The Myanmar historic
Dr Iwan suwandy ,MHA
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Business Line Pagodas for miles: Ruins at the ancient Buddhist site of Bagan in Myanmar. – Photo: Aditi De
the land of the golden smile.
At the heart of Myanmar lies a golden smile. Last month, we glimpsed it on the glorious Buddha images across the land. But the smile equally lit up our young guide in Yangon, as it did children at play among the famed Bagan ruins.
The days since our return have been packed with positive political news from Myanmar. Cause for celebration? Not yet. Because sub-texts shadowed our six days in the country, yet unspoilt by mass tourism, making it difficult to share our experience in high-definition black-and-white.
Burma (renamed Myanmar in 1989) shares borders with China, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. It has been my dream destination since I was a child. I’d read of fabled royalty decked in rubies and jade, of the Mon civilisation, of the Bagan kingdom dating back to 1057. I knew Myanmar had natural resources such as petroleum, timber, lead and coal.
I was aware of how the military junta had ruled since a 1962 military coup. But since March 2011, Myanmar has been a unitary presidential republic, led by former general Thein Sein. Its administrative capital shifted from Yangon to Naypyidaw, 320 km north, in November 2005.
We fly into Yangon from India. The first impressions are clean streets, disciplined people, and crumbling colonial buildings reminiscent of north Kolkata. Right-hand driven, ancient Nissans and Toyotas rattle past our bus. We see little evidence of littering, road rage, or the traffic chaos of Bengaluru.
What’s Yangon’s population? Few at bustling Bogyoke Aung San Market know for sure. Myanmar’s last official census was held in 1983. Guesstimates say 16 million live in the former capital, out of 58-80 million across Myanmar.
In the footsteps of karma-driven locals, we seek solace at the 2,500-year-old golden Shwedagon pagoda, which soars almost 100 metres above Yangon. Its history? Burmese merchants Tapussa and Bhallika visited the Buddha shortly after he attained enlightenment. He gave them eight hairs from his head, which they gifted to their king at Okkalapa (now Yangon.) He enshrined these relics in a 20-metre pagoda. Since the 14th century, the pagoda had been rebuilt several times. It dazzles at night with a ceremonial vane and bud, bejewelled with 3,154 golden bells and 79,569 diamonds.
Monks chant, drums roll, lamps flare and dim as a procession winds past various lamp-lit shrines, heralding the full moon. Smiling gently, beatific worshippers offer lotus blossoms and squares of gold leaf with reverence.
It was at the Shwedagon that Aung San Suu Kyi, the global face of Myanmar, made her first public speech on August 26, 1988, to an audience estimated at between 30,000 and a million, catapulting her into history. Standing by its monument to martyred students from 1988, I tune into another tale — of a struggle for a three-year Myanmar passport.
Amidst the smiling Buddhas, tucking into green tea salad, or learning of age-old thanaka cosmetic paste, we cue in to proliferating child trafficking and human rights abuses. Our bus cannot pause for a moment outside 54 University Avenue, Nobel laureate Suu Kyi’s residence. We are forbidden to record images of the army or the police.
Do shadows constantly mask facts? It is tough to tell in this nation of 85 per cent Therawada Buddhists. In historic 41 sq km Bagan in central Myanmar, on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy river, 500 km north of Yangon, we glimpse the ancient capital of Burman and Mon rulers between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Bagan’s green landscape is dotted with 2,217 temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins, the largest Buddhist site globally. Following a devastating earthquake in 1975, UNESCO has restored over 200 monuments. India sent in over $20 million worth of conservation aid. But UNESCO has refused to recognise Bagan as a world heritage site, citing government restoration as unscientific.
Ananda Phaya, built in 1105 AD by King Kyanzittha, is one of Bagan’s four surviving temples. At its entrance, vendors sell local crafts — including lacquerware, sand paintings, and woven longyis. They include children of four or six, peddling their own drawings on ruled notebook pages. “Only $1,” they plead, hungry-eyed, “only 1,000 kyat.” The temple houses four giant gold-covered Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, architecturally fusing Mon and Indian styles. Eight monks, locals say, told their king of how they meditated in the Himalayan Nandamula Cave temple. With the aid of Indian artisans, they replicated the symmetry of Bengal and Orissa architecture. Later, the king executed the monks to ensure no future copies. Within the temple, niches celebrate Buddha’s life in stone. Jataka scenes are embossed on terracotta tiles. In the plains around, hardy Israeli desert trees ensure that bird droppings do not ruin the restoration.
But post-dusk in wondrous Bagan, its buggies drawn by horses of Assamese origin, pitch darkness falls over the local town of Nyaung-U and its 12,000 inhabitants. Though our hotel has 24/7 air-conditioning and dial-up Internet access, reality bites. A small village nearby has just three LED lights. The town’s lone hospital, constructed by the Russians decades ago, boasts of two doctors and a dentist. Monks ensure justice, in lieu of its single lawyer. The elderly refuse hospitalisation, fearing that the generator heralds the god of death. Around Bagan, most people — whether scholars, waiters or puppeteers — earn daily wages, according to reliable sources.
But some are visibly more equal than others. A general’s son-in-law has built a dissonant convention centre amidst the ruins, while another general has constructed a ‘duplicate’ palace to perpetuate his own glory. All because Bagan was once the ‘Land of Victory.’
These truths, however, blur on the idyllic freshwater Inle Lake in Shan State, 22 km long, 11 km wide, and 1,328 metres above sea level. Birds skim the water at shoulder-level as our five-seater motorised boat propels us towards our hotel on stilts. Over 254 recorded bird species thrive in these protected wetlands.
From the 18 surrounding villages, traditional fishermen bypass weeds and water hyacinth to snare carp. They stand upright on one leg, the other wrapped around an oar. Floating gardens of lake-bottom weeds, anchored by bamboo poles, bob with the tide, rich with tomatoes. Often crouched twenty to a boat, villagers paddle by.
Whether Intha, Shan or other ethnicities, smiles greet us. At the Five Buddha Temple with its gold-leaf wrapped, feature-blurred statues. At the world’s only lotus silk handloom centre. At the floating market where flexi-tailed lucky fish ear-rings are a good bargain. At the once submerged Inn Dein pagoda complex. Or even from the briefly glimpsed brass-hooped, long-necked Padaung tribal women.
Reflecting on Myanmar as we glide over Inle, I wind back to a chance encounter on a Yangon Airways flight. With Eindra, a young woman of Burmese origin, whose family relocated to the US three generations ago. Her US-born 50-plus parents, both professionals, now yearn to return to Myanmar, to spend their golden years with their extended family.
Perhaps their lens on Myanmar is double-faced. Like the south-facing Kassapa Buddha at the Ananda Phaya. Solemnly meditative from one angle; from another, he smiles, reassuring worshippers that all sadness must pass. He seems in sync with the beautiful, tolerant people of Myanmar. For theirs is indisputably the land of the golden smile.
- 1. The Golden Hinta Flag tiin ko ai, kum 1300 an 1500
- 2. tian lo hmang ii.
2. Flag of Third Burmese Empire under Konbaung dynasty tiin ko ai,
kumpibawipa Kung Bawng san ai hmanghnak thantar ii. (1752 – 1885)
3. Flag of British Burma as a colony of British India tiin ko ai,
British acuzah in kawlram khiah lo uk teng lai fangin,
British India acuzah kuthnia ah a umh teng, (1824 – 1939) kum sawng hmanghnak thantar ii.
4. Flag of British Burma, as a separate colony tiin ko ai, British
acuzah in Kawlram khiah a tumce niuin a kuthnia ah a uk teng, (1939 – 1943)
tian hmanghnak thantar ii.
5. Flag of the State of Burma tiin ko ai, 1943 an 1945
tian hmanghnak thantar ii.
6. Simplified flag of the State of Burma tiin ko ai, 1945
kum ah hmanghnak thantar ii.
7. Flag of British Burma tiin ko ai, 1945 an 1948
tian hmanghnak thantar ii.
8. Flag of the Union of Burma tiin ko ai, 1948 an 1974
tian hmanghnak thantar ii.
9. 1974 an 1988
tian khiah, Flag of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma tiin ko ai, 1988 an 2010 tian khiah Flag of the Union of Myanmar tiin kohnak thantar ii.
10. October 21, 2010
fangin, Kawlram acuzah in thantar a thar thlenghnak ii.
Changing face of Myanmar
This year — December 2: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concludes a 3-day visit to Myanmar, where she met both Aung San Syu Kyi and General Thein Sein. She carried letters to both from President Barack Obama. This is the first major US political move in a country isolated for over 50 years.
November 18: Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) decides to contest all 48 seats in the forthcoming by-elections.
November 17: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) clears Myanmar to chair the bloc in 2014, as a reward for recent reforms.
November 16: Suu Kyi meets President Thein Sein to press for the release of 6,300 political dissidents as promised by the State media. Only 200 are set free.
2010 — Military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) wins the first election in 20 years. The National League for Democracy, headed by Suu Kyi, boycotts poll.
November 6: Suu Kyi released from house arrest. The Nobel peace laureate has spent 15 years and 19 days of the last two decades in detention.
2007 — Military junta crushes peaceful demonstrations led by monks and students. Thousands imprisoned.
1988 — Over 3,000 shot dead during student demonstrations in Rangoon. Thousands arrested.
1962 — General Ne Win stages a coup. Myanmar has been under various types of military rule since then.
1948 — Burma gains independence from the British.
July 19, 1947 — Bogyoke Aung San (Suu Kyi’s father) assassinated in the Yangon Secretariat, along with six other ministers.
Tourist season: November to February
Currency: Kyats. Approximately $100 = 76,000 kyat. A local meal costs about 3,000 kyats (less than Rs 200).
Internal airlines: Yangon Airways, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, among others. Airport security lax. But good in-flight service.
Local special foods: Green tea salad. Mohinga (fish soup).
Main tourist sites: Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Bagan, Pindaya caves.
Tested travel agency: Mya Thiri Travels, Yangon. firstname.lastname@example.org
Warning: Credit cards, Internet and international mobiles do not work. Local handsets/ SIM cards can be hired at the airport for $50 each
History of Myanmar
While both the names Bama and Myanma
historically referred only to the main ethnic Burmese group, the Burmese governments in the post-independence period instituted a difference in meaning between Myanmar and Bamar in the official Burmese language.
The name Myanma/Myanmar was expanded to include all citizens of the country, while the name Bama/Bamar kept its original meaning, referring to the Burmese people. Both are in widespread use colloquially.
Most people still use Bamar/Myanmar interchangeably to refer to the country, depending on the context. But officially the country is now called Myanmar.
the key historical dates.
The earliest archaeological evidence of civilisation in the Irrawaddy valley dates to about 1500 BC. People in the region were turning copper into bronze, growing rice, and domesticating chickens and pigs; they were among the first people in the world to do so.
Prehistory of Burma
Various human species had lived in the region now known as Burma as early as 750,000 years ago. They were replaced by or probably mixed with Homo sapiens—the only surviving human species today. However, evidences for the earliest human settlements in Burma are not yet discovered. Current archeological evidence dates the settlements at about 11,000 BC in the caves of Padah-Lin, which depicts Neolithic culture. They further advanced to Bronze Age and to Iron age around 1,200 BC. These indigenous people, together with later migrating peoples formed mainstream of present day Burmese civilization.
The more recent migrations occurred during the third or fourth millennium BCE to last millennium BC. Pyu, Mon, Rakhine came from various parts of South Asia. They brought cultural diffusions among indigenous people and resided in different parts of Burma—with Pyu at the center, Mon at the South, and Rakhine at the west.
By about 1500 BC, ironworks were in existence in the Irrawaddy Valley followed by Iron age which began around 1200 BC. About 500 BC, a rice-growing population was living in a densely settled various systems of small cities and large villages in the valleys of Upper Myanmar. But Urban age probably did not emerge till the last century BC when advances in irrigation systems and the building of canals allowed for year long agriculture and the consolidation of settlements. From the 2nd century BC to founding of Pagan Dynasty in 11th century AD, these peoples traded with India and dynasities of China including Han and Qin. These trades brought Buddhism and coinage which further spread to other South East Asian countries.
Homo erectus began to settle in Burma in 75,000 BC before the arrival of Homo sapiens from Africa. However, archaeological evidences of Homo sapiens before the 11th millennium are not yet discovered. The pre-migration period of Burma, spans from 11,000 BC to 4,000 BC before the mass migrations of Pyu, Mon and Arakanese people from India and Tibet. This era is characterized by Stone age culture which later advanced to Bronze and Iron age cultures. The cave ritual system, which later used for Buddhist caves, is believed to have rooted in earliest civilization of this era. The effect can be seen today in many Buddhism ritual caves across Burma.
750,000- 275,000 years B.P.
Lower Palaeolithic men of early Anyathian culture (Homo erectus) lived along the bank of the Ayeyawaddy river.
275,000-25,000 years B.P.
Lower Palaeolithic men of late Anyathian culture
Upper Palaeolithic men (Homo Sapiens) live in Badah-lin caves which situated in Ywagan township in southern Shan States.
7,000 – 2,000 BC
Mesolithic blade in Shinma-daung Area Central Myanmar
Roughly polished stone implements of various sizes are often found in the Shan States of eastern Burma. Pebble tools, including choppers and chopping tools, are found in the Pleistocene terrace deposits of the Irrawaddy Valley of Upper Myanmar. These complexes are collectively known as the Anyathians, thus, the culture is called the Anyathian culture. The Early Anyathian is characterized by single-edged core implements made on natural fragments of fossil wood and silicified tuff, which are associated with crude flake implements. However, domestications and polishing of stones, which are possible signs of Neolithic culture, are not known until the discovery of Padah Lin caves in Southern Shan State.
They are dated between 11,000 to 6,000 BC.
The most significant of these is the Padah-Lin cave where over 1,600 of stones and cave paintings have been uncovered. These paintings lie from ten to twelve feet above the floor level depicting figures in red ochre of two human hands, a fish, bulls, bisons, a deer and probably the hind of an elephant. The paintings indicate that the cave was probably used for religious ritual. If so, these caves could be one of the earliest sites used for worshiping in Burma. The use of caves for religious purposes continued into later periods. Thus, Buddhist Burmese use of cave worshiping originates from the earlier Animist period.
Tool transitions from late Stone age to early Bronze Age, and finally to Iron age
The finding of bronze axes at Nyaunggan located in Shwebo township
suggests that Bronze Age of Burma began around 1500 BC in parallel with the earlier stages of Southeast Asian bronze production.
This period spans from 1500 to 1000 BC
during which knowledge of the smelting and casting of copper and tin seems to have spread rapidly along the Neolithic exchange routes.
Another site is the area of Taungthaman,
near Irrawaddy River within the walls of the 18th century capital, Amarapura, was occupied from the late Neolithic through the early iron age, around the middle of the first millennium BC. Small trades, barters as well as Animism had already begun in this age.
Bronze and iron age cultures were found to be overlapping in Burma. In this era, wealth was accumulating due to agriculture and to access to the copper resources of the Shan hills, the semi-precious stone and iron resources of the Mount Popa Plateau, and the salt resources of Halin. This wealth is evident in grave items bought from Chinese kingdoms. A notable characteristics of the people of this era is that they buried their dead together with decorative ceramics and common household objects such as bowls and spoons.
The ruins lies some 20 km west of Taungdwingyi is not easily recognized by casual passers-by but the elderly local people remember that the fort walls stood much higher than now about half a century ago before the bricks were quarried for building roads and rail tracks. The excavations, though limited to twenty-five selected sites during six open seasons, reveal that the cultural equipment of the site is essentially Pyu in character.
Masonry structures with massive walls constructed of large sized bricks, un-inscribed silver coins bearing symbols of prosperity and good-luck, burial urns of plain and exquisite designs, beads of clay and semi precious stones, decorated domestic pottery, iron nails and bosses are among the finds which reveal convincing cultural links between Beikthano and the established Pyu site of Srikshetra. The burial urns are definite evidence of cultural relationship between Beikthano on the one hand and Srikshetra and Hanlin on the other. Innumerable urns unearthed at Srikshetra are of the same character as those from Beikthano as regards the contents and manner of burials. The antiquity of Beikthano is vouched by the recovery of un-inscribed coins or medals known Pyu coins. Though the number recovered by excavation is quite few, surface finds were also made by the local people from time to time. From these specimens it appears that not only the predominant type found at Srikshetra but also the type peculiar to Hanlin occurs at this site. In Myanmar these types of un-inscribed coins could be definitely attributed as one of the chief characteristics of Pyu culture.
An ancient site where Pyu culture flourished as early as the 2nd century A.D. It is located 17 km southeast of Shwebo. The located residents after coming across objects of antiquarian interest such as gold, silver and bronze objects, utensils, mirrors, coins and ornaments, which are usually melted down. Unlike Srikshetra or Beikthano where Hindu or Buddhist religions influenced with image worship, no traces could be found at Hanlin. Another interesting factor that prevailed at Hanlin indicates the practice of burial of corporeal remains as also burial of cremated remains in urns was in vogue. The brick-walled city complex is two miles long and a mile wide.
The Glass Palace Chronicle says that Myanmar history starts in Tagaung, some 300 years before the birth of Buddha [850 BC]. Situates 200 km up river north of Mandalay. But then it is quite a civilized period, with cities, kings, farmers, workers and festivals. Tagaung still exit as a big village and can be reached by river way from Mandalay.
The ancient site of Srikestra lies 8 km north-east of Pyay in the village of Hmawza. It dates to the early Pyu kingdom that ruled the surrounding area from the 5th to 9th century AD. By the old palace site stands a small museum and a map of the area. Inside the museum is a collection of artifacts colleted from Thayekhittaya excavations, including royal funerary urns, stone relief’s, a couple of bodhisattvas, statues of the Hindu deities Tara Devi, Vishnu and Lakshmi and several 6th century Buddha images, tile fragments, terracotta votive tablets and silver coins minted in the kingdom etc.
Situates in the Panlaung reserved forest area in Ywangan township in Taunggyi district at precisely latitude 21º61½´N and longitude 96º18´E. The distance to Padahlin from Nyaunggyat village is four miles whereas from Yebok it is only a mile away. The caves lie in the jungle-clad mountains and are situated at a height of 1000 ft above sea level. The terrain is rough and rugged. Being limestone caves the interior abounds in stalagmites and stalactites.
The excavation at Padhlin yielded a horde of artifacts and other finds. Innumerable stone implements, hundreds of animal bone fragments, a few human fossils, shells of land mollusks, charcoal pieces, mounds of clay, etc were discovered. The stone implements and the fauna remains testify the age of Padahlin to be Neolithic. Together with these priceless treasures several cave paintings from the depths of prehistory were also brought to light. Let us take a glimpse at these paintings found on the walls of Padahlin.
The mural paintings done in a linear and compact fashion adorn the walls of Padahlin. They were drawn at a height of 10 to 12 feet above floor level in the smaller eastern cave. They were painted in the middle part of the wall which divides the rocks. The drawings of these cave dwellers numbered about a dozen images. They were all done in red ochre circles in the open palm, a huge fish, a deer, bisons, bulls followed at their heels by a calf, a human skull? and probably the rear part of an elephant. On the high cavern ceiling they drew the sun between two converging irregular lines.
From the few paintings found at Padahlin one might well argue that the artist had a fine eye for detail. They also had a gifted hand and creative capacity. These paintings seem to have been their act of lateral thinking. Otherwise stated it must never been the outward manifestation of their thoughts- a feat rather rare for their time. They were remarkably talented souls.
Like the paintings at Padahlin the cave drawings at Lascaux in France, (which has been called “the Sistine chaple of prehistoric art)” and Altamira in Spain also portrayed human hands and more or less similar animals. Painted handprints of early men are also seen on the walls of the Cosquer cave on the French Riviera. Again images of human hands, some in red, others in black pigment were found recently in the Chauvet limestone cave near Avignon, France.
Unlike the Padahlin and Lascaux cave paintings, the Paleolithic cave drawing at Chauvet pullulates with images of predatory and dangerous species such as cave bears, panthers, lions, wooly rhinoceroses and hyenas. But like the Laxcaux and Cyhauvet cavern images the preponderance of animal figures over human form is discernible at Padahlin.
Though open to conjecture the general consensus is that the legacy of cave paintings at Padahlin must surely have been more than what was found in 1968. It might be surmised that the elements, the deposition of calcium carbonate on the walls and the acid smoke emitted from the fire used for cooking and warming themselves must have obliterated and destroyed a great part of the treasure trove.
Whatever the case may be it is evident that our forebears of Pakahlin and the prehistoric ancestors of Europe had used the large cave walls of their time as big doodling sheets. On these vast expanses they had left their visual reflections. It was most thoughtful of them to leave their art in permanent places – the walls of their respective caverns. Despite the similarities and differences in representing art, these Homo Sapiens had definitely left their prehistoric possessions in the sands of time.
The Bronze-Age culture heritage site is located near Nyaunggan Village, Budalin Township, Sagaing Division, about 50 km from Monywar. The site is situated on a crater of a dormant volcano, which is about 4 miles northeast of the famous Twintaung. There are 5 excavation sites so far, where you can find burial mounds of our ancestors. In these excavation sites human skeletal remains were found together with pots of various size and shapes, stone rings, beads, socket bronze axes and some animal bones. This is an extraordinary prehistoric culture, which was found as the missing link between Stone Age and Iron Age culture, and the first discovery of a Bronze-age Burial site in Myanmar.
By 500 BCE,
iron-working settlements emerged in an area south of present-day Mandalay.
Bronze-decorated coffins and burial sites filled with earthenware remains have been excavated. Archaeological evidence at Samon Valley south of Mandalay suggests rice-growing settlements that traded with China between 500 BC and 200 CE
Chapter I: Prehistoric and Animist Periods
A. Prehistoric Sites
As infrequent archaeological excavations have slowly revealed pieces of Burma’s past, a better but still incomplete understanding of Burma’s prehistory has slowly emerged. Scant archaeological evidence suggests that cultures existed in Burma as early as 11,000 BC,
long before the more recent Burmese migrations that occurred after the 8th century AD.
The conventional western divisions of prehistory into the Old Stone Age, New Stone Age
and the Iron or Metal Age are difficult to apply in Burma because there is considerable overlap between these periods.
most indications of early settlement have been found in the central dry zone, where scattered sites appear in close proximity to the Irrawaddy River. Surprisingly, the artifacts from these early cultures resemble those from neighboring areas in Southeast Asia as well as India. Although these sites are situated in fertile areas, archaeological evidence indicates that these early people were not yet familiar with agricultural methods.
The Anyathian, Burma’s Stone Age, existed at a time thought to parallel the lower
and middle Paleolithic in Europe.
At least six kinds of stone hand tools have been discovered in the fourteen sites associated with this period.
This assemblage of stone tools in conjunction with additional archaeological evidence indicates that these people lived by hunting animals and gathering wild fruits, vegetables and root crops.
The Neolithic or New Stone Age,
when plants and animals were first domesticated and polished stone tools appeared, is evidenced in Burma by three caves located near Taunggyi at the edge of the Shan plateau that are dated to 10000 to 6000 BC.
The most complex of these, the Padhalin cave, contains wall paintings of animals,
not unlike those found in the Neolithic caves at Altimira, Spain or Lascaux, France.
These paintings may be interpreted as an indication that the cave was used as a site for religious ritual. Thus, caves were among the earliest sites used for Buddhist worship in Burma.
This is of importance because the use of caves for religious purposes continued into later periods and may be seen as a “bridge” between the earlier non-Burmese, Animist period
and the later Buddhist period.
Numerous caves around the ancient city of Pagan have been outfitted with Buddha images or have been incorporated into early temples such as Kyauk Ku Umin or Thamiwhet and Hmyatha Umin.
Thamiwhet Umin, Nyaung-o, Pagan
Buddha image erected inside Thamiwet Umin
A Buddhist temple is referred to as a cave, whether it is naturally formed or,
as is most often the case, architecturally constructed.
The Burmese word for cave is “gu” and has been continually used to refer to Buddhist temples. It is frequently incorporated into the name of a temple, for example
Shwe Gu Kyi or Penatha Gu. Also, until the twelfth century, temple interiors were intentionally dimly lit. This effect was achieved by installing permanent stone or brick lattices in all the relatively small windows. (The Burmese ethnic group has been credited with building their temples with larger, unobstructed windows and thereby creating more brightly-lit interiors – a transition that is seen in the temples of the Pagan Period).
By the second half of the first millennium BC a new developmental phase
began in the dry zone of Burma. Referred to as the early Bronze – Iron Age,
these cultures shared practices and methods of production with various neighboring areas.
resemble those of Thailand and Cambodia.
Iron working technology most likely came from India or other parts of Southeast Asia, and ceramic forms and decoration correspond to those of the bronze –
iron Age levels at Ban Chiang in northern Thailand and at Samrong Sen in Cambodia. Numerous beads have been recovered that stylistically resemble those imported from Andrha Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in India.
2. Prehistoric: Early man at Taungthaman
The site of Taungthaman is located near the 19th century city of Mandalay,
on an alluvial terrace of the Irrawaddy River within the walls of
the 18th century capital, Amarapura, and was occupied from the late Neolithic
through the early iron age, around the middle of the first millennium BC.
Many artifacts have been uncovered at Taungthaman such as sophisticated stone tools, intricate ceramic wares, and primitive iron metallurgy.
Many of these objects would have been acquired from the prosperity gained through industrious farming and trade.
When burying their dead, their new affluence encouraged these people to include
among the grave goods fine decorative ceramics produced by specialized potter artisans as well as the more common household objects such as bowls and spoons.
Human and animal figures discovered at Taungthaman in the 1970’s are thought to have been used for religious practices. If this is so, these artifacts represent the oldest of their kind found in Burma. Although no building in permanent material was discovered at Taungthaman, the excavations uncovered a pattern of post-holes that are the results of buildings having been supported on wooden pilings.
The mighty bend in the Irrawaddy inhabited since prehistoric times
Capitols of Burma
Taugthaman area in annual flood
Stone bracelet from Taungthaman
Stone hoe? from Taungthaman
My insatiable thirst for ancient ornamental crafts keeps me traveling to various parts of the country to visit ancient sites and likely sources, looking happily over this little thing and that. It was on one such trip to Mandalay checking up a source that I first noticed a small, dice- shaped bead among other artifacts. At first, my attention was drawn to the other, more familiar items but when my eyes fell on the unusual bead I was startled. It was a rectangular, hollow gold piece with auspicious Pyu symbols measuring 8.10 x 8.76 x 11.77 mm and weighing 1.5 gm.
When I looked closer, I found boreholes in each of the center of a lotus blossom on opposite sides, formed with repousee and chasing work. On the remaining four sides are the symbols of Srivasta (The Holy House), Bhaddha- pith a (The Throne), Sankha (The conch shell), and the twin-fish. The symbols are set within decorative designs, so they stood out from other representations of the symbols. From what I could find out the origin of the bead was Halin, an ancient Pyu city in Upper Myanmar.
I was fascinated with this bead, and from then on, I started looking out for more of the same style. I gathered that a few others have been unearthed but there are not many around. I also tried to find references to the dice-shaped beads in archaeology journals and papers, particularly those with symbols. No such references have been found. I made a vow to myself, there and then, that someday I would write about these fascinating beads.
The gold dice bead with symbols of conch shell, twin-
The gold dice bead with symbols of conch shell, Sirivatsa,
Therefore, I started look- ing for more dice beads on my .survey trips. It was not until months later that I came across another one, from Myinmu. It is similar to the first one in shape and use of symbols but slightly bigger. The setting of the symbols is also different but both can definitely be identified as Pyu origin. The third bead found from Halin is similar to the first two in style but a bit smaller. Here, the wheel replaced the twin-fish symbol. It is also a little heavier since more gold was used, It could be termed as semi-solid.
The gold dice bead with symbols of conch shell, Srivatsa,
I began to wonder whether there would be any other variations in style since the three were quite similar. To my delight, a collector friend happened to find a gilded dice bead from Hmaw Zar, ! measuring 7.86 x 7.56 x 10.26 mm and weighing 3.4 gm. Hmaw Zar used to be part of srikestra, the famous ancient Pyu kingdom. This bead is gilded bronze. Engraved in single lines on the four faces are the symbols, srivasta, Bhaddhapitha, the twin-fish, and the swastika. Some flat gold beads were also un- earthed from the area. Most of them are rectangular with the usual Pyu symbols fabri- cated with gold wire and granulation.
Apart from the gold dice beads with symbols, some with images of animals such as elephants, lions, bulls, horse, and the garuda bird, have been found from Halin, Ayardaw near Halin, and Hmawzar in Sriksetra.
From that time on dice beads started coming my way. My collector friends informed me whenever they got hold of what they called my “babies”, A friend from Mawlamyaing luckily managed to obtain some solid gold beads with Pyu symbols, Srivasta, Bhaddhapitha, conch shell, swast\ka, or the twin fish from the Suvanabhummi site, Suvanabhummi is the early Mon kingdom contemporary to that of the Pyu. In addition to the usual symbols, new ones are seen such as a cross and dots, a human figure, wheel, and an auspicious symbol that resembles a zedi surrounded by dots. Compared with those found in Upper Myanmar, they are very small. However, up to that time, I assumed from the use of Pyu symbols that dice beads were Pyu innovations. The said symbols might have an auspicious significance and they are somewhat like Pyu symbols on most of the deco- rative ornaments, coins, personal items, and even pottery. Coins and other personal items bearing Pyu marks are known to have spread to as far as Oc-Eo in Southern Vietnam.
It was fortunate in a way that I was somewhat too busy with my other obligations to get around to writing about these exotic beads until 2003. Had I been able to do so, I would have provided faulty information. I was flabbergasted when in 2003 an incredible found was made in Taung-tha-man Neolithic site: a terracotta dice bead. This bead is about 8 x 6 x 6 cm with boreholes through the center of a lotus blossom on opposite sides. On the other four sides are the images of a seated male, a seated female; a male lion, and a female lion.
The designs were most probably punched into the clay. It dawned upon me that these prehistoric people must be the innovators of the dice beads that fascinate me no end and that the Pyu people were the modifiers. This find of a terracotta dice bead left me in awe and wonder at the unique expressions of aesthetic notions, creativity, and resourcefulness of our ancestors.
After you cross U Bein’s bridge you will come to the village of Taungtaman. Here it seemed like the main industry was cutting and drying palm leaves and bamboo. There are also a few boat drivers. I didn’t see any weaving mills as the area has a lot of them but the people probably walk to Amarapura if they hold one of those jobs. There are some old Payas that were being rebuilt in the area too.
3. Transition to Pre-Pagan Period
From the limited information available at present, the evolution of these early prehistoric cultures into the later Mon and Pyu societies is not well understood,
although the late Iron Age coincided with the rise of Pyu culture and
the creation of the first cities in Burma.
However, there is ample evidence that by the fifth century AD,
the Mon as well as the Pyu peoples had adopted the Indianized cultural life then widely practiced throughout mainland Southeast Asia which included elements of both Hinduism (Brahamanism) as well as aspects of Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism.
Bibliography- Prehistoric Period
‘The “Neolithic Culture of the Padah-lin Caves”, Asian Perspectives, 14 (1971), pp. 123-133.
Ba Maw, “Research on Early Man in Myanmar”, Myanmar Historical Research Journal, no.1 (November 1995), pp. 213-220.
Bob Hudson, “The Nyaungyan ‘Goddesses': Some Unusual Bronze Grave Goods from Upper Burma”, TAASA Review, vol 10, no 2 (June 2002), pp. 4 –7.
William Solheim, “New Light on a Forgotten Past”, National Geographic, vol 139, No. 3 (March 1971), pp. 330-339.
B. Animism and the Arts
Animism is a generic term used to describe the myriad religious beliefs and practices that have been utilized in small-scale human societies since the beginning of the prehistoric era and is the earliest identifiable form of religion found in Burma. This is not an unexpected occurrence because animist beliefs and practices have been found among early human societies in almost every country of the world. Animism is a belief that spirits exist and may live in all things, sentient and non-sentient. The world is thought to be animated by all sorts of spirits that may intervene negatively or positively in the affairs of men. Although spirits may live in all things, every object does not harbor a spirit. If there were a spirit in everything, the daily activities of mankind would be seriously disrupted because a spirit would have to be addressed or placated at every step in a day’s activities. Spirits by their very nature are thought to be normally invisible and to assume visible form only on rare occasion. Therefore, it is a challenge for anyone to contact a specific spirit and be absolutely sure that the correct spirit was contacted and was present. Therefore, throughout the world, spirits are often assigned a contact point where they may be enticed for consultation. Salient features of the landscape often become the “home” of a spirit by assignment. Spirits are thought to live, for example, on the highest peak in a mountain range or at the odd bend in the creek but not in every stone or drop of water. If a landscape is devoid of a salient feature, such as is the case with a flat rice field, one is created by assignment such as building a simple shrine in the northeast corner of the field. That the spirits have a recognized “home” is important since the relevant spirit or spirits must be located and consulted before important decisions are made or an activity undertaken. Location as well as “presence” is of vital importance in animism because the spirit must be agreeably enticed to the location so that the request will meet with a positive response. A home or locus for consulting ancestor spirits is often created in animist societies by carving a generic but gendered human image and wrapping it in a garment or with possessions identified with the deceased. Gifts of all kinds, often of luxury goods, are ritually presented to the image when it may be wrapped in any of the deceased individual’s possessions.
In virtually all societies that practice animism, there are three broad categories of spirits: Spirits of the Ancestors, Spirits of the Locale or Environment (often referred to as genie of the soil) and Spirits of Nature or Natural Phenomenon. Those individuals who were important in this life, such as patriarchs, matriarchs, clan leaders, political leaders, or chiefs, are honored after their death because it is believed that if they were powerful in this life then they will be powerful in the afterlife and consequently they should be consulted. Security for the living is achieved and maintained by consulting these important ancestor spirits to receive advice on major decisions and assistance to bring them to fruition.
Spirits of the locale or environment include, for example, the spirit of the mountain, the waterfall, the great tree or of each plot of land. In inhabited areas in Burma and especially within villages or towns, almost every large tree has a spirit shelf on which food and drink is placed to please the spirit and thus assure its blessings. The small wayside shrines, typically containing no images that are found along thoroughfares as well as in remote locations throughout Burma are dedicated to the spirit(s) of that area, that tract of land or that city plot.
The Spirits of Natural Phenomenon are consulted as needed. These include the sun, moon, storms, hurricanes, typhoons, winds and earthquakes. These spirits represent the uncertainty of the world; that which is beyond the understanding and complete control of the living.
Animism is typically practiced through rituals that are performed by a specially trained practitioner who serves as an intermediary between a person or group and the spirit to be consulted. The term shaman – the word used for such an individual in tribes living along the American Northwest Coast – is today widely employed by academics to identify such individuals wherever they appear in the world. This practitioner is called to perform a ritual at an auspicious location in which he entices the appropriate spirit or spirits to appear and cooperate by flatteringly calling them by name, performing their favorite music or songs, recounting their good deeds and offering them the things that they enjoyed when alive, such as food, drink (frequently alcohol), or things that have an appealing fragrance such as flowers or incense. These “objects of enticement” are considered by outsiders to be the Arts of Animism. Since animist rituals often do not require an image, these arts frequently consist of the objects used for enticement such as fine textiles, fine basketry or fine ceramics. Typically these items are the best available, expensive, newly made for the ceremony, or at least refurbished since it would be offensive to offer old clothing or stale food to a respected individual. Once the shaman is convinced the desired spirit is present and in an agreeable mood, he goes into trance and consults with the spirit concerning the critical matter at hand. He then comes out of trance and shares the wishes of the spirit(s) with his client(s).
There are typically three categories of questions that are asked: those that involve the security of the group or person; the fertility of humans, livestock and crops; and the health of the group or the individual. All three categories of questions have to do with everyday life, the here and now, and unlike the “Great Religions”, little attention is focused on the afterlife.
The practitioners of animism, the shaman or mediums, do not belong to an organized clergy but, instead, learn the rituals and the practices of animism by having been an apprentice or an acolyte to another shaman. The specialized task of the shaman requires them to communicate with spirits, whether male or female, while in a trance. Consequently, an individual of ambiguous gender is well suited to speak intimately with spirits of either gender. Therefore, shaman tends to be either effeminate males or masculine females who at their will are capable of going into trance.
In Burma, animism has developed into the cult of the Thirty-Seven Nats or spirits. Its spirit practitioners, known as nat ka daws, are almost always of ambiguous gender, and are thought to be married to a particular spirit or nat. Despite their physical appearance and costume, however, they may be heterosexual with a wife and family, heterosexual transvestites, or homosexual. Being a shaman is most often a well-respected profession because the shaman performs the functions of both a doctor and a minister, is often paid in gold or cash, and is often unmarried with the time and money to care for their aging parents. Shamans who combine their profession with prostitution lose the respect of their clients – a universal conflict and outcome. The reputation of Burmese nat-ka-daws has been generally damaged by this conflict.
Nat images in Nat shrine, Shwezigon Stupa, Pagan
Nat images in Nat shrine, Shwezigon Stupa, Pagan
Animism, a generic term for the Small Religions, is a substratum of beliefs out of which the Great Religions have developed. It is a useful term to describe all of the small religions that vary greatly in the specifics of their practice. However, there are general characteristics that are easily recognized. Since animism is based upon the worship of individuals who once lived in addition to spirits that dwell in specific environmental locations, there are a myriad number of spirits. These spirits change in name and function in different physical environments. Consequently, the names of the spirits change from valley to valley, from one village to another or from one small group to the next. The worship of numerous spirits differs markedly from the great religions, which usually have one all encompassing god or a limited pantheon of gods. By comparison, in Burma and Thailand there is a spirit attached to every parcel of land.
Since Animism is typically practiced by non-literate groups of people, a written record of their theology or literature doesn’t exist. Practices or beliefs are passed down orally from shaman to apprentice. Since it is important for the shaman to preserve the correct order in which chants and genealogies must be recited, shaman in several societies have independently invented what scholars have come to refer to as “memory boards”. These are boards on which there are a series of symbols or marks that assist in proper recollection and recitation. These boards have been found in many small-scale societies including those in Southeast Asia, particularly in Borneo and as far away as Easter Island. These boards, although often undecipherable to the uninitiated, are important because they are examples of the first form of writing.
Art objects used in animism are typically made of perishable materials. The images are often of wood, cane, feathers, leather, and other materials such as unfired clay that easily disintegrate. Due to humidity, bacteria, and the foraging of animals and insects, these art forms do not last for long periods. Art forms made of perishable materials are suitable for animist ritual since the animist aesthetic places importance on the new and beautiful because the end goal is to please and attract the spirits. The sentiment here is that attractive gifts should be new and not secondhand. Therefore, old images that have been used previously are frequently repainted, re-dressed or made anew. At times, the “art objects” are discarded after a ritual since the objects have served their purpose of attracting the spirit and the spirit by its very nature of being a spirit can not take the objects away.
Animist art obects are created in almost any form. The images may be anthropomorphic, or just an uncut slab of rock. The object may be adorned or unadorned.
In Burma, the major Animist spirits were transformed into the Pantheon of the 37 Nats during the Pagan Period. The earliest known images of the brother and sister nats, Min Mahagiri and his Sister, who lead the pantheon, were painted on two planks hewn from a their sacred tree that had been thrown into the Irrawaddy and had floated down the Irrawaddy to Pagan.
Min Mahagiri in nat shrine, Shwezigon, Pagan
Mahagiri’s Sister, Shwemyethna, Princess Golden Face in nat shrine, Shwezigon Stupa, Pagan
2. Bronze Drums – An Animist Art Form
The use and manufacture of bronze drums is the oldest continuous art tradition in Southeast Asia. It began some time before the 6th century BC in northern Vietnam and later spread to other areas such as Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and China. The Karen adopted the use of bronze drums at some time prior to their 8th century migration from Yunnan into Burma where they settled and continue to live in the low mountains along the Burma – Thailand border. During a long period of adoption and transfer, the drum type was progressively altered from that found in northern Vietnam (Dong Son or Heger Type I) to produce a separate Karen type (Heger Type III). In 1904, Franz Heger developed a categorization for the four types of bronze drums found in Southeast Asia that is still in use today.
Heger’s four drum types
The Karen Drum Type or Heger Type III
The vibrating tympanum is made of bronze and is cast as a continuous piece with the cylinder. Distinguishing features of the Karen type include a less bulbous cylinder so that the cylinder profile is continuous rather than being divided into three distinct parts. Type III has a markedly protruding lip, unlike the earlier Dong Son drums. The decoration of the tympanum continues the tradition of the Dong Son drums in having a star shaped motif at its center with concentric circles of small, two-dimensional motifs extending to the outer perimeter.
Tympanum of a Karen Bronze Drum
Complete Tympanum of a Karen Drum
Detail of Tympanum of a Karen Drum
Detail of Tympanum of a Karen Drum
In Burma the drums are known as frog drums (pha-si), after the images of frogs that invariably appear at four equidistant points around the circumference of the tympanum.
Frog on Tympanum of a Karen Drum
A Karen innovation was the addition of three-dimensional figures to one side of the cylinder so that insects and animals, but never humans, are often represented descending the trunk of a stylized tree.
Stylized tree with snails and elephants
Detail of stylized tree with snails and elephants
Detail showing a complex arrangement of snails, elephants, trees squirrels and other animals.
The frogs on the tympanum vary from one to three and, when appearing in multiples, are stacked atop each other. The number of frogs in each stack on the tympanum usually corresponds to the number of figures on the cylinder such as elephants or snails. The numerous changes of motif in the two- and three-dimensional ornamentation of the drums have been used to establish a relative chronology for the development of the Karen drum type over approximately one thousand years.
The Karens speak several languages that linguists have had difficulty classifying. Karen groups often speak different languages, some of which are not mutually intelligible. Hence, the Karen peoples are an exception to the basic assumption that an ethnic group can be defined by the fact that all its members can converse in a single tongue. There are at least three major cultural and linguistic divisions among the Karen: the Karreni or the Red Karen, who cast the bronze drums, the Pwo Karen, and the Sgaw Karen, as well as a number of other splinter groups who have scattered into the mountains below the Shan Plateau.
Two Red Karen Women
A Sgaw Woman
Two Sgaw Karen couples
These hillside people practice swidden or slash-and-burn agriculture and speak a language that is very different than that of the lowland Burmese. The practice of slash-and-burn agriculture consists of burning the forests and then using the ashes from the burnt timber as fertilizer for the fields.
A swidden field ready for planting
Broadcasting rice in swidden field
The fertilizer lasts for only several years, never more than six, and at that time the Karen must pack and move everything to a new site where a different section of the forest is burned. A number of hillside groups practice slash-and-burn agriculture and periodically move through each other’s hereditary territory to new lands. These people move back and forth across the Thai border with little regard for the national boundary. Slash-and-burn agriculture is perilous in that after the forest is burned, seeds must be planted and then rains must occur quickly and consistently until the plants are well established. If this does not happen, the plants will wither and die or insects and animals will eat the seeds. It is not unusual for the Karen to be forced to plant four times in order to reap a single harvest. For the Karen, the bronze drums perform a vital service in inducing the spirits to bring the rains. When there is a drought, the Karens take the drums into the fields where they are played to make the frogs croak because the Karens believe that if the frogs croak, it is sign that rain will surely fall. Therefore, the drums are also known as “Karen Rain Drums”
Bronze drums were used among the Karen as a device to assure prosperity by inducing the spirits to bring rain, by taking the spirit of the dead into the after-fife and by assembling groups including the ancestor spirits for funerals, marriages and house-entering ceremonies. The drums were used to entice the spirits of the ancestors to attend important occasions and during some rituals the drums were the loci or seat of the spirit.
It appears that the oldest use of the drums by the Karen was to accompany the protracted funeral rituals performed for important individuals. The drums were played during the various funeral events and then, among some groups, small bits of the drum were cut away and placed in the hand of the deceased to accompany the spirit into the afterlife. It appears that the drums were never used as containers for secondary burial because there is no instance where Type III drums have been unearthed or found with human remains inside. The drums are considered so potent and powerful that they would disrupt the daily activities of a household so when not in use, they were placed in the forest or in caves, away from human habitation. They were also kept in rice barns where when turned upside down they became containers for seed rice; a practice that was thought to improve the fertility of the rice. Also, since the drums are made of bronze, they helped to deter predations by scavengers such as rats or mice.
When played, the drums were strung up by a cord to a tree limb or a house beam so that the tympanum hung at approximately a forty-five degree angle.
Karen drum being played
The musician placed his big toe in the lower set of lugs to stabilize the drum while striking the tympanum with a padded mallet. Three different tones may be produced if the tympanum is struck at the center, edge, and midpoint. The cylinder was also struck but with long strips of stiff bamboo that produces a sound like a snare drum. The drums were not tuned to a single scale but had individualized sounds, hence they could be used effectively as a signal to summon a specific group to assemble. It is said that a good drum when struck could be heard for up to ten miles in the mountains. The drums were played continuously for long periods of time since the Karen believe that the tonal quality of a drum cannot be properly judged until it is played for several hours.
The drums were a form of currency that could be traded for slaves, goods or services and were often used in marriage exchanges. They were also a symbol of status, and no Karen could be considered wealthy without one. By the late nineteenth century, some important families owned as many as thirty. The failure to return a borrowed drum often led to internecine disputes among the Karen.
a. Animist Drums and Buddhism
Although the drums were cast primarily for use by groups of non-Buddhist hill people, they were used by the Buddhist kings of Burma and Thailand as musical instruments to be played at court and as appropriate gifts to Buddhist temples and monasteries. The first known record of the Karen drum in Burma is found in an inscription of the Mon king Manuha at Thaton, dated 1056 AD. The word for drum in this inscription occurs in a list of musical instruments played at court and is the compound pham klo: pham is Mon while klo is Karen. The ritual use of Karen drums in lowland royal courts and monasteries continued during the centuries that followed and is an important instance of inversion of the direction in which cultural influences usually flow from the lowlands to the hills.
b. Casting the drums
The town of Nwe Daung, 15 km south of Loikaw, capital of Kayah (formerly Karenni) State, is the only recorded casting site in Burma. Shan craftsmen made drums there for the Karens from approximately 1820 until the town burned in 1889. Karen drums were cast by the lost wax technique; a characteritic that sets them apart from the other bronze drum types that were made with moulds. A five metal formula was used to create the alloy consisting of copper, tin, zinc, silver and gold. Most of the material in the drums is tin and copper with only traces of silver and gold. The Karen made several attempts in the first quarter of the twentieth century to revive the casting of drums but none were successful.
Karen drums casting – 1923
During the late 19th century, non-Karen hill people, attracted to the area by the prospect of work with British teak loggers, bought large numbers of Karen drums and transported them to Thailand and Laos. Consequently, their owners frequently incorrectly identify their drums as being indigenous to these countries.
Bibliography – Animism and the Arts
F. Heger, Alte Metalltromeln aus Sudest-Asie (Leipzig, 1902).
H. I. Marshall, The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology (Columbus, 1922).
H. I. Marshall, “Karen Bronze Drums”, Journal of the Burma Research Society, xix (1929), pp. 1-14.
Richard M. Cooler, “The Use of Karen Bronze Drums in the Royal Courts and Buddhist Temples of Burma and Thailand: A Continuing Mon Tradition?”, Papers from a Conference on Thai Studies in Honor of William J. Gedney (Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia, No 25, Ann Arbor, 1986) pp. 107-20.
Richard M. Cooler, The Karen Bronze Drums of Burma: Types, Iconography, Manufacture, and Use (Leiden, 1994).
Main article: Migration period of ancient Burma
Thayekhittaya (Sri Ksetra
The mass migrations occurred during
the third or fourth millennium BCE to last millennium BC.
among indigenous people and resided in different parts of Burma—with
Pyu at the center,
Mon at the South, and Rakhine at the west.
As early as 6th century,
Early civilisation in Myanmar dates back to the 1st century
with archaeological evidence of
Pyu (a Tibetan ethnic group) Kingdoms in
, Beithano (Visnu)
The Pyu went on to found settlements
throughout the plains region centered around the confluence of the Irrawaddy
and Chindwin rivers that has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age.
another people called the Mon began to enter the present-day Lower Burma
By the mid 9th century,
The Pre-Pagan period is the era when recent immigrants began to mix with indigenous peoples. This era is characterized by Urban age when the city states began to be established. Most notable ancient cities were founded by Pyu and Mons during this era.
Main article: Pyu city states
Pyu city states’ (Burmese: ပျူ မြို့ပြ နိုင်ငံများ) were a group of city-states that existed from c. 2nd century BCE to late 9th century CE in present-day Upper Burma (Myanmar). The city-states were founded as part of the southward migration by the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu, the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant. The thousand-year period, often referred to as the Pyu millennium, linked the bronze age to the beginning of the classical states period when the Pagan Dynasty emerged in the late 9th century.
The city-states—five major walled cities and several smaller towns have been excavated—were all located in the three main irrigated regions of Upper Burma: the Mu valley, the Kyaukse plains and Minbu region, around the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers. Part of an overland trade route between China and India, the Pyu realm gradually expanded south. Halin, founded in the 1st century CE at the northern edge of Upper Burma, was the largest and most important city until around the 7th or 8th century when it was superseded by Sri Ksetra (near modern Pyay) at the southern edge. Twice as large as Halin, Sri Ksetra was the largest and most influential Pyu center.
The Pyu culture was heavily influenced by trade with India, importing Buddhism as well as other cultural, architectural and political concepts, which would have an enduring influence on later Burmese culture and political organization. The Pyu calendar, based on the Buddhist calendar, later became the Burmese calendar. Latest scholarship, though yet not settled, suggests that the Pyu script, based on the Indian Brahmi script, may have been the source of the Burmese script.
The millennium-old civilization came crashing down in the 9th century when the city-states were destroyed by repeated invasions from the Kingdom of Nanzhao. The Mranma (Burmans), who came down with the Nanzhao, set up a garrison town at Pagan (Bagan) at the confluence of Irrawaddy and Chindwin. Pyu settlements remained in Upper Burma for the next three centuries but the Pyu gradually were absorbed into the expanding Pagan Empire. The Pyu language still existed until the late 12th century. By the 13th century, the Pyu had assumed the Burman ethnicity. The histories/legends of the Pyu were also incorporated to those of the Burmans.
Main article: Mon kingdoms
The earliest external reference to a Mon kingdom in Lower Burma was in 844-848 by Arab geographers. The Mon practiced Theravada Buddhism. The kingdoms were prosperous from trade. The Kingdom of Thaton is widely considered to be the fabled kingdom of Suvarnabhumi (or Golden Land), referred to by the tradesmen of Indian Ocean.
The Burmans who had come down with the early 9th Nanzhao raids of the Pyu states remained in Upper Burma. Trickles of Burman migrations into the upper Irrawaddy valley might have begun as early as the 7th century. More recent research indicates that the people of Nanzhao were Tibeto-Burman, and that the Burmans entered the Irrawaddy valley en masse in the 830s.) In 849, fourteen years after the last Nanzhao raid, Pagan was founded as a fortified settlement along a strategic location on the Irrawaddy near the confluence of the Irrawaddy and its main tributary the Chindwin. It may have been designed to help the Nanzhao pacify the surrounding country side. Over the next two hundred years, the small principality gradually grew to include its immediate surrounding areas— to about 200 miles north to south and 80 miles from east to west by Anawrahta‘s ascension in 1044.
As early as the 6th century,
people called the Mon began to enter from the Mon kingdoms of Haribhunjaya and Dvaravati in modern-day Myanmar. By the mid 9th century, the Mon had founded at least two small kingdoms (or
large city-states) centred around Pegu and Thaton.
In the 11th Century,
the First Empire was founded by King Anawrahta as the Bagan Empire,
which lasted until the late 13th century when the Mongols invaded them. After the fall of Bagan, the Mongols left the hot Irrawaddy valley but the Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms.
Ancient Pagodas of Bagan
By the mid-14th century,
the country had become organised along four major power centres: Upper Myanmar, Lower Myanmar, the Shan States and Arakan. There were the Ava Kingdom (1364–1555), the Hanthawaddy Pegu Kingdom (1287–1539) founded by King Bayintnaung, the Shan States (1287–1557) and the Arakan (1287–1784). Hanthawaddy was the most powerful and prosperous kingdom of all post-Pagan kingdoms. Under a string of gifted monarchs, the kingdom enjoyed a long golden age, profiting from foreign commerce. The kingdom, with a flourishing Mon language and culture, became a centre of commerce and Theravada Buddhism.
The Toungoo Dynasty
Toungoo, led by its ambitious king Tabinshwehti and General Bayinnaung, reunified the small kingdoms that had existed since the fall of the Bagan Empire, and founded the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. However the overextended empire unravelled soon after Bayinnaung’s death in 1581. Siam declared independence in 1584 and went to war with Burma until 1605. Bayinnaung’s son, Nyaungyan, immediately began the reunification effort, successfully restoring central authority over Upper Burma and Shan States by 1605. Except for a few occasional rebellions and an external war – Burma defeated Siam’s attempt to take Lan Na and Martaban in 1662–64 – the kingdom was largely at peace for the rest of the 17th century. The kingdom entered a gradual decline, and the authority of the “palace kings” deteriorated rapidly in the 1720s.
The Konbaung Dynasty
was founded by
Burma british colonial
the British captured the country to develop its empire. They give Burma full independence in 1948. The military took over power in 1962.
The Burma Unique Collections”
April 15, 2010 by uniquecollection
UCM: THE BURMA UNIQUE COLLECTIONS
@cpyright Dr Iwan S.2010.
A. THE ILLUSTRATION OF BURMA UNIQUE COLLECTIONS
I.ANCIENT BURMA COLLECTIONS
1.ANCIENT BURMA FIGURINES
2.ANCIENT BURMA JAR FOUND IN INDONESIA
2. ANCIENT BURMA TEMPLE
II. BRITISH RULE BURMA
During this time Burma was the province ogf British Clony India, that is why British India stamps and revenue used at Burma.
The revenue sheet collections were during King Edward and king George, please the native Burma help me to translate the ccument because were writing in native language.
The Bristh India stamps used in Burma, was found nly from three city, Rangon, Moulmen and Mutiyana from Queen Victria until King George
(Mutiyana in Burma , Nepal other country ? please comment, during this time als used in anther country like Tibet,Nepal,Bhutan, and Aden, the cllectors wh have this stamps please share with us via comment)
(1) REVENUE SHEET HISTORY
2) POSTAL HISTORY
III. BRITSH COLONY BURMA COLLECTIONS
(1) British Colony Burma flag
(2) Vintage Military Picture
(3) Vintage Native Picture
2. BRITISH COLONY BURMA POSTAL HISTORY
(1) Dr iwan S.collections
(2) Mr Konrad collections
b) Union of Burma postally used Cover
new info the collections of Mr Konrad
THE DAI NIPPON OCCUPATION BURMA
1.Dai Nippon Occupation Burma Postal History
2.THE RARE DN BURMA POW CAMP CARD
(1) DUTCH SOLDIER AT MOULMEIN CAMP SENT THE DAI NIPPON MOULMEIN POW CAR VIA COURIER TO HIS WIFE TO HIS WIFE VIA BATAVIA (JAKARTA)
He told that he was in god health and asking about his children. His wife stayed at Soerabaja, During Dai Nippon Occupation the Indonesian citizen who merried expatriat didnot put in the POW camp.
Look at two very rare collections :
(1) Dai Nippon Moulmein POW Card sent to Batavia(Jakarta)
(2) His wife Dai Nippon Java ID issued by Dai Nippon Military government at Soerabia.
Moulmein POW Camp
Moulmein POW Card
POW card caption
Mr Romeijn handsigned
Front of POW card
(2) DAI NIPPON DUTCH POW MOULMEIN BURMA WIFE DAI NIPPON JAVA ID AT SURABAIA INDONESIA.
DaiNipponBurmaPOW wife ID
Dai Nippon POW Card
Ex POW Burma collections
The POW at Moulmein Camp
(3)THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI FILM POSTER
The Movies Poster 1957
(4) THE PICTURE OF THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI WERE MANY DAI NIPPON MOULMEIN POW WORK TO BUILD THAT BRIDGE
this famous bridge later became at theme of the very popular film with the famous song theme the Elephent Walk and also look at the picture of the POW camp..
The Bridge Of River Kwai
The bridge of river Kwai stamps
(5) DAI NIPPON BURMA POSTAL HISTORY 1943
Dai Nippon Burma 1943
Dai Nippon Burma 1944
THE UNION OF BURMA UNIQUE COLLECTIONS
1. GENERAL BA MAW THE FIRST MYANMAR PRIME MENISTRY PROFILE PICTURE
(2) THE MYANMAR HEROS AUNG SAN PICTURE
3. THE POSTAL HISTORY UNION OF BURMA
Union of Burma in native language overprint the British colony Burma stamps, revenue sheet and definif stamps.
UoBurma Rev.Sheet 1960
4.THE SECOND UNION OF BURMA (NOW MYANMAR)PRIME MENISTRYPROFILE PICTURE U NU.
5. THE THIRD PRIME MENISTRY PROFILE PICTURE SAW MUANG
6. THE FOURTH PRIME MENISTRY PROFILE NE WIN
Gen. Ne Win
7. THE DAUGHTER OFAUNG SAN,SYUU KYI, VINTAGE PROFILE PICTURE
Vintage A.S.Syuu Kyi
Postal Used Union of Myanmar
II. THE CHROLOGIC HISTORIC COLLECTIONS OF BURMA
THE BURMA UNIQUE COLLECTIONS
@copyright Dr Iwan S.2010
A.The Ancient Burma
Burma was a Buddhist Mnarchy in the Middle age
1.1st century BC
The Pyu arrived in Burma
2.6th Century AD
The Mon Kingdom of Dvaravati
3. 9th Century AD
The Bamr(Burman) people migrated from the China-Tibet brder region into the valley of Ayeyarwady.
4. Small Kingdom in Burma between 11th -14th century AD
(1) The Kingdom of Pagan (1044-1287)
(2) The Shan state at Arakan (1287-1539)
(3) The kingdom of Ava (1364-1555)
5. The Kingdomof Toungod(1531-1752)
6. The Konbuang Dinasty (1752-1885)
B. British In Burma
Britain Through three wars gained lower Burma 1n this year.
(1)In this year Upper Burma also gained by Britain and administered them as part of India .
(2) During Burma as the province of India with capital Rangoon, the British Colony India Stamps were used in Burma :
(a) 19th century
l the Queen Victoria stamps of British colony India were used with CDS Rangoon and Moulmein . (look at the Map where that famous city situated)
The King Edward and The King George stamps of British Colony India were used in Burma , CDS Rangoon and Mutiyana ( Burma or other countries city ? please India collectors comment)
(this collections found at Padang west sumatra and Jakarta)
The second University student strike in this year was triggered by the expulsin of Aung San ,leader of RUSU(Ragn University Student Union)
(1)The British separated Burma from India and Granted the British Colony Burma and Burma became a self-governing under the British Commenwealth. and Ba Maw was pointed to be the first prime Menistry.
(2) the British Colony Burma stamps issued in this year, overprint Burma on British colony India King Edward Stamps (look at the illustration.)
In this year ‘The 1300 year Revlution’(named by the Burmese calender year) led by the Buddish Monk, a wafe of strike and protest that started frm the oil fields of central Burma. In Rangoon Student protest were charged by the British mounted Police Wielding Baton and killing a Rangon University student called Aung Kyaw in Mandalay and Plice shoot int a crowded of protester.
(1)Aung San cofounded the PRP(People Revolutionary Party) and he als instrumental in founding the Freedm Clc by forginf aan Alliance of the Dobama(Plitically active monk), and Ba Maw Poor Man Party.
After the Dobama organization called for a National uprising, an arrest warrant was issue formany of the organization leader including Aung san , he escaped to China.
(2) Ba Maw succeeded by Prime menistry U Saw until 1940.
(3) The British Colony Burma issued the Burma King George Stamps.(look at the illustration)
(4) The king Edward and King George of The British colony India revenue sheet without verprint still used in Rangoon Burma in 1939 and 1940.
(5) The rare postally homemade cover send from Malacca (straits settlement with King Edward stamps to Rangoon Burma, and then used as document with native Burma language handswritten document (Please the native Burma collectors help to translate)
(All the Burma cover and revenue sheet were found at Kunming South China in 2007-including the Dai Nippon revenue sheet )
C. Burma During Pacific War (WW II)
(a)Prime Menister U Saw was arrest by British Burma Government for communicated with Dai Nippon Milutary Administration in South East Asia and Aung San announced the formation of BIa-Burma Independent Army in order to anticipation of the Dai Nippon invasin of Burma in this year.
(b) In 1942 te Dai Nippon had win large territoriest in Asia in small cost. also in Burma they had strategic , The Dai Nippon Military administration had promise eventual ‘Independence’ to Burma only if this country became co-operative satellite states. Japanese attamps to win over the mass of Burmese people same with ther Asia people to support the war against against their frmer colonial masters was almost totally a failure. The great majrity of he ordinary people did not see the conflict as their war.
(2) Simultaneous with the invation of Malaya, another Dai Nippon Army crossed from Thailand in to Burma and by the end of April 1942 hade driven the weak British Forces into India and
Burma was overrun by Dai Nippon Military Administration.
The first Prisoner Of War (POW) arrived at THanbyuzayat (65 kmm from Moulmein), via Molemein . (known as The Dai Nippon Burma Moulmein POW Camp) and established as a POW base camp.
From this POW camp the Prisoner sent to Nong Platuh ,359 km suth of Thanbyuzwat , where the build the famous bridge across the Mae Kong river from Nong Platuh Burma to Tamarakan Thailand because in 1957 , made the film base on the original story The Bridge on The River Kwai (the rename of the Mae kong River in 1960)
The Bridge on the Rver Tamarakan was the Train Crossing wooden bridge which spanned the mae Kong River (rename Kwai Yai River in 1960), the building of the bridge begun in October 1942 using prisoner of War labour .
Please look the collections related with this Moulmen POW Camp and the Bridge on the river Kwai (Moulmen POW card from te Dutch Soldier to his wife in Surania via Batavia Indonesia, and the Dai Nippon ID card of His wife issued by The Dai Nippon Surabaia -Shi.)
(4)The Rare Dai Nippon Burma Collections 1942
(a)The rare Burma Revenue sheet collections with the Burma emblem two Swords used in Burma with the native Burma language handwritten (please native Burma collectors to translate this rare dcument)
(b)The Postally used cover with Dai Nippon Native Burma Bird emblem overprint the king George of British Colony Burma CDS special comemorative stamped in japanese kaji character date 8.12.2602(1942). send from Japanese Special Service Post Burma to Mr Thanan Clark office of BDOM Military camp Rangoon Burma( I think this original CTO-phillatelic cretions covers)
Also look at the off cover of the same stamps collections.
(The very rare Prison of War from Moulmen Camp Burma card was send by the Dutch Soldier to his Wife via his family at Batavia (Jakarta) and the Dai Nippon Soerabaia -Shi ID card of his wife (the complete infrmation read below, and look at illustrations of that very rare cllections)
The Bride of River kwai was completed and operational by early February 1943.
(2) Dai Nippon Military Postal Office issued Engraved printing Dai Nippon Burma definitif stamps (look the illustrations)
(3)In this year,when the Japanese declared, in theory ‘Independent’ , the BDA was renamed BNA-Burma National Army, the Ba Maw declared head of State, and his Cabinet included Aung San as War Menister.
(1)Aung San began negtiation with Thakin (communist leader) and Bi Swe(Socialist leader) for the Formatin of the AFO-anti Frascis Peple Freedm Leaguae.
Thakin and Tin Swe made contact with the exile Colonial Government in Simla India. There were infrmal contact between AFO and the Allies between 1944 and 1945.
(1) March,27th 1945
In this day, BNA rose up in a countryside rebellion against the Dai Nippon Army (this day celebrated as The Resistance Day). then Aung San and other subsequence began negtiation with the commender in Chief British allied forces Lord Munbatten and officially join the Allies as PDF-Patriotic Burmese Forces.
(2) June 1945
Both the wooden and the adjescent steel bridge of River Kwai were subjected to numerous air raids between Jan and June 1945. POW labour was used to repaired the woden bridge in each occassion.Tamarakan is 50 km north of Nong Platuh, 5km north of Kanchanabuty, and 359 km south of THanbyuzwat were the Dai Nippon Moulmein POW camp was located.
Total grave at the Thanbyuzayat or moulmein Camp 3771, 15o8 British including 27 unknwn grave, 1335 Australian and 621 Dutch.May be one of the grave was the Dutch soldier who sent the Moulmei PW card to his wife,who knows I never vist this area (I have a tobacco metal box with the incised of the Moulmen camp,may be the owner as the POW labour in the bridge of River Kwai, I didnot installed the illustrations because I am afraid smeone will made repro, the rare box was found in Jakarta in 1995 , this one of the POW who still alive back to Indonesia and after he died his tobacco box was threw ut by his familily because they didnot understand the meaning f incised info on tha box the date and year he insiced from batavia,singapore and Moulmein POW – and back to Batavia, may be one day I will made an exhibitions of this rae collection together with the pOW Card and the DN ID card -dr Iwan S.)
British Troops were fighting in Burma and the Japanese were fanatically resisting the advance of Americans on the Island approached to their homeland. The war was expected to last many mre monts,unitil the atmic bomb in August 1945 reveald its awesome power and unexpectedly ended the fighting
(I have found The very rare collection of Dai Nippon Military administrations Collections related with the Dai nippon military administration java indonesia in 1943. This collection belong of The Native Indonesian who stayed at Surabaya (found at Jakarta) consist two very rare collections :
(a) The Imperial Japanese Army Prisorner of War at Camp War Prisoner Camp at Moulmein Burma postcard send by military courier without stamps, from the Dutch POW Romeyn M(AX) nationality Nederlander,rank Landstorm Soldaat to his wife Mevr.(MRS) E.F.C Romeyn adress P/A Fam L.Linn Salimba 15 B Batavia Centrum Java, Mrs Romey live at Soerabaja-look her Dai nippon ID card.
(b) Dai Nippon yellow ID Card of Mrs EFC Romeyn with handstamped revenue F 80.- (for women, for Man F100.-)
The Form in Japanese and Indonesian Language.
(b1)The front side :
(aa) Name: Nj.Romeyn-Berrety,Emma Frederike Clementine ( I think she was Java Indonesia-Euro race
(bb) Adress: Kaliboetoeh 183, Serabaja Shi (city)
(cc) status : have merried with four children
(b2) The Backside in Japanese and Indonesian language with Dai Nippon Official red double circle stamped Pendaftaran Rakjat Soerabaia-Shi.
Caption : PERHATIAN
Orang jang terseboet diatas dinjatakan, bahwa telah bersoempah kesetiaan pada tentara Nippon, serta soedah masoek daftar penduduk bangsa asing
1.Soerat Keterangan ini haroes senatiasa dibawa, oentoek memboektikan, bahwa ia telah bersoempah kesetiaan pada tentara Nippon,serta soedah masoek daftar pendoedoek bangsa asing.
2.Soerat keterangan ini soepaja dijaga djangan sampai kotor atau hilang, sebab serat keterangan adalah perloe boeat psir ataupoen partikelir.
3.Djikalau ada perbahan apa-apa tentang hal jang tertoelisn disoerat keterangan ite haroes dengan segera memberi tahe tentang perobahan ite kepada kantor jang memberi soerat keterangan itoe.
4.Momer,tanggal dan tempat keterangan ite haroes ditjatat agar moedah dioeresnja kalau serat keterangan hares diberikan lagi atau lain-lain.
5.Djikalau soerat keterangan itoe hilang haroes segera memberi tahoe hal itoe kepada kantor jang doelooe memberikan soerat keterangan terseboet dan minta soerat keterangan baroe dengan membajar ongkos jang soedah ditetapkan.)
D. Burma After the WW II
The negotiation for Burmese Independent which were concluded succeesfully in Londn as the Aung San-Atlee Agreement.
(2) April 1947
The popularity of The AFPFL now dominated by Aung San and the Socialist was eventually confirmed when it won overhelm Victory in the April 1947 constituent Assembly Election.
U Saw , a conservative pre war prime Menister of Burma,engineer the ASSASINATION OF AUNG SAN and several members f his cabinet this day (later this day commenorative as the Martyr Days)
(1)In January,4th.1948 Union of Burma became Independent outside the Commnwealth by treaty and a member of the UN in this year.
The constitution which went into effect in 1948 created a parliamentary democracy
(2)No sooner after had independence come to Burma,than internal disruption threatened to plunge the country into chaos, The British had left behind a demcratic constitution modelled on Westminster, which proved unsuitable for a country so under-develped and so disorganised. At the time of Independence, Burma was led by U Nu,an oustanding plitician who manage to maintain constitrutional democracy intact fr ten years until 1958.
(3) Union Of Burma Postal ffice in this year issue the Overprint Union of Burma in native language on British Colony Burma stamps
(look at the stamps illustratin, only overprint on King Goerge British colony Burma 2 rupee Stamps,( I have the highest value 10 rupee but I keep on the bank deposit box afraid will broken if made the picture.)
In this year the film :The bridge n The River Kwai was produced by the film directr David Lean, and this film have seven academy award including the best Actr Alec Guiness, best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenply, and Best Cinematography.(lok at the poster of that film)
Union of Burma provided for nationalization of certain industries and in this year political crisis, Gen. Ne Win tookover the Government from Premier U Nu.
Election were held in this year and the union party headed by U NU won a large majority, he again became premier in April 1960.
(1)Political and economic problems continiu and the government was again taken over by Gen. Ne Win.
Gen.Ne Win set up a revolutionary Council with himself as chief of state.
Gen. Ne Win setting aside the constitution in this year and he became premier. The Ne Win government pursued a socialistic program and Nationalized nearlly all f Industry and trade which had been controlled by Indian and China minorities. It continued a neutralist foreign policy and isolated the nation from most freign policy.
On January,4th,1974 a new constiturion aimed making Burma a Socialist Republic under one party rule, was adptred, Ne Win continuede as premier.
Recurrent problems facing the governmentvhave been the need to stimulate production,rebellions staged by Chinese-backed Communist frces and pressures from groups seeking greater autonomy for local ethnic groups. Communist guerillas ecame more active after the communist victories in Indochina in 1975.
The patient peple of Burma, who a suffered for twenty-five years from the Burmese road to socialism, began to give vent to their frustrations in largely studen led riots in Rangoon in September 1987.
The seventy year old General Ne Win decided to mve to the sidelines and resigned in this year amid signs of military disaffection. Reform were promised, it looked as if Burma would more out of her-self imposed isolation and darkness. But just a month later, in September 1988, the military took over and general Saw Maung emerged at the head of a junta. The restoration of law and order marked the beginnings of a repression against students and dissidents, brutal even by Burmese standards.
(1)In this year the name of Burma was changed to Myanmar, a transliteration of the English’Burma’ into Burmese.
(2) In this year , placed under house arrest the most likely leaders of any oppsition, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San (who played a crucial role at the birth of the Burmese independence) and wife of an English Lectrured at Oxford. Syuu Kyi had returned in her native land to lead a new party,the Natinal League for Democracy. It was her criticim of Ne Win and her call for justice and democracy that led to her arrest.
But to the chagrin of the junta, which had fielded its own front party , the National Unity party, the National League dor democracy gained aclear and outright victory at 1990 election.winning a huge majority in the Assembly. The military junta had no intention of bowing to this verdict.
In this year, Aung San Suu Kyi remained under arrest, and the military declared that they would release her only if she leaves the country and her adherence in her principles she was awarded the Noble Peace Price in this year. (still until now during the junta leader Tan Swee, she still under house arrest, why ? I donnot understand.look at Ta Swee and Suu Kyi. vintage photo 1989)