Burma/Pagan Empire      
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(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Battle of Ngasaunggyan in 1277 AD
    Development of Burmese Script
    History of North Thailand
    Rise of Mahavihara Buddhism

Main Cities: Pagan; Prome; Tagaung
Time: 849-1297 AD
Language: Burmese; Mon
Personage: Anawrahta Minsaw; Aung Zwa; Narapatisithu
Religion: Buddhism; Hindu
Related Country: Burma

Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this empire. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books. Also posted is my translation from Thai language: "History of North Thailand," which contains a reference to war between Burma and Lanna.

      Early records claim Pagan (called Arimaddana-pura: "City that Tramples on Enemies") was founded on 27 March 750 AD, but most early chronicles agree that Pagan became the capital on 23 December 849 AD. In the 9th century AD, Mranma (Burmese) people migrated from Nan Chao to the upper Irrawaddy valley, largely displacing earlier ethnic groups and kingdom of the Mon and Pyu city-states. The Pagan dynasty united the regions numerous small kingdoms into a larger power circa 849 AD. It consolidated control over the Irrawaddy region and upper Kra Peninsula.

Map of Pagan Empire
Click Map to Enlarge
      Anawrahta Minsaw (1044-1078 AD) ruled a small area but quickly founded the Pagan empire by conquering neighboring kingdoms, including Arakan (modern Rakhine State) and the Shan States. His forces also halted western expansion from the Khmer Empire. The Mon king of Pegu (aka Bago) surrendered peacefully, but Mon king Manuha of Thaton resisted. Anawrahta used a pretext to conquer Thaton in 1057 AD. After a successful three-month siege, Anawrahta moved 30,000 Mon civilians and craftsmen who helped build the numerous Buddhist temples at Pagan. Tagaung, an ancient city in north Burma, was a border outpost prior to Anawrahta's campaigns against Nan Chao and Bengal.

      Anawrahta gave refuge to exiled Buddhist monks from the Chola Empire and made Pagan a center for Theravada Buddhism, which the dynasty spread to the kingdoms of Ayutthaya, Lanna, Lan Xang and Sukhothai. Scholars currently believe the Burmese script derived from the 10th century AD Pyu script similar to the Myazedi inscription vice that of the 1058 AD Mon script.

      A distinctive Burmese style in temple construction emerged during the reigns of Alaungsithu (1113-1167 AD) and especially of Kyansittha. Pagan reached its zenith under the reigns of Narapatisithu (1174-1211 AD) and Htilominlo (1211-1235 AD). Narapatisithu instituted the Royal Palace Guards under the command of Aung Zwa. He also convinced Manuha, the last Mon king of Thaton, to avoid a rebellion. The empire remained peaceful throughout his reign. Htilominlo was the last temple-building king of Pagan, although the majority were built distant from the capital.

      Donation of tax-free state land to Buddhism was one cause for decline of the empire. A powerful clergy resisted attempts to reclaim such land for the crown. In 1256 AD, Narathihapate ascended to the throne and faced rebellions in the Arakanese western state of Macchagiri and the Mon city of Martaban in the south. The empire suffered two invasions from the Mongols in 1277 and 1287 AD. Following an unsuccessful invasion of Yunnan, Khublai Khan invaded Pagan territory and defeated Burmese forces at the Battle of Ngasaunggyan in 1277 AD. Mongols later triumphed in battles at Bhamo and Pagan.

      Narathihapate fled to lower Burma and a son of Prince Thihathu of Prome quickly assassinated the king for cowardice. Mongols installed a puppet king and kept an army at Tagaung until 1303 AD. Two brothers in Kyaukse district dethroned the puppet king, Kyawswa, and founded the Myinsaing Kingdom in 1297 AD.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst