photographs and cultural landscapes in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.' Sari: International Journal of Malay World Studies, 27 (2). pp. 265-284.

Moore, Elizabeth (2009) 'Archaeology of the Shan Plateau, the Bronze to Buddhist Transition.' Contemporary Buddhism, 10 (10). pp. 83-102.

Moore, Elizabeth (2009) 'Place and space in early Burma: a new look at ‘Pyu Culture'.' Journal of the Siam Society, 97 . pp. 1-27.

Moore , Elizabeth and Tan, Terence ( 2008 ) 'Eyes on the past: Samon and Pyu beads in Myanmar.' Arts of Asia, 38 (1). pp. 134-141.

Moore , Elizabeth ( 2008 ) 'Tea, horses, and Buddhism: the peoples of early Myanmar.' Enchanting Myanmar, 8 (2).

Moore , Elizabeth (2007) 'Astrology in Burmese Buddhist culture, Decoding an illustrated manuscript from the SOAS Archives.' Orientations, 38 ( 1 ) . pp. 79-85.

Moore , Elizabeth and Win, S. (2007) 'The Gold Coast: Suvannabhumi? Lower Myanmar Walled Sites of the First Millennium A.D.' Asian Perspectives, 46 (1). pp. 202-232.

Moore, Elizabeth and Maung, Win (2006) 'Change in the landscape of first millennium AD Myanmar.' SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, 4 (2). pp. 1-26.

Moore , Elizabeth and Lertum, Surat (2005) 'Williams-Hunt Aerial Photograph Collection.' Muang Boran Journal, 31 (3). pp. 130-138.

Moore, Elizabeth (2004) 'Interpreting Pyu material culture: Royal chronologies and finger-marked bricks.' Myanmar Historical Research Journal, 13 . pp. 1-57.

Moore, Elizabeth (2003) 'Bronze and Iron Age Sites in Upper Myanmar: Chindwin, Samon and Pyu.' SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, 1 (1). pp. 24-39.

Moore, Elizabeth and Pauk, Pauk (2001) 'Nyaung-gan: A Preliminary Note on a Bronze Age Cemetery near Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma).' Asian Perspectives: Journal of Archaeology & the Pacific, 40 (1). pp. 35-47.

Moore, Elizabeth (2000) 'Myanmar religious practice and cultural heritage.' The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies, 18 . pp. 285-300.

Moore, Elizabeth (2000) 'Angkor Water Management, Radar Imaging, and the Emergence of Urban Centres in Northern Cambodia.' The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies, 18 . pp. 39-51.

Moore , Elizabeth and Freeman, Anthony ( 1998 ) 'Circular sites at Angkor: a radar scattering model.' The Journal of the Siam Society, 85 (Part 1 & 2). pp. 107-119.

Conference or Workshop Items

Moore , Elizabeth (2007) Buddhist archaeology on the Shan plateau: the first millennium CE. In: Shan Buddhism and Culture, 8-9 December 2007, SOAS, London. (Forthcoming)

Moore, Elizabeth (2003) Shwedagon and Kyaikjtiyoe Today. In: Texts and Contexts in Southeast Asia, 12-14 Dec 2001, Universities Historical Research Centre, Yangon.

Moore, Elizabeth (2001) UNESCO SubRegional Global Strategy Meeting for Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage and Periodic Monitoring of World Cultural Heritage Sites - World Heritage Tentative Lists, SouthEast Asia. In: UNESCO Sub-Regional Global Strategy Meeting for Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage and Periodic Monitoring of World Cultural Heritage Sites, Paris, UNESCO. (Submitted)

Current Research
Current research focuses on the arts of Myanmar (Burma), particularly the emergence and maintenance of the Hindu-Buddhist landscape. Previous remote sensing and survey work in Thailand and at Angkor in Cambodia also considered patterns of terrain adaptation and veneration. Ongoing writing includes a survey of pre- and proto-historic Burma (Myanmar), the relationship of the so-called Pyu, Mon and Dvaravati cultures, and the role of visual culture in sustaining social memory of legendary places.

Ruined Temple in Burma 2  

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Ruined Temple in Burma 1  

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Glazed Decorative of Bagan Temples  

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Using Chinese sources, a story is made current that it was Pyu who started the making of glazed work in about AD 800. They traded glazed ware and earthen jars with neighboring people. Excavations at Maing Maw, Vishnu Old Town, Sriksetra and Halin produced nothing like ceramic. As the archaeological excavation in these Pyu sites are still in the beginning, we might have the good fortune to get some evidence supporting the fact that Pyu did have ceramic of some good quality. I say this because although the Chinese said that Pyu used coins of gold and silver, we have never seen a gold coin used by them. On 2 March 1999, a monk ( U Tejavantasiddhi) of a Pphyauk, Kawhmu township. South Yangon district, dug a trench around a mound of a ruined pagoda of that village, with an intention to repair the pagoda, unearthed nearly fifty gold coins, bearing the Srivatsa symbol. There was a trade route running east and west from the Funan sea port of Oc-Eo to Vesali in Rakhine (Arakan) through Dvaravati, Madama (Martaban). Tala (Twante), Srikestra. Coins with Hindu Symbols of badapita, conch, moon, srivatsa, sun, swastika, vagra, etc. They had their origin in Funan made in about 2nd century AD. They cannot therefore be truthfully called Pyu coins. Using this route., a Funan army invaded the Pyu land and occupied Visnu Old Town during AD 205-225. Using the northern branch of this route Mahathera Mahasami. Primate of Chiangmai came in AD 1393 to Bagan and gilt the Shwezigon Pagoda(1/la). In the stone inscription (List 764, PPA24, now at Shwezigon) that records the event, the Primate of Chiangmai said that as a student he learnt the Pitaka in Bagan. ( Luce & Ba Shin, 1961, 330 )

From about the 5th Century AD until 8th century AD Pyu built a Kingdom that should be called the First Union of Myanmar from the upper Shweli river in the north to Madama( Martaban ) in the south and from the west of Thanlwin river in the east to the U Yu river and Htilin in the Yaw area at the foot of the Rakhine Ranges in the west. This kingdom was guarded by nine garrison twons of,
Kan Thida ( near Nga O on the Shweli)
Mway Yin ( near Male )
Halin ( near Shwebo )
Thegon (ear Pyay )
Thigyaint ( near Katha )
Maing Maw ( near Kume )

They had trade relations with Champa and Kampuchea in the east, Assam and Orissa in the west, Yunnan in the north and Java in the south. If we could believe what the Chinese said, Pyu would have been selling their glazed ware and earthearn jars to all these Southeast Asians, Southern India and Nanchaos in Yunnan. The Pyu Kingdom fell in AD 832. Myanmar came soon after their fall and adopted the name Brahmavastu ( The Pure Place ) with which the Indians call the Pyu land. Bagan actually was a Pyu place, where Myanmar chose to have their capital. That is one of the reasons why we assume that Bangan had pagodas antedating the arrival of Myanmar.

Pagodas of bulbous type like Bupaya(1687/1961) and Nga Kywe Nadaung (1603/911) are, we believe of Pyu origin. Prototypes of Bagan cetiya and huha are found in Srikestra. Apart from the finials or the topmost part of religious monuments, which are invariably modern. Bupaya, Nga Kywe Nadaung and even Lokananda (315/201) founded by Aniruddha look very much similar in appearance to Baw Baw, Payagyi and Payama. Aniruddha (?1044-1077) similar in size and area to that of the Pyu Kingdom. So far we do not find ceramics, belonging to this king. Like the Pyu, he and his son used to make numerous terracotta Buddha plaques similar to those made by Pyu with Yedhamma hetu stanza written in Deva Nagari script. When Kyanzittha (1084-1113), who was in fact a usurper, came to the throne, he used profusely the glazed work the decorate his cave pagoda and palace.

Kyanzittha started the palace constructions on 4th November 1101. Pegs were fixed on the plan for erecting timber posts on 23 Feb 1102. The new palace was given the name of Jeyabhumi constructions were over on 9th May 1102. The Palace Inscription suggested that this “glass” is the glazed sheathing of the finials of pediments as we find in Htilominlo (Luce 1970-67). In comparison with the designs used in terracotta Jataka plaqwues made by artists of Kyanzittha and other kings right down to the fall of the empire, are inferior. We take Shwezigon (1/la_ to be founded by Kyanzittha in about AD 1102. He took an extraordinary bold by Kyanzittha sand stone. It is the most amazing thing to glaze jakaka plaques and of sand stone was quite an achievement. It was an amazing achievement for the ceramists of Bagan to succeed in glazing sandstone. It remains without parallel anywhere in the world (Kyaw Nyein 1963-203).The Nanda (2171/1465) (popularly known as Ananda) was built by Kyanzittha in about AD 1105 (Luce 1970, 139,357).

All tarrces from top to bottom were once brilliantly inlaid with 1464 green glazed plaques (now mostly matt with white wash). The parapets above the corridors and halls are decorated with 537 Jatakas, each identified by Pali name and number. It is the most complete series of Jataka plaques in Bagan. Above them, plaques of the top four terraces present 375 scenes, each with an Old Mon gloss, to explain the last ten Jatakas. Plaques of the ground-plinth, 533 in all, each with an Old Mon gloss, showed on the west side, the various monsters of Mara’s army, who vainly attacked The Buddha on the eve of The Enlightenment. On the east side, the Gods celebrate the Buddha’s triumph, a procession of Devas and other mighty beings swelling his pomp, holding auspicious emblems ( Luce 1970, 359)

Some of the emblems held by devas are taken from the 108 auspicious signs on the footprint of The Buddha. The Samantabhaddika a Pali commentary on the Anagatavamsa, has a description of all the scenes shown on the Nanda ground-plinth. The common people at the time would still be illiterate and animist. They were only skin-deep Buddhists. The king and his primate knew very well that they should educate the people and encourage them to live a Life of good Buddhists. They found by experience that the most effective way to teach them Buddhism was to give them a large number of images to worship (Lace 1970,361). Thus the temple of Nanda (Ananda) became the first great storehouse of Buddhist sculpture in Myanmar. There are about 1420 images (ASI1914, 69). It has been corrected later that even the interior niches have 1535(Luce 1970,361).

The 552 glazed plaques ( each a square of 14 ½ inches with 3 inches thickness) have never been edited. In the scene of Mara’s attack, his soldiers came riding on
Capricorn (Makara)
Leogryph (Vyala)
Naga (Serpent)
The heavenly and other mighty beings who celebrate the Buddha’s triumph include:
Dataratha ( E-Guardian God )
Kinlok (Mon Clan Sprit)
Kuvera (N Guardian God)
Viluraka(S Guardian God)
Virupakkha(W Guardian God)
Yakkha Senapati (28 General as listed in the Maha Samya and Atanatiya suttas ( Nos 20 & 32 ) of the Digha Nikaya)
These deities carry many auspicious emblems. Some are similar to 108 auspicious signs on The Footprint of The Buddha. But dandadip (Lampstand), bac (vajra thunderbolt) and dnal(mirror) are not found among them. These are also dhajapataka(flags) and kadate are there too, to be used as receptacles of gold, silver and jewelry.

Aa in Nagayon (1192/530), Sulamani(748/369), Dammarajaka(97/412a), Tayokepyay (539/395a) and Htilominlo (1812/1110) temples. Nanda (Ananda) has several dozens of glazed stone squares used on the floor. Mostly they are in three sizes: 18 inches square, 15 inches square and 7 ½ square. Nagayon has stone glazed threshold measuring 91” x 7” x 23”.

The Somingyi Stupa(1145/491) stands on the southwest of Nagayon(1192/530), about a furlong south of A beyadana (1202/540), on the west side of the Nyaung U-Chauk road. It is surrounded by many early temples and pagodas but it is quite conspicuous ofr its magnificent glazed work. The Archaeology Department marks its date as AD 1218 thought Professor G.H.Luce suggested the beginning of the 12th century A.D. and that would be a much more possible date because that was the time when the use of the glaze work was in vogue. The donor’s name would not help. Somingyi means a ssenior queen or a senior princess, an honorific good for quite a number of curt ladies. On the other hand Man, daughter of Pyam Kyi, as the donor of several slaves to The Religion. If that Pyamkhi were the son of Cansu II 1165-1211, his daughter Cuiw Man is likely to be the donor of this pagoda. The pagoda is fairly big with a 100 feet square base and a height of 100 feet. The three terraces are steep and there are no median stairways. The brick is large (16 ½” x 3”x 8 ½”). Each terrace is decorated with glazed bosses, panels and corner-masts of green and yellow colors. These are the chide glory of the monument. It would hot be an exaggeration to call it a Ratana Cetiya.

Disapramuk Inscreption, A.D. 1285 ( Bagan, Burma )  

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The Historical Important of the Disapramuk Inscreption, A.D. 1285

The Disapramuk stone inscription now stands as one of the collection of stone inscriptions at the Pagan Museum but originally if belongs to the Mingala Zedi of Pagan and a photogravure of its rubbing has been published as Plate 271 in portfolio two of Inscriptions of Burma ( Tin & Luce, London, 1936 ). The historical information that we get from this inscription is new to our knowledge of the Mongol invasion of Burma at the end of the 13th century. It enables us to correct the story given in the Chinese sources on that particular aspect. Therefore we would like to give the story as found in the chronicles on Burma-China relations on the eve of the Mongol invasion that terminated the reign of King Narathihapati (1254-1287) who is now called as Tayoke Pyay Min- the king who fled from the Chinese.

Kala complied the great Chronicle of Burmese Kings from the earliest time to 1714 and the Mhannan Yuzawin was complied by the History Committee appointed by the King in 1829 and both these chronicles give the following story.

In Sakkaraj 634 ( A.D. 1281 ) a Talaing called Wagaru made himself Lord of Martaban by assassinating the ( Burmese Governor ) Alainma. In that same year Tayoke U Ti Bwa sent an Envoy of ten officers and 1,000 horsemen to demand tribute consisting of gold rice pot, gold pot for cooking by steam, silver pot for cooking by steam, gold spoon-like ladle, silver spoon-like ladle, gold cup-like ladle and silver cup-like ladle, as King Anawratha of Pagan had done before. Some records say that they came to ask for a white elephant. When the King granted the Envoys an Audience, they did not do the proper kowtow in his presence. The King ordered them to be executed by saying: “ let not even one of them escape “ . Minister Ananda Picci remonstrated: “ Your Majesty, we should rather report this disrespect of the Envoys to Tayoke U Ti Bwa than execute them which is unusual with the way of Kings “. But the King would not hear of it. “ Their behaviour is intolerable “ he said and that was final. All of them were executed. Not one of them was spared. When Tayoke U Ti Bwa heard of it he was exceedingly angry and he sent an army of 6,000,000 horse and 20,000,000 men. King Narathihapati sent General Anatapicci and Yantapicci with 400,000 men to stop the invaders. They came to Ngasaunggyan ( on the opposite of Bhamo ) and made it strong with wall and moat. Then they tried to stop the enemies who tried to cross ( the Irrawaddy river ) from Bhamo. For three months they killed everyone including attendants employed in feeding elephants and horses who came up their side of the river. Wave after wave of U Ti Bwa’s men came. When 100,000 men were killed, 200,000 men came. When 200,000 men were killed, 400,000 men came and it went on like this. From sheer exhaustion the Burmans could do nothing at last and the enemy finally succeeded in crossing over the river and Ngasaunggyan fell.

The King called a ( war ) council and said: “ Pagan is small. The walls are low. It could not keep a strong force to do the defensive for long. Let us make fortification starting from Badin on the north upstream down to Ywatha. Enough stones and bricks could not be made in time. Pull down pagodas, temples and monasteries for bricks “. In this way 1,000 big temples, 10,000 small temples and 300 brick monasteries were destroyed. Then in one of the big temples the Prophecy of Anonyaza written on a red copper plate was found. It stated that Pagan would be destroyed at the time of king father of Twins. A check was made and one of the concubines did really have twins. The King realized that his effort to put a stand against the Tayoke was futile. He decided to flee down the river. So a fleet was mustered. On 1,000 boats were put the palace treasure; 1,000 cargo boats carried paddy; 1,000 boats of speed travel carried the king’s harem. No more boats were available to carry the servant women. “ Bind their legs and limbs and drown them “ was the Order but through the interception of the Royal Preceptor, these women escaped death. Monks and men were allowed to take their choice of these three hundred women. The King got on board the Golden Barge and went to Bassein of the Talaing Land. General Anantapicci and Yantapicci made another stand at Male by putting up two fortifications on the east of the foot of a range. These two generals possessed some supernatural power of jumping very high and so they jumped into a crowd of enemies to kill and to escape easily. Even then Anatapicci was killed and Yantapicci made an orderly retreat to Pagan where he found that King had fled. He followed the king to Bassein. The invaders came after him as far as Tayoke Hmyaw and finally they gave the chase because of the scarcity of food. So the king earned the name Tayokepyay- He who fled from the Tayokes. ( Mnannan, I, 1967 Reprint, pp351-4 )

The Chinese version summed up from various Chinese sources by late Professor G.H. Luce (see Luce; “ The Early Syam in Burmese History “ JSS., XLVI, ii, November 1958, pp. 123-172 ) is as follows:

It was not difficult for the Pai-I to induce the Yunnan government, 1271, to send an envoy to the Pagan court demanding submission. ( Another envoy was sent ) in 1273, with an imperial letter threatening invasion. ( They never returned to Yunnan ). In 1276, Yunnan reports; “ We have sent persons to discover news of the ambassadors, but the P’u rebels blocked the way. Now the P’u have mostly submitted and the road is already open. The person we sent has found out those ambassadors all reached Mien Safely. ( In 1277 the Burmese came to attack A-ho but after two days fighting they were repulsed). What is chiefly striking about the raid is attempting it. They should have known what a terrible enemy they were bound to provoke. The Mongols were not slow to react. In ( Nov-Dec ) 1277 Yunnan province sent Nasir ed-Din, Comforter and Commander in Chief of the various Roads of Yunnan, at the head of over 3,840 men, consisting of Mongols, Ts’uan, P’o and Mo-so, to invade Mien. ( He ) obtained the submission of over 300 stockades and (36,200 households ). On account of the hot weather the army was withdrawn… Nasir re-Din (perhaps reached Ngasaunggyan). It does not seem likely that he took it… For his army Nasir ed-Din had to rely mostly on Yunnanese levies. Bu both he and the Emperor realized that more troops were needed to effect the conquest of Burma. They were not available till the autumn of 1283. On September 22nd of that year the army, the size of which we do not know, marched from Yunnan Fu.. On November 7th it reached Nan-tien. Here it divided into three parts. T’ai-pu proceed at once by the longer route via lo-pi itaties ( Mong Hum). On November 22nd

, Yagan-tigin left the A-his (Nam Ti) and A-ho ( Ta-p’ing ) route, through Chen-his (Kan-yai) with orders to build 200 boats so as to command the river at Chiang-t’ou. The Commander in Chief, Prince Sangqudar, followed the p’iao-tien route north of the Ta-p’ing. On December 3rd, proceeding by different routes, they fought ( I imagine it is not mentioned in the Chinese 0 the fatal battle of ( Ngasaunggyan). On December 9th they captured Chiang-t’ou city, killing over 1,000 men in the fighting.” They “took prisoner 10,000 of its keenest soldiers. “ The first report sent with a map to the Emperor, arrived on February 5th 1284. it says that they had sent envoys to deliver a summons to the king of Mien, but there was no reply………The Pagan Burmans called their invaders Taruk, presumably because (apart from local levies ) Turkic tribes formed the majority in the Mongol armies. The Pagan Burmans did not yield easily. On May 10th 1284, we read: “ Quduq Tamar’s army for the invasion of Mien encountered the rebels and was routed. “ Reinforcements had to be sent. On August 26th 1285, Yunnan report; “ This year we have not yet had time to invade Mien” … In this year 1285, King ( Narathihapati ) decided to submit, in orer to avert a new invasion.

The peace mission sent by the Burmese King is recorded in the Disapramuk inscription. But before we go on with this peace mission, I would like to quote here what an inscription we find at Minnanthu ( P1.227 of Inscriptions of Burma ) says:

In the year 1278, the great minister called Aindapitsaya made preparations to construct a monastery for the thera because the thera of the Most Reverend Mahakassapa’s establishment had no monastery ( of his won ). Before the monastery was built, the enclosure wall was put up. Even this enclosure wall was not completed. Aindapitsaya ( was sent ) to the ( Fort ) of Ngassaunggyan ( where ) he lived ( until ) the destruction of ( that recently ) established pran`- province, occurred.

It seem that from the time of King Alaungsithu (Can`su II, 1160-1211) Ngasaunggyan was the northern limit of the Empire and Kyaungsin was the administrative centre of northern Burma. Aindapitsaya must have been a worthy officer to get the command of this important fort. Perhaps he survived the battle though he retired from active service thereafter Mongols took Ngasaunggyan on 3 December 1283. Kaungsin fell on 9 December 1283. The Mongols penetrated as far south as Tagung which was captured in January 1284. Hence the northern Burma became a Chinese province of Cheng-Mien.

When the Burmese sent a peace mission headed by a monk called Shin Dithapamauk ( Dispramuk ), it succeeded in persuading the Mongol Emperor to call off the invading army. The Disapramuk inscription records this episode like this :

Honour to him, the Blessed, the Saint, the fully Enlightened In Sakaraj 638 ( A.D. 1285 ) Mrigasira year, the King was staying at Lhan`kla, west Pran`. He sent Anatapcican` and Maha`puiw saying: “ Find out the Taruk movements.” Anantapican` and Maha`puiw said: “This task is a very hard one. There is no go between to send. And there is no one who could write the Gold Address (from our King to the Mongol Emperor). If only we have Syan Disapramuk with us, we should be able to undertake this task”. Thus they petitioned. So the King sent for me and entrusted this task to me.

At Sacchim and Hanlan we made no stay. Having made the Gold Address, we sent it to the Taruk King. The Taruk King said: “ This Gold Address is not from the King nor this learned man his (ambassador ). Anyway call him”. So they called me as being a learned man.

As for the Mha`ra`ja of Pagan, he made the Gold Address saying: “ Kings should not imprison ambassadors. He is to act as our ambassador”. Thereupon they released me. We reached the Taruk Kingdom. As for the Taruk King, with an intention to attack and capture Pangan, he had sent Price Susuttaki (with) 20,000 soldiers and (with the intention to do a Buddhist missionary work he had also sent) the Maha`thera Pun`n`adhammika, the Sanghathera Sri Dhammika and ( monks from ) seventy monasteries who were stopping at the city of Santhway (because) the Monsoon was heavy at that time.

In due course we arrived at ( Santhway). Thereupon the monks who were stopping there gave me a few gifts and said:

The ( Mongol Emperor ) would welcome you. He is a good Buddhist. Please tell him that we could not preach the Religion at Pagan (because nobody is there). As for me, having passed the place of these (monks), I reached Yachan` where I stopped for the (Buddhist Lent). In Tachonmahum (November) I went up to Taytu. In Plasuiwe (December) I arrived there.

The Taruk King was well pleased and we exchanged questions though nothing was said about state affairs. But at the end we talked about state affairs. He said; “ Pundit, I have these 20,000 soldiers and Maha`thera, Sanghathera and monks to propagate the Religion”. I replied: “Mha`ra`ja, all these soldiers and monks could work (what they had been assigned for) only when there is paddy (to eat). Is not paddy essential for the prosperity of a Kingdom? (At present there is an only toddy palm) and if they have to eat nothing but minced toddy palms, will they not all die of pains in the stomach? The monks would not have the courage to enter the capital yet. They are bound to perish if they have to stay in the jungle long. O King, if things remain like this, how you could expect to have had your mission completed. A man who works in a garden pours water and makes the trees grow. He never pinches the tips. He would wait till the trees bear fruits. First pour water on the Kingdom of Tanpratik. It is a small land but the Religion thrives there well. O King, you pray for the Buddhahood. Grant that the Religion of Father Kotama be not destroyed. The Kingdoms that you have conquered are very many and very great. The land of Tanpratik is small. Yet you want it because you want to establish the Religion there. (Then) let not the soldiers go there first. Allow me (to go back there first) to plant rice and beans. When the rice and beans are full grown, then enter”

The Taruk King said: “In these words my profit is also include. Pundit, call the monks who were running hither and thither at the time of your coming and plant rice and beans. When they are full grown, and then send them onto me”. When he had said thus, I was allowed to leave him. But there was some delay in my final return (to Pagan).

Out of gratitude to me for this service, the King (of Pagan) gave me 400 pay (1,100 acre; 445.5 hectares) of land at Hanlan and 400 pay (1,100 acre; 445.5 hectares) of land at Kramu, including both wet and dry cultivation plots and slaves and cattle. All these I dedicate to the Three Gems at the Ceti` to Panpwat Rap- the Turner’s Quarter.

From the evidence that we get from this Disapramuk inscription, we can both add and correct the information that we have gathered from the Burmese chronicles and the Chinese sources. Firstly it is not correct to say that the Pagan King had put to death the Chinese envoys of 1273 although they had never returned to Yunan. In all probability they perished in the fighting with the frontier revels of that time. Secondly the Pagan King took refuge not at Pathein but at a place called Hlan`kla on the west of Pran` which is either Pagan or Pyay. Thirdly the Pagan King sent an envoy in the person of a learned monk called Disa`pramuk who succeeded in getting a truce from the Mongol Emperor and therefore the King gave land and slaves to the monk and a contemporary stone inscription by that monks still stands to bear testimony that the statements in the chronologies are more or less wrong.


  1. Inscription of Burma Portfolio II, London, Oxford University Press 1936.

  2. Luce, G.H., “The Early Syam in Burmese History”, JSS, XLVI, ii, December 1978.

  3. Mhannan Mahayazawin I, Complied by a Committee of learned Men appointed by the King in 1829, Rangoon, Pyigyi Mandaing Press, 1976 Reprint.

  4. Than Tun., “History of Buddhism in Burma, A.D.1000-1300. JBRS., LXII, ii, December 1978.


B.R Gopal: On page 8 there is a quotation “Sakaraj 548(=1285)”. But on page 2, you mention “ Sakkaraj 634(= A.D. 1281). Are they correct ?

Than Tun : They are only 4 years apart each other in Christian era, but father apart in Burmese era. May be “Sakaraj 548” (page 8) in the quotation is the typing mistake. It should be around 638.

K.V.Remesh: What is the language of the inscription?

Than Tun: Old Burmese.

A.V. Narasimha Murthy: How faw would those religious inscriptions be useful to study the Mongol invasion?

Than Tun: I rely on Chinese records and Burmese chronicles as well. But those religious inscriptions are more important since they are contemporary, and again they can provide social and economic information about the donors.

G.Lubeigt(Paris): Where were “Badin” and “ Ywath mentioned on page 3 situated?

Than Tun: “ Badin” is somewhere on the north of Pagan And “Ywatha” is much farther south of Pagan, according to the story of the chronicles. But is very hard to tell about these places in details.

G.Lugeigt: In such case why do you give, 1,100 acres for 400 pay on page II? Multiplying 1.75 acres by 400 makes 700 acres, kinds of pay. One is the ordinary pay, 1.75 acres, and other is the between Lubeigt and Than Tun on the characteristics of the boat used in those days)

19th C Occultism -- Burma  

Posted by ေရွးျမန္မာ in

Just another pieces of Parabaik kept in Southeast Asia Digital Library of Northern Illinois University.

Subject - Parabaik
Materials - Paper
Place of Origin - Burma
Current Location - Northern Illinois University Libraries, Special Collections
Date - 1850
Measurements - 17 x 46 cm
Technique - Manuscript

Description ( as NIU original short note )
Painted illustrations of Jataka and Ramayana figures, some captioned and allocated to days of the week, astrological calculations. Black script on one side and colored illustrations on the other side of continuous sheet of white paper folded fanwise (13 folds). Outside folds black with red ink. Ms. Donor: Burma Studies Group.