The Great Buddhist Emperors of Asia

by Shibani Dutta | 2018 | 86,618 words

This study deals with the patronage of Buddhism in Asia by the ruling powers and nobility. It further discusses in detail the development of Buddhism under the patronage of the royal dynasties in the religious history of Asia right from the time of 3rd century B.C. (i.e., the reign of Ashoka) to the reign of Kublai Khan in 13th century A.C....

Chapter 7 - King Dhammaceti of Burma (Myanmar) (1471 A.C.–1492 A.C.)

Ven. Dhammaceti, a prominent king in Mon Chronicles, created a new chapter in the history of Burma. He was one of the most successful kings of Hansavati dynasty. He was born in a very ordinary family and as such he could not boast of royal blood. He was brought up as a poor cowherd’s boy. At a time when feudalism reached its apex in Burma, a man of such a humble background could not dream of becoming a king. He was born of poor parents but in his boyhood he dominated over his playmates by virtue of his cleverness. He was clever at every game owing to his rational thinking. He could manage his cowherds very well and at the same time he was adept in various games. It is said that he won every bet among the children. He was fond of playing games in which he would play the role of a king and his companions acted as his attendants. Playing the role of a king even in games was very risky in that feudal age. At the advice of the elders of the locality he was sent to a monastery for entering the Buddhist order. It was expected that he would improve his manners by starting his religious education there. He picked up his lessons very quickly and insisted his parents on sending him to a better place of learning. He became a fast learner among his peers on account of his endeavour and nationality. He studied all the texts taught by his teacher and learnt all of them by heart. In this way he prepared himself for taking the reins of power and ruling his country.

King Dhammaceti had brilliant contributions to Buddhism in the history of Burma. It is to be noted here that the history of Burmese Buddhism is as old as the history of Sinhalese Buddhism. When Ven. Mahendra reached Sinhala Island, the seeds of Buddha Dhamma were sown. Among the Dhammadutas (ambassadors) of Dhammashoka, Ven. Uttara and Ven. Sona went to Burma. Here we may refer to traditional Burmese tale for better understanding of the situation prevailing at that time. According to the story, there lived a female monster in the royal palace. She used to eat away the new-born babies of the royal family. A baby was born in the royal palace when Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara reached there. The people of that area mistook the monks as the companions of the she-monster who had come to eat away royal babies. Hence the angry mob ran to kill the great monks (sthavirs). They wanted to know the true identity of Ven. Sona. The Thera replied to the query of the angry crowd calmly. He said, “We are virtuous monks and not the friend of the she-monster”. It was a coincidence that the monster along with her companions rose up from the sea. On seeing the monster the mob present there became restive. Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara, the Theras with their supernatural power of saintly life, overcame the monster and her friends. The female monster thought that the country had gone under the rule of those two virtuous monks. So the monster and her companions fled from that country. The Theras guided the people to protect the country from all sides. In addition to this they gave the people spiritual sermons from Brahmajala[1] sutta. After this incident, thousands of Burmese accepted Buddhism. Besides this, 3500 royal princes and 2500 royal princesses received ordination[2] and monks and nuns. Since then every baby born in the royal palace was named Sonuttara.

The history of Buddhism in Burma extended more than two thousand years. The Sasana Vamsa, written by Pannasami in 1834 summarises much of the history of Buddhism in Burma. According to the “Mahavamsa”, a Pali chronicle of fifth century Sinhala, King Ashoka sent to Bhikkhus, Sona and Uttara to Suvarnabhumi around 228 B.C. They were accompanied by other monks and some sacred texts of Buddhism. Early Chinese texts of about the same date speak of a “Kingdom of a Liu-Yang” where all people worshipped the Buddha and there were several sermons. This kingdom has been identified with a religion somewhere in Central Burma. A series of epigraphic records in Pali and Sanskrit, recovered from central and lower Burma were identified to date back to the 6th and 7th centuries. From the 11th to 13th centuries, countless stupas and temples were built by the then rulers of Burma.

But long before the Buddhist era, the Suvarnabhumi (the bank of gold) Burma as it was described at that time, had trade relations with Malaya through the sea route with India. The historians gather this information by going through the jatakasa. Probably around this time, the Indian merchants were setting their commercial colonies on the Burmese coast. But no authentic information with regard to colonisation is available. However it is time that Buddhism reached this land of gold during the time of Emperor Dhammashoka.

According to Mahavamsa, it was after the third Buddhist council at Pataliputra at 253 B.C. Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara, the important Theras of that time, were sent to preach and spread the Dhamma in Burma, a land[3] of gold. A written proof of emperor’s Dhammadutas having been deputed to Burma is found in the rock inscription of 2nd century B.C at Sanchi.

The Indian cultural expansion in South East Asia did not take place over a small period of time. It was the culmination of a Continuous process over a long period of time which slowly spread over the region. Of course, there were several agencies which helped this process of cultural interaction. These agencies took the lead in spreading the cultural message of India to large part of South East Asia including the erstwhile Burma. The process of Indian cultural expansion in South East Asia received further impetus from the missionary activities of the Buddhist monks. These monks and saints took a leading role in spreading the message of Indian thought and culture in Burma. Since they had absolutely no political ambition, with their superior cultural background, they began to influence the native people by setting up Monasteries and Viharas. The local people too, on their part, gave a warm response to the process of cultural interaction. Undoubtedly Buddhist Missionaries played an active role in the process of cultural synthesis. Some of the Buddhist monks accompanied the traders. They spread the Buddhist message of non-violence and thus became the torch-bearers of Indian cultural heritage. The people of the region accepted the cultural change with open heart as it was devoid of any political ambition.

It was in the forms and formalities of Buddhism, the Indian culture and civilisation reached Burma. The spread of Indian[4] Tradition in some other form is untraceable because there is no archaeological proof of this. It is true that during 2nd or 3rd century A.C Dhanyakuttak and Shriparbat in Andhra were two well-known centres of Buddhism. Many Inscriptions prior to 2nd and 3rd century A.C are found in Shriparbat. One of the inscriptions relates to Shrivirpumsdatta Madhaviputta (son of Madhariputta) who belonged to Ikshvaku Dynasty. This inscription is believed to have been engraved during the 14th year of his rule, according to which a Vihara was donated to Tavapanna (Sthavirvadins) monks who were successful in converting the people of Kashmir, Gandhar, China, Tosal, Avaer, Wang, Vanvasa, Savan, Damil, Palura, Tambrapanna etc. The word “Chilat”, used in inscriptions, is to be interpreted as “Kirat”. This interpretation is quite evident from many Sanskrit scriptures. Scholar Talmi identified this group of people of “Kihinde”. These “Kihinde” people were said to have been residing near the confluence of the river Ganga with the sea. It is mentioned in the inscription that the noses of these people were flat. The contemporary natives of this land of gold (Burma) appear like today’s Burmese people[5] are flat noses. The people of Mon-Khemer were different from the Mongolian tribes. These tribes have also flat noses and their descendants are found in Malaya, Tallaing etc. even today. Pew tribes like Tallaing belonged to their ancestral tribe of Mon-Khemers. At some time, Mon-Khemer tribe came to Assam from the Himalayas. From there, these people went to Burma and then spread to Indonesia and up to Indo-China. The descendants of these people are found there even these days. The description of “Chilat” from Shriparvat, truly speaking, belonged to the great tribe of.Kirat.[6] from Burma. In the beginning, Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara propagated Buddhism among those people. Since then the Buddhist culture and tradition has became an inseparable part of Burmese life. They related their origins to many Indian names. Aparanta or Aparantaka (meaning western border) was a geographical region of ancient India. The Junagardh inscription of Rudradaman mentions that during Ashoka’s reign an alien king was the governor of Aparantaka. But the Burmese scholars claim that this region was a part of their country. The two merchants, Tapassu and Bhalluka, were said to be the first two lay disciples of the Lord Buddha. They had taken refuge only in two gems (The Buddha and the Dhamma). The first account of these two merchants appears in the Vinaya section of the Tripitaka. They offered the Buddha his first meal after enlightenment and took refuge in the Dhamma. The sangha was not yet established. It is believed that they travelled to Sinhala country. Likewise, the Buddhist tradition also believed that Lord Buddha had visited their country. Some archaeological findings were discovered in South Burma pointing out to the existence of Buddhism in Burma since the 5th or the 6th century A.C. The ancient capital of Pew royal tribes is located in Hyavaja. It is just five miles away from modern Prom town. Archaeological remains of Shrikeshetra are found in Hyavaja. In neighbouring Mogan village two gold[7] inscription plates are found wherein the message of Lord Buddha are inscribed in “Kadamba” and Pali language.

The Pew tribe was the earliest inhabitants of Burma of whom records are extant. During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to India. Trade with India brought Buddhism from south India. By the 4th century, many in the Irrawaddy valley converted themselves to Buddhism. Of the many city-states, the largest and most important was the Shrikshetra kingdom. It was located in the south east of modern Pew and it is presumed that it was once the capital city. In March 638, the Pew of Shrikshetra launched a new calendar that later became the Burmese calendar. The Sthavirvadin tradition enjoyed supremacy in Burma during the period of Swenchang (629 A.C -645 A.C) and also in I-tsing times (671 A.C -695 A.C). About two hundred years before this, Dhanyakattak, Shriparvat, kanchipuram, Kaveripattanam, Uragapur etc i.e. the whole of Andhra Pallavi country was a stronghold of Hinayana (Theravada). The discovery of Pallavi script in Hyavaja reveals that there was a close similarity between the Buddhism of Burma and that of South India. The followers of Buddhism, prevalent in both Burma and South India believed[8] in Pali Tripitaka tradition.

While there is no conclusive archaeological proof, it is presumed that Tellang tribes inhabited South Burma. Like Pew they, too, were the followers of Ven. Sona-Uttara and Mahindra Theravadin tradition. Their land was regarded as a bastion of Buddhism in the 5th and 6th century. Thaton (Sudharmavati) and Pegu (Hansavati) were their historic towns and the strongholds of Buddhism. There was a considerable spread of education, arts and sculpture in those two ancient towns. Many of the historians opine that Thaton, Pegu and the neighbouring areas of Burma had been the cultural centre of Burma from the beginning of history till 1056 A.C. They assert that the followers of Brahminism also used to stay side by side with the Buddhists 50 years before destruction of Benaras by Mahamad Gazanavi, King Tissa ruled Pegu (1043 A.C-1057 A.C). Pegu city is said to have been founded in 573 by Mon emigrants from Thaton. It is said that Tissa, the ruler of Pegu city was a devotee of Brahminism and hater of Buddhism.

The earliest civilisation associated with what is now Burma were the Mon (also called Tellang) in the South and the Pew in the Central Burma which flourished during the first half of the first millennium. There is no doubt that the Tellang (Mon) tribe were strongly influenced by Indian culture through trade and the Buddhist religion. But due to political tussles and struggles and due to the difference of opinions between the Tellang and the Burmese people,many of the historical proofs did not remain intact. Around that time,the ancestors of the Burmese people settled to the South of Mandalay. With the former Pew city as his capital the Burmese ruler Anaw-rahta founded the first Burmese kingdom. His conquest of Thaton resulted in the spread of Theravada Buddhism and the adoption of many aspects of Indianinspired Tellang art and architecture. By that time the Tellang tribe had become civilised and well-versed in religion. The lowland area along the Irrawaddy River under the control of Pegan is, often, referred to as “Burma Proper”. Since it is the heartland of the region, Tellang people helped the Burmese people a lot in converting them to Lord Buddha's religion of purity and virtue.

Towards the middle of the 11th century, the religious way of life was on the decline in Northern Burma. The reviver of Buddhism here was a young monk of Tellang dynasty. He became famous in the history of Burma by the name of Shin-Arhant. He was commonly depicted sitting cross-legged and dressed in monk’s robes. He preached the Buddha’s religion of purity and virtue to the king of Pagan (Arimardan pur) Aniruddha (Anovorhat). The king gave up the practice of Vajrayana Mahayana and empraced the Sthavirvada tradition. During this period, many Nikaya scriptures were available in their distorted forms.

King Aniruddha (Anawrahta) was the founder of the Pagan Empire. Considered the father of the Burmese nation, Aniruddha turned a small principality in the dry zone of upper Burma into the first Burmese empire that formed the basis of modern day Myanmar (Burma). Historically verifiable Burmese history begins with his accession to the pagan throne in 1044. King Aniruddha dispatched one of his clever and skilful ministers along with some lucrative gifts to King of Thaton Manohar (Manuhar) to ask for the religious scriptures and the Buddha’s relics. King Manohar replied,.The holy Tripitaka and the Buddha’s relics cannot be sent along with a vicious and vile person (minister) like you. The relics of saffron-robed lion king (Lord Buddha) can be placed in a golden plate and not in an earthen plate. (Kesar Sinharajassa vasa suvanna patiya yeva na matsabhajane).. After knowing the utterance of King Manohara, King Aniruddha became terribly angry and attacked Thaton with navy and army. King Manohar was brought as a captive along with his family and ministers. King Aniruddha was not content with his booty of the king and his close associates. It was not the main purpose of his action. His ultimate goal was achieved when he was able to bring proper Buddhist scholars along with Tripitaka to Arimardanpur. It was a very captivating scene when King Aniruddha mounted the Pali Tripitaka on 32 white elephants and brought them for Tellang country to Burma country.

King Aniruddha’s son Kenjittha was enthroned in 1084 A.C and ruled the country till 1112 A.C. He was one of the greatest monarchs in the history of Burma. He continued the social, economic and cultural reforms begun by his father King Aniruddha. He constructed many Viharas and renovated many monasteries. Among those, the name of Ananda Vihara reached up to Pagan and far beyond the borders of Burma. On the walls of these Viharas, entire biography of Lord Buddha was depicted. The walls were decorated with shinning creepers made of a rare soil. On the leaves of these creepers 550 jataka pictures were painted. The number[9] of idols and images, both in the form of statues and paintings is 1472. Kenjittha was the first Burmese King who took the initiative of renovating the Buddha Gaya Buddha Vihara. Pagan became an internationally recognised power during his 28 year reign. The Burmese language and culture too continued to gain ground. His reign was largely peaceful. A great admirer of Mon culture, he pursued a conciliatory policy towards the Mon of the south. He continued the patronage of Mon language and culture at his court. It was in his reign that the synthesis of Burman, Mon, Pew and Buddhist practices into a Burmese culture tradition began to reach a level of maturity. The Burmese script began to be used alongside Pew, Mon and Pali. Pagan grew wealthy from agriculture and trade. Kenjittha completed Aniruddha’s Shwezigon Pagoda and built his crowning achievements the Ananda Temple. During his reign, Pagan became a major centre of Buddhist learning. During his reign, Pagan emerged as a major power and it was recognised as a sovereign kingdom by the Chinese Song Dynasty and Indian Chola Dynasty. After him, the next King Allaung Silthu also carried out the repair work of the Buddha Gaya Vihara.

Ven. Shin Arhant was the primate of the Pagan Kingdom from 1056 to 1115. The Monk, a native of Thaton Kingdom, was the religious advisor to four Pagan Kings from Aniruddha to Allaung Sitthu. He is credited with converting Aniruddha to Theravada Buddhism, and overseeing the subsequent reformation of the Buddhist School throughout the kingdom. At the time of Shin Arhant’s death in 1115 A.C, Burma had become a Sthavirvadin country. Ven. Shin Panthagu was the primate of Pagan Kingdom from 1115 to 1168. This Buddhist monk succeeded his teacher Shin Arhant as primate. For the next five decades, he was the chief religious advisor to King Allaung Sitthu and helped the King in many of his religious deeds. Later on, Panthagu became the head of the monastic order (Sangharaja). There broke out a war of succession between the two sons of Allaung Sithu, i.e Narathu and Min Shinsa after their father’s demise. On the request of Narathu, Panthagu agreed to mediate between two brothers. But the situation took a dramatic turn. On the advice of Panthagu Narathu gave his consent to his brother’s coming anytime on horse-back and ascend on the royal throne. However, after the coronation Narathu killed his brother by poisoning. Following this unexpected incident, Sangharaja Panthagu left his country for Sinhala and did not return to Burma till Narathu had been alive. But when he returned in the year 1173 A.C, he was given a warm welcome. He was already ninety tears old, and as such did not live long. Tellang monk Ven. Uttarjiv became the Sangharaja (Head of monastic order). He sent a group of monks on pilgrimage to Shrilanka. Among them was 20-year-old Nesica, a resident of Chapta. He got higher ordination in Sinhala Island and stayed there for ten years studying entire Tripitaka and its Atthakatha. The higher ordination of Chapta novice in Shrilanka is regarded as very import event in the history of Buddhism in Burma. This laid the foundation of Mahavihara Nikaya in Burma. Ven.Chapta returned to Pagan along with his four companions. Being a member of “Sinhala Nikaya Tradition”, he refused to perform the Sangha Vinaya Karma. This membership was a matter of pride to him and he did not forsake that Sinhala tradition. Naturally, after the return of Ven. Chapta, two Nikaya traditions, the Sinhala Nikaya and the Bhramasang Nikaya came into being.

Narapathi Sitthu was a king of Pagan Dynasty of Burma from 1174 A.C to 1210 A.C. He is considered the last important king of Pagan Dynasty. His peaceful and prosperous reign gave rise to Burmese culture which finally emerged from the shadows of Mon and Pew cultures. The Burman leadership of the kingdom was now unquestioned. The Pagan Empire reached its peak during his reign. The reign saw many firsts in Burmese history. The Burmese script became the primary script of the kingdom, replacing Mon and Pew scripts. The first Burmese customary law based on his grandfather Allaung Sitthu’s judgements was compiled and used as the common system of law for the entire kingdom. He founded the royal palace guards which later evolved to become the nucleus of the Burmese army in war time. He encouraged further reforms of the Burmese Buddhism. It was the efforts of his primate Shin Uttarjiva that the majority of the Burmese Buddhist monks realigned themselves with the Mahavihara school of Sinhala.

After the death of Narapathi Sitthu in 1210 A.C, his successor Hatilo-Mirel (1210 A.C-1234 A.C) built in Pagan a Buddha Vihara on the style of Buddha Gaya Vihara. Later on, his son Kyasawa (1234 A.C-1250 A.C) took reigns of administration in his hands. Kyasawa’s grand-son Narattipute ascended the throne in 1250 A.C and continued to rule up to 1287 A.C. The last king in the line of this dynasty was very ornate. The kingdom went into decline in the mid 13th century as the continuous growth of tax-free religions wealth by the 1280s had severely affected the crown’s ability to retain the loyalty of courtiers and military servicemen. This ushered in a vicious circle of internal disorders and external challenges by the Arakanese, Mous, Mougols and Shans. Repeated Mongol invasions (1217 A.C-1301 A.C) toppled the four-century-old kingdom in 1287 A.C. It was during this time, Mongol, Emperor Kublai Khan’s forces had captured Pagan.

The kingdom of pagan was the first Kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern day Burma. Pagan’s 250 years rule over the Irrawaddy Valley and its periphery laid the foundation for the ascent of Burmese language and culture, the spread of Burman ethnicity in upper Burma, and the growth of Theravada Buddhism in Burma and in mainland’s Southeast Asia. The kingdom grew out of a small 9th century settlement of Pagan. Over the next two hundred years the small principality gradually grew to absorb its surrounding regions. By the late 12th century Aniruddha’s successors had extended their influence further to the upper Malay Peninsula. The Burmese language and culture gradually became dominant in the upper Irrawaddy Valley by the late 12th century. Theravada Buddhism slowly began to spread to the village level, although Tantric, Mahayana, Brahmanic and animist practices remained heavily entrenched at all social strata. Pagan’s ruler built over 10,000 Buddhist temples in the Papan capital zone of which over 2000 still remain. The well-to-do people donated tax-free land to religion’s authorities. In the 12th and 13th century, along with the useful articles, even the servants were offered to Viharas. Sometimes,the entire family with feelings of devotion and worship used to consider themselves the servants of Viharas. Such people belonged to various walks of life-painters, artists, writers, dancers, singers, musicians and cooks.

The Shan people are a Tai ethnic group of the Shan state of Burma. They also inhabit parts of Mandalay region, Kachin state and Kayin state. The monks from Tellanga country and the Buddhist way of life civilised the Shan people. Now the same Pagan residents are the followers of the Buddhism (Theravada). The then ruler made Pinya town as his capital. Gradually many Viharas were being constructed in Pinya. Thousands of Monks started residing in those Viharas. After coming to the land of gold (Burma), even Mongol administrators accepted Buddhism, the people’s region. King Vareru of Pegu (1369) wrote the constitution with the help of scholarly monks. During this period of Burmese monks used to go to Sinhala Island of pilgrimage and also for studies in Buddhism. Rivalry among them and frequent battles caused a lot of harm to Buddhism. By 15th century A.C, there grew[10] many sects in the Dhamma.

After this came the glorious age of King Dhammaceti. This age is considered as a prosperous era in the history of Burmese Buddhism. Dhammaceti was a monk in his early life and later he was compelled to hold the reigns of power. In a stone inscription, he proclaimed that Buddhism was in decline due to sectarianism. He himself emulated great model Buddhist kings like Aniruddha of Pagan and Parakkamabahu I of Sinhala.

In spite of becoming Burma’s highest executive, Dhammaceti continued to love and like the monastic life. During his rule, the Burmese history took a new turn. In him there was a strong desire for the reformation and the spread of Buddhism. In 1472 Dharmaceti sent Burmese sculptors to Buddha Gaya, so that they might be able to build a similar Vihara in the Burmese capital. Scholars are of the opinion that Kalyani[11] inscription containing the monastic rules for the monks and their history is a work of Dhammaceti. The main purpose of this was to establish the “Seema Griha” where ordination ceremonies as well as the Uposath a function could be completed easily and systematically.

Dhammaceti played a vital role in unifying different groups of Buddhists in Burma. During his reign, there were six Nikaya traditions in South Burma. King Dhammaceti considered it proper to bring about unity among different groups of the monastic order. The differences were so acute that even for Uposatha ceremony (Karma), the monks of various groups could not come together. The sixth group named the Kamboj[12] Nikaya (Arhant Nikaya) considered itself strong among the six traditions. This Nikaya claimed to be the original tradition initiated by Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara who were first sent by Emperor Ashoka to Burma. The remaining five Nikayas sprang up from the Sinhala tradition. Of these five, three traditions were established by Ven. Chapta’s disciples while the other two traditions were initiated by Ven.[13] Martoba Sthavir. All these Nikayas arose due to the differences of opinion among Sinhala tradition and Burmese tradition. The differences in thoughts and ideas of these traditions became almost irreconcilable. There was general slackness in observance of Bhikkhu Patimokkha rules (rules for monastic community).

King Dhammaceti occupies a special position in the history of religion in Burma. He unified the Buddhist Sangha in the Mon country and sanctified the order of the Bhikkhus. With the purpose of unification among members of the Bhikkhu Sangha (Monastic Body) and to bring about reforms, King Dhammaceti had invited his contemporary wise Indian monks like Ven. Moggalana and others[14]. Dhammaceti urged the Indian monks like in the following manner. “According to us the ordination of monks from the country of Mon (Taillang) has become invited............”. How could the religion based on such an invalid ordination could last for five thousand years? Since the foundation of the Dhamma in Sinhala country, the Bauddha Sasana has maintained its purity till today.

The long reign of Dhammaceti was a time of peace. The king was famous for his wisdom. And the kingdom also became a famous centre of Theravada Buddhism. He had strong ties with Sinhala and resumed the practice of sending missions to Bodhgaya. On the request of King Dhammaceti, 22 monks with their 22 novitiate disciples boarded into two separate ships towards Sinhala country on 9th February 1476 A.C. Two emissaries Chindut and Ramdut accompanied them in each of the two ships. They were divided into two batches -one group of 11 monks and 11 novices was led by Ven. Moggalana and the other group of 11 monks and 11 novices was led by Ven. Mahasivali. Of these batches, the batch led by Chindut reached Shrilanka port on 23rd February, 1476. He presented his credentials inscribed on golden plate and other gifts to Bhuvanekabahu, the kings of Sinhala. Another batch led by Ramdut had to roam about here and there in the sea due to adverse weather conditions. Ultimately, this batch under Ramdut reached the port of Sinhala on 14th June, 1476.

On special request from the Burmese king Dhammaceti and Burmese elder monks, the Sinhalese monastic order became ready to ordain the Burmese monks. Amidst Kalyani River “Seema” (ordination periphery) surrounded by boats, these batches of monks were ordained as per the Sinhalese tradition, in a manner in which some of the Burmese monks had earlier received ordination from Sinhala[15] monks.

At the Shwedagon Pagoda Stands King Dhammaceti’s Stone inscription mentioning his religions contributions. One of his remarkable contributions was that for purification, perpetuation and propagation of the Theravada Buddhism, he together with the Buddhist monks of the three provinces in the kingdom and his ministers assembled at the places and then disputed two Buddhist mission to Sinhala. There they received afresh their ordination at the hands of the orthodox monks on the Kalyani River. On the return of the mission, they handed down the process of ordination. Some monks were also sent to India to make some measurements of the original holy land of Buddhism where the Buddha spent the first seven weeks just after his enlightenment. On their return, he built a model of it near his capital.

King Dhammaceti laid special stress on Upsampada (ordination) ceremony. After ordination ceremony of the two batches of Burmese[16] monks in Sinhala, their ships started for Burma. One ship with 11 Sthavira (elders) and 11 novices returned to their motherland in August, 1476.

Later, in course of time, Siamese Nikaya was introduced in Sinhala due to the presence of Siamese monks in that island. The Siamese Nikaya is a monastic order within Shrilanka founded by Upali Thera and located predominantly around the city at Kandy. It is so named because it originated within Thailand (formerly known as.the kingdom of Siam.). The Siamese Nikaya has two major divisions and five other divisions within these two major units. The two major divisions. Malwatta and Asgiriya Chapters have two separate Maha Nayakas or Chief Monks. As a result of the stay of monks in Awarpura town, Awarpura Nikaya came into being. It is a Shrilankan monastic fraternity, named after the city of Awarpura, Burma. Awarpura was the capital of the Konabaung Dynasty of Burma at that time. Awarpura Nikaya monks are Theravada Buddhists. Ramayana Nikaya was prevalent in Shrilanka in consequence of Ramayana Tradition of that country. It was one of the three major Buddhist orders in Shrilanka when a group of monks returned to Burma after their ordination in Shrilanka this Ramayana Nikaya was introduced in Burma. Likewise, the monks ordained in the Sinhalese tradition were named “Sinhala Nikaya” tradition. These monks were ordained in the periphery (Seema) of Kalyani River in Shrilanka. It was because of this fact that ordination periphery was named “Kalyani Seema.”

King Dhammaceti, formerly a Mon Bhikkhu, established rule in the late 15th century at Inwa and unified at Sangha in Mon territories. He also standardised ordination of monks set out in the Kalyani inscriptions. Dhammaceti moved the capital back to Bago. His motherin- law queen Shin-Sha-Bu was also a great patron of Buddhism. In the circumstances, none in the kingdom dared to ignore the advice of King Dhammaceti. All that he was doing at that time was meant for furthering the interest of Buddhism. Then why should anyone oppose him? There was, in the king’s appeal, an inherent fear. It is not clear why the monks and novices were afraid to get themselves ordained in the new tradition. It transpires from the royal proclamation that King Dhammaceti recognised the order of monks ordained in the Sinhala tradition.

Missionary work of King Dhammaceti in Burma was an extraordinary service to Buddhism. The age-old tradition initiated by the Dhammadutas (ambassadors) of Emperor Ashoka, Ven. Sona and Ven. Uttara went out of the memory of the Burmese monks and people within a very short time. Now, only Sinhala Nikaya or Mahavihara Nikaya tradition prevails in the whole country of Burma.

King Dhammaceti was a great ruler and patron of Buddhism in Myanmar. He was able to rule over his hand in accordance with good administration and judicature. While taking any vital decision with regard to the administration of the kingdom, he held discussion with all his ministers. He was practically, the oasis of the people in Mon kingdom. He also put special efforts in respect of purification and perpetuation of the Theravada Buddhism. Of course, he did not hold any extreme attitude with regard to religion. He released many plots of land from the compound of a pagoda for gardening plants, growing rice and making shelter for the people. Still he is remembered for his remarkable contribution towards the propagation of Theravada Buddhism in Burma.

Footnotes and references:


Digha Nikaya-Sutta no. 1.


Mahavamsa (Hindi Tr.) B.A. Kausalayan, p. 63.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 47.


Epigraphia Indica XX, p. 22-23.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 48.


Ibid, p. 48.


Indian Antiquity, 1893, p. 6.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 48.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 52.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 39.


Found in Zaingganaing, a suburb of Pagn., Indian Antiquary, 1983, p. 4.


The Dhamma has no relevance to the Kamboj country. The main Vihara of this tradition being near Kamboj Bazar, it was named as the Kamboj tradition or many Kambhoj prisoners used to stay in Kamboj prison.


Hinduism and Buddhism, C. Eliot, Vol. 111, p. 59.


Epigraphia Britannica 111, pp. 320-21.


Hinduism and Buddhism, C. Eliot, Vol. 111, p. 59.


Bauddha Sanskriti, Rahul Sankrityayan, p. 60.

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