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Myanmar - Pagan Dynasty AD 1044-1287 (AD 107-1287)


Kings / Queens

Relationship to Predecessor

Pagan Dynasty (AD 107-1287)
107-152 Thamu Darit founder
152-167 Yathe Kyaung .
167-242 Pyu Sawhti .
242-299 Htiminyin .
299-324 Yinminpaik .
324-344 Paikthinli .
344-387 Thinlikyaung .
387-412 Kyaungdurit .
412-439 Thihtan .
439-494 Thuyai .
494-516 Tharamunhpya .
516-523 Thaiktaing .
523-532 Thilikyaungnge .
. Thinlipaik .
. Hkanlaung .
. Hkanlat .
. Htuntaik .
. Htunpyit .
. Htunchit .
. Popa Sawrahan .
. Shwe Onthi .
. Peitthon .
. Peittaung .
. Minhkwe .
. Myinkywe .
. Theinkha .
. Theinsun .
. Shwelaung .
. Htuntwin .
. Shwemauk .
. Tun Lat .
. Sawkhinhnit .
. Kyelu .
. Pyinbya .
. Tannet .
. Salay Nga Khway .
. Theinkho son
. Nyaung-u Sawrahan (Taungthugyi) usurper
. Kunsaw Kyaunghpyu son of Tannet
. Kyiso son of Nyaung-Oo Sawrahan
. Sokkate brother
1044-1077 Anawrahta son of Kunsaw Kyaunghpyu
1077-1084 Sawlu son
1064-1113 Kyanzittha .
1113-1167 Alaungsithu grandson
1167-1170 Narathu son
1170-1173 Naratheinkha son
1174-1211 Nara Patisithu brother
1211-1234 Htilominlo son
1234-1250 Kyaswa son
1250-1255 Uzana son
1255-1287 Narathihapati son
1287-1298 Kyawswa son
1298-1325 Sawhnit son
1325-1369 Sawmunnit son

Myanmar History Map - 850 AD Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the foundation of the Pagan Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the "Golden Age" in Burmese history. It is during this period that Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Pagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Pagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 when a Mongol invasion destroyed the city. Ethnic Shan rulers, who established a political center at Ava, filled the ensuing political vacuum for a short time.

But the academic study of the Pagan period had preempted study of its predecessor, so it seemed as if the Pagan Kingdom had suddenly sprouted from the dry, inhospitable plains of central Burma. As a result, scholars looked for some catalytic factor that would turn an arid, semi-desert area into one of the region's most productive civilizations, competing with the magnificent civilization of Angkor in nearby Cambodia in irrigation technology, material wealth, and artistic development, if not in political power. The obvious answer was Theravada Buddhism; religion could have provided the catalytic factor. Another answer was human migrations. If such a civilization as Pagan emerged suddenly, the argument went, surely the stimulant was external. In fact, several early kingdoms had developed prior to the emergence of the Kingdom of Pagan in the mid-ninth century.

It is recorded that the Burmans, a people closely related to the Pyu, established settlements at Papan on the banks of the Irrawaddy in Upper Burma as early as the second century AD. According to the chronicles, Bagan was founded in AD 107 by the Thamoddarit and ruled by a line of 55 kings. A rigorous interpretation of the founding date of AD 107 given in the Glass Palace Chronicle (Pe Maung Tinand Luce 1923) would be that this date is entirely mythological. After the destruction of Tagaung, a second kingdom was established at Old Pagan in the immediate vicinity. After thirteen years' wandering King Thamokdarit founded New Pagan in the year 107-108 AD. He was not directly descended from the old kings of Tagaung. That race had come to an end in Prome two centuries before, and the last king of the dynasty, then ruling in Prome, adopted a son from whom Thamokdarit was descended. There was, however, living at Male in the Upper Irawadi a young man named Sawdi, a direct descendant of a younger brother of the blind twins who had been put on board a raft and sent down the Irawadi to Prome. Thus Sawdi was of the old blood royal. When Pagan was founded he left Male and came down to the new capital, where he lived in the house of a peasant of the Pyu race, and so is sometimes spoken of as Pyu-minti or Pyu Sawdi. He found the people of the new kingdom suffering from a plague of savage animals and flying monsters, which devoured men, women and children. Without delay he set to work and destroyed them, and the king married him to his daughter, declaring him at the same time Binshe-min.

On the death of the king, however, he did not at once succeed to the throne, but allowed a hermit called Rathekyaung to rule for fifteen years. Sawdi became king at the death of the hermit. Sawdi is said to have ruled seventy-five years, and died in the year 243 AD. He was a warlike king, and fought the Chinese with success. His kingdom included much of the country that the Kings of Tagaung and Old Pagan had held. After his death there is no important event for nearly four hundred years. After sixteen kings had ruled in this kingdom, a conflict in the reigning family and an invasion of the Shans brought about the dissolution of this realm also.

The city of Srikshetra was founded about 483 after Christ, and subsequently in the immediate vicinity New Pagan, which gradually absorbed all the Burmese elements on the upper as well as the lower banks of the Irawadi River. Then King Thinga Raza began to reign. He had been a monk before he became king. In his reign the calendar was corrected, and the modern Burmese era began in March, 639 AD, when the sun entered Aries.

Another conventionally ascribed founding date for Bagan, or at least its walled core, the mid-ninth century AD, appears to rely to a considerable degree on circumstantial evidence. According to traditional histories, King Pyinbya, whose origin was supposedly Pyinbya Village, to the east of the Pyu city of Beikthano, built Bagan's city walls, Sarabha gateway, and moat in AD 849. The Myanmar people were said to have founded a powerful kingdom centered on the city of Bagan and filled the void left by the Pyu. But current data puts the construction ofthe wall'seastern portions, at least, somewhere between AD 990 and 1230. The earliest date well attested by an engraved foundationstone is AD 1113 at the Kubyauk-gyi temple, near Myinkaba Village.

Hudson et al suggested in 2005 that "Stresses relating to economic prosperity, population growth, or the physically limited space of the walled settlements may have sent groups out to experiment with new forms of living at Bagan, experiments that did not involve the inertia and resource commitment of huge walled settlements. .... Urban life in mid-first millennium Myanmar was largely characterized by the enclosed Pyu settlement. By the twelfth century A.D., it was characterized by a low-density, monument-rich complex that could expand without the constraint of a predefined outer boundary."

Myanmar History Map - 1057 AD Myanmar civilization achieved a high level of development at Bagan from the middle of the 11th century to the end of the 13th century. Pagan was strategically located on north-south and east-west trade routes and near the irrigated plain of Kyaukse, which produced an abundance of rice. This provided the economic base upon which a powerful kingdom grew. Nearby was Mount Popa, a extinct volcano, the summit of which contained a shrine sacred to the spirits (nats) of the Burman people. Mahayana Buddhism may have been brought to Pagan around the seventh century. A prominent sect was that of the Ari, who practiced magical Tantric rites similar to those of Tibetan or Bengali Buddhists.

Written evidences are available only from Anawrahta onwards. King Anawrahta [Ano-ya-hta-so] (1044-77, at one time dated to 1010-1052 AD ), the founder of the Pagan Dynasty, was the first to bring Lower and Upper Burma under unified rule. Starting from Pagan, then only a confederation of small villages, he conquered the neighboring principalities of the central Irrawaddy valley. Anawrat'a immediately set himself about putting an end to the serpent-worship which had been established in Pagan about 100 years before by a usurper-king, Saw Yahan. The priests of this worship were called Ari. They lived in monasteries, but are represented as being of dissolute life. A missionary, called Arahan in the Royal History, came to Pagan, and preached the law. The false Aris were expelled, and orthodox monks were invited to come from Thaton. King Anawrat'a sent an envoy to King Manuha of Thaton to ask for a copy of the Tripitaka, the Three Baskets of the Law. King Manuha refused, so the Pagan King raised an army, and after a siege, which lasted long, destroyed Thaton, and brought the Books of the Law, the King, and the people in a mass, to Pagan. He captured Thaton in 1057 and gained control over Lower Burma. Anawrahta brought the Mon king of Thaton and some 30,000 captives back to Pagan, introducing the still countrified Burmans to a refined literature and art. The most significant development, however, was Anawrahta's conversion to Theravada Buddhism, which was accomplished by a Mon monk, Shin Arahan.

The king established himself as a patron of the faith and outlawed the Ari sect, conscripting Ari monks, described by one Burmese historian as "heavy-eating and arrogant," into the royal army. He assisted the Buddhist Singhalese kingdom on the island of Ceylon in its war against the invading forces of the Hindu Chola Dynasty of South India. The king of Ceylon reciprocated by sending Buddhist scriptures and a Buddha tooth-relic to Anawrahta, the latter being enshrined in the Shwezigon Pagoda near Pagan. Mon monks Scontinued to play the central role in bringing Theravada Buddhism to Upper Burma.

This new and powerful kingdom of Pagan reached its zenith in the reign of this mighty king, one of the most unique and remarkable personalities that ever occupied a Buddhistic throne. Filled with the idea of uniting both forms of Buddhistic religion under a single ruler, he entered into an alliance with all the Buddhistic kings of Western and Further Asia, and requested them to forward to him Buddhistic relics, objects of art and culture, manuscripts, etc., and to render him homage as the overlord of their church and the representative of the purest form of their faith. It was unavoidable under these circumstances that he should have come into violent conflict with some of the foreign Buddhistic princes.

His most embittered enemy was Manuha, the king of the Mon nation, which dwelt on the western coast of Further India, on the Gulf of Martaban, and which had received its culture and political organisation from Dravidian settlers from Southern India. In the capital, Thahton, of this nation lived the Canon of the pure. Southern Buddhistic Church, and it was toward him that the attention and urgent requests of the Burmese king were particularly directed. The ruler of the Mon nation, who had already detected certain worldly ambitions in the spiritual aspirations of Ano-yahta-o, refused to deliver into his hands the celebrated and ancient collection of canonical writings in the possession of the Mons.

In addition to this, certain ancient and antagonistic national traits stood between the Mons and the Burmese. As it was, a war was inevitable, and it took place in the year 1050. King Manuha was defeated, and carried off a captive with his entire family to Pagan, where to the end of their lives the}' were compelled to perform the duties of slaves of the temple.

Shortly after, a second expedition was sent out by King Anoya-hta-so toward the northeast, for the purpose of securing from Gandarit, a country presumably situated there, certain precious relics, notably the tooth of the founder of Buddhism, which was supposed to be hoarded in this region, and to investigate the nature of the north Buddhistic influence at its very source. He came no farther, however, than Yun-nan, the southwestern-most province of China, where he secured, instead of the desired tooth, a Buddha statue specially consecrated by contact with the holy tooth. King Ano-ya-hta-so sent out his third and last expedition to Ceylon to procure from that country the famed tooth of which he was in search ; yet his hopes here also were blasted.

Remarkable is Ano-ya-hta-so's ambition of erecting in his capital, Pagan, temples in the precise style of architecture of the Buddhistic countries from which the numerous precious relics to be stored in them were procured, an aspiration which was likewise zealously cultivated by all his successors. It is owing to this practice of the Burmese rulers that there is now spread in that boundless expanse of ruined temples that dot the plains of Pagan, a collection of all the multifarious styles of architecture of all the various countries of Buddhism,-a phenomenon which stands signally alone in the history of religious architecture, and the significance of which is immeasurably enhanced by the fact that the majority of the original structures imitated in the temples of Pagan have vanished from the countries of their origin without leaving so much as a single vestige behind.

The dynasty of Ano-ya-hta-so occupied the throne of Burma for a single century only (ending with the year 1279). Bagan's mainly brick monuments, erected for the glory of Buddhism and the spiritual advancement of those who sponsored the construction, are known through history and epigraphy to have been built largely between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries AD. The vast area of temples which they erected, the numbers of which reach into the thousands and some of which are of colossal size, is only calculated to produce unbounded amazement. Witness is borne to the surpassing splendor and magnificence of many of these structures by the celebrated Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, in the thirteenth century, according to whom "golden images of the disciples of Buddha, golden models of the sacred localities of Buddhism, golden images of the fifty-one predecessors of the king of Pagan and of the king himself with his entire family," were among the adornments of the temple of Manggalachaityam, the last to be constructed.

It was inevitable that the erection of so many magnificent temples should have exhausted the financial resources of the state of Pagan, and after the completion of the last temple the proverb became current among the people: "The pagoda is finished and the country ruined." With financial exhaustion in the interior arose political complications without. The expansion policy of the Burmese rulers was a source of endless boundary disputes with China, and after the latter country fell into the hands of the Mongolians it ultimately led to a Chinese invasion of Burma. According to the report of Marco Polo, the horses of the Mongolian cavalry fled precipitately before the elephants of the Burmese warriors ; but the Mongolian general commanded his troops to dismount, to tie their horses to trees and to attack the elephants vigorously with arrows.

Kyansittha (1084-1113), Pagan's second great king, carried on the work of Anawrahta, reunifying the kingdom after a series of revolts, holding off foreign invaders, and maintaining diplomatic and ecclesiastical ties with Ceylon. Although influenced to a certain extent by Hinduism, he saw himself primarily as a Buddhist king and built the Ananda Pagoda, considered the greatest example of Burmese religious architecture. Kyanlttha was so impressed by the work of his architect that, in rather un-Buddhist fishion, he had him executed so that he could not reproduce the work. The Ananda Pagoda is approached in quality, however, by the Thatblnnyu Pagoda, at 61 meters the tallest in Pagan, built in the mid-twelfth century by King Mlaungsithu.

It is believed that as many as 13,000 pagodas, temples, and monasteries were built at Pagan before the dynasty's fall. Burmese historians claim that, unlike the Hindu-Buddhist monuments at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Pagan temples were built not by slave or corv~e labor; instead, free laborers flocked to the construction sites, hoping to gain Buddhist merit through their work.

Myanmar History Map - 1287 AD Pagan flourished for more than two and one-half centuries before being destroyed by the Mongol armies of Kublai Khan, invading Upper Burma from China in 1287. The last king, Narathihape, fled south but was killed by his own son. He is remembered by the Burmese as the king "who fled from the Chinese," compared with the eighteenth-century king Hsinbyushin, "the king who fought the Chinese."

Although there were many Myanmar traditional games not all records of their origin were being kept, except chinlon. Chin-Lon has it own distinct historical background records. In ancient times, it was played in the Royal Court by young people, and it has traveled a very long and tideous journey to this day. As to how chin-lon has come into the Myanmar Society, it is possible to rely on the exact historical records of research work. Historical reference of chinlon can be traced back in the year 1208, during the reign of Pagan King's accession to the throne when he was presented with an ivory chinlon by a siamese sculpture. He was so pleased with the present that he ordered it be made by cane and to be played by young men at the Royal Court. Moreover in 1926-27, a French researcher by the name of Charles Royzel on page 171 of his Annual Report, wrote that near the old Pyi town of Mowzar Village, under U Ba Khin's Brick-building, Buddha's images, jewelleries and a strange object were excavated. That strange object had a diameter of one and quarter of an inch and it was made of silver. That object happened to be a small chinlon.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:20 ZULU