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Myanmar - Yadanabon era / Konbaung Dynasty /
Third Empire - 1752-1878

Year

Kings / Queens

Relationship to Predecessor

Kone Baung Dynasty (1752-1885)
1752-1760 Alaung Pharar (a) U Aung Zeya founder
1760-1763 Naung Taw Gyi son
1763-1776 Sin Phyu Shin brother
1776-1782 Sint Ku Min son
1782-1782 Maung Maung nephew
1782-1819 Botaw Phayar son of Alaung Pharar
1819-1837 Bagyitaw grandson
1837-1846 Tharyarwaddy brother
1846-1853 Pagan son
1853-1878 Mindon son
1878-1885 Theepaw son

Burmese history is often described in terms of the centuries-long struggles among ethnic groups, particularly the Burmans, Mons, and Shans. A number of historians have sugested, however, that although ethnic differences were not unimportant, the real dynamic at work was a particular cncepn of royal authority based on the Buddhist notion of karma. This pheonmenon first comes into clear focus during the Pagan Dynasty. A king was a man who had accumulated merit in past lives. This gave him pon (glory), a quality of skill, courage, and dynamism that attracted other powerful men who became his supporters. The support of the sangha was particularly important to the idea of kingship.

World-renouncing Buddhist monks possessed a different sort of pon than kings, but the two formed a kind of symbiotic relationship. The sangha gave the ruler spiritual legitimacy, while the king provided the sangha with material support, giving the monks land and building monasteries and pagodas. As defender and promoter of the faith, the king had a wider mission: he was responsible for the welfare of his subjects, in order that they might have the material means and leisure to pursue their own salvation. This "welfare state" concept of kingship had a formative influence on the development of socialist thought in modern Burma.

Political authority was thus based on religious and universal, rather than ethnic or particularistic, criteria. Different rulers would establish competing centers of royal power. The outcome of their struggle was believed to depend on the winner's status as a karmaraja, a "karma king." In these contests ethnic lines were often confused, particularly in Lower Burma. Thus Tabinshwehti, a Burman, adopted Mon titles and usages when he had himself crowned king at Pegu in 1546.

Although the population of Lower Burma was predominantly Mon in the early eighteenth century, the revolt that led to the overthrow of the Toungoo Dynasty was initiated by the royally appointed governor of Pegu, a Burman. He was killed by his own troops, and the local Mon population and the Gwe Shans - a people considered by some scholars to have been Karens -- made Smim Htaw Buddhaketi, a Buddhist monk and a Gwe Shan, their king. The king's armies seized the ports of Syriam and Martaban in Lower Burma and marched as far north as Prome and Toungoo by 1743. Binnya Dala, a Shan, deposed Smim Htaw Buddhaketi in 1747; he marched into Upper Burma in 1751, capturing the royal capital of Ava and deposing the last king of the Tou Dynasty the following year. In this civil war -- a contest to find a new kannarajt -- Burnians, Mons, Sham, and Gwe Shans fought on both sides.

In 1740, the Mon, who had never relinquished their aspirations for national independence, again revolted, and elected as King of Pegu a monk of Shan origin, who took the title of Budda Ketti. Six years later he abandoned the throne in favor of another Shan, who assumed the title of Binya Dala, a name famous in Mon history. Successful in arms against the King of Burma, he conquered Ava in 1751 and burned it to the ground, taking prisoner Maha Damma Raja Dibuti, who was sent to Pegu and there executed two years later.

Binya Dala's sway over the re-united kingdoms of Pegu and Burma, this time under a ruler of Shan descent, was but of short duration. In 1757 he was conquered and taken prisoner by Alaung Paya, the founder of the last ruling dynasty in Burma, which was overthrown for ever in 1885. Binya Dala ultimately met the same fate as he had meted out to Maha Damma Raja, for he was publicly executed by Sinpyuyin, son of Alaung Paya, in 1775, when the Burmese king held great religious festival at the Shwe Dagon pagoda in Rangoon.

Alaung Paya, or Alompra as he was called by the English, was perhaps the greatest of all the rulers of Ava. Born in 1714 at "the hunter's cooking place," he was first of all the subordinate of a village headman and then became headman of the town. Through his craft and his personal influence, aided no doubt among so superstitious a people by his auspicious name, Maung Aung Zeya, or "conquering victory," he raised a petty local revolt against the Mon power, then paramount in Burma. This proving successful, large numbers flocked to his rebel band, and he was at last able to score important victories against the forces of the King of Pegu.

In 1754 Ava fell before him, and he carried the war southwards to the delta, occupying Bassein, at that time the chief seaport of the country. It was then, in 1755, that he proclaimed himself King of Burma and Pegu, assuming the pretentious title of Alaung Paya, "the incarnation of a Buddha," and conferring royal titles upon his two eldest sons. He established his capital at M6ks6bo, now called Shwebo.

He died in 1760, at the early age of forty-six years. During the short space of seven years he not only freed his country from the yoke of the Mon, whom he degraded to be the Talaing or "down-trodden" race, and raised himself to the throne, but he also extended the boundaries of his kingdom from Manipur in the north-west to Siam in the south and east. And while thus engaged in successful warlike operations, he likewise did much for the improvement of internal administration throughout his dominions. He prohibited gambling and the sale of intoxicating drink, and he purified the judicial system by enforcing the trial of cases in public and the registration of every judicial order that was passed. It was a misfortune for Burma that the sway of so competent a ruler only lasted between five and six years,-for he died in 1760, while laying siege to Ayodya, then the capital of Siam.

The early Kon-Baung period (C.E. 1752-1819) followed the fall of Inwa and the execution of the last king of the Nyaung Yan dynasty. When Inwa fell, the land plunged into disorder. When U Aung Zeya gained control of the land, many petty states withered or submitted themselves to his rule. When he became king, men of letters thronged to him. Under royal patronage, they grew into full bloom.



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