Friday, September 21, 2012


In the days of the Myanmar Kings, the rulers were just administrators and most of the ministers also dispensed justice well. Officers under their control were also prevented from doing any injustice or wrong. The people were law abiding and until not very long ago rains were regular, and even in dry zones agricultural land could be cultivated with success. Textiles, consumer goods and fancy goods were not imported into this country from foreign places in these days as at present. Consequently there was no drainage of the country's resources to foreign lands. Paddy, rice and oil were produced in profusion and there was more than enough for local consumption. Scarcity of thefts and robberies kept the people happy and contented. They celebrated pagoda festivals and other charitable functions, and used to go round with an artificial tree laden with native cakes, sweet meats and fruits, such as plantains and coconuts, in a carefree and joyous mood of charitable display.


King Mindon, who founded the city and the palace of Mandalay, was a great supporter of the Buddhist religion. He used to confer titles upon, and offer the four necessities of monks to venerable monks distinguished for their learning in the Scriptures. He built huge monasteries in the eastern part of the city and donated them for occupation by large numbers of monks. He was not satisfied with such measures taken by him in support of the religion. He, therefore, had the Scriptures of the Buddha inscribed on stone slabs under the direct supervision of Maha Theras who were the most learned of the lot of ecclesiastical dignitaries on whom titles had been conferred for proficiency in the Scriptures. With reference to this act of having the Scriptures inscribed on stone slabs, King Mindon is known today as the "Royal Convener of the Fifth Buddhist Council".


In olden days the monks of Burma, both in Burma proper and in Mon territory belonged to different sects and held different views. The practice of Buddhism could not therefore be preserved in its pristine purity. Dhammaceti, King of Hanthawaddy sent a religious mission consisting of forty four monks to Sri Lanka in 837 Burmese Era. (1476 C.E.) with a view to purifying the religious system in Myanmar. The monks on arrival in Sri Lanka had to be re-ordained in the Sima (place for ordination) in the Kalyani river. On return of these monks to Myanmar, the King had a new Ordination Hall consecrated in Pegu with their assistance and revived Buddhism on proper lines. This new Ordination was named 'Kalyani Ordination Hall' after the name of the Kalyani river in Sri Lanka. The Religious Chronicle and the historical account of this Ordination Hall have been inscribed on stone slabs which have been preserved to this day.


Centuries ago Tapussa and Bhallika, two merchants from Ukkala brought the sacred hairs given to them by the Buddha from (the Middle Districts of) India and enshrined them at the foot of a wood-oil tree on Singuttara Hill where the sacred relics of the former three Buddhas had already been enshrined. This pagoda is called "The Shrine of the Sacred Relics of Four Buddhas", because it contains, enshrined within it, the sacred relics of the three Buddhas (namely, Kakusandha, Konagamana and Kassapa) as well as those of Gotama Buddha. It also takes the name "Shwedagon Pagoda" after the name of the town, Tigumba or Dagon (i.e., Yangon or Rangoon). Successive Mon Kings and Myanmar Kings vied with one another in maintaining and improving the Shwedagon which has thus been brought to its present condition and appearance. Shinsawbu, Queen Regent of Hanthawaddy gave up her throne when she grew old and set up a cantonment and palace on a pleasant piece of land to the north-west of the pagoda and resided there in constant veneration of the shrine. She died at the age of 76 in 831 Burmese Era. (1470 C.E.) bowing in reverence to the pagoda. The locality where the Queen lived in her old age is known to this day as Shinsawbu Hill.


Once upon a time, eight Arahants came to the palace of King Kyanzittha ( also known as Hti-hlaing-shin ) at Pagan and stood for alms. The King took the bowls and offered them meals. He then asked them "Where have you come from, Reverend Sirs?" The Arahants replied. "We have come from Gandamadana Mountain". The King was very pleased and had great faith in them, and built for them a monastery for their residence during the rainy season. He also invited them to come to the palace every morning and have their meals there during the full three months of the rainy season, and fed them regularly. One day, the King asked the Arahants to make a cave, by using their superhuman power, in the likeness of the Nandamula Cave which stands at Gandamadana Mountain in the Himalayas. The Arahants complied with his request and fashioned a cave exactly like the one there. The King built a huge cave-temple in Pagan resembling in appearance the Nandamula Cave, and called it Nanda. It is now known as Ananda Pagoda, built in 452 Burmese Era. (1192 C.E.). It is famous all over the world as the best specimen of Myanmar (Burmese) architecture.