Buddhism in Nyaung Yan period

Nyaung Yan period in Myanmar history is also referred to as the second Taungoo period because it was founded by a descendant of Taungoo dynasty. The immediate successor to Bayint Naung, king Nanda Byin who was his son lost his throne and capital Hamsavadi to Rakhine, Taungoo and Tahnyin who in combination attacked him and ransacked his capital and rich palace Kambozathadi. Nanda Byin died without recovering his kingdom from the enemies. Another son of Bayint Naung, Lord of Nyaung Yan was able to regain control over the country rebuild the kingdom and set up Nyaung Yan dynasty which lasted 153 years. Of the eleven kings in the line of this dynasty, three kings were prominent in administration and promotion of Buddha Sasana. They were Anaukpatlun (1605-1628 AD), Thalun (1629-1648 AD) and Taninganwe (1714-1733 AD).  
Anaukpatlun (Mahadhammarājā) (1605-1628 AD): He was assassinated by his son Minyedibba at the western side of the palace.

The Kaunghmudaw Pagoda (Yaza Mani Sula Kaunghmudaw (ရာဇမဏိစူဠာ ကောင်းမှုတော်); (Rājamaṇicūḷā) built by King Thalun in 1636. The pagoda was completed 12 years later in 1648 towards the end of Thalun’s reign.

Before we touch upon Buddhism of this period we should turn our attention to the threat to Buddhism and how it was overcome in time.
The 15th and 16th centuries were the centuries of Portuguese ascendancy in world history. On the Iberian Peninsula were two maritime powers Spain and Portugal that built up maritime empires with their mighty armadas. These two were allies as well as rivals in the colonization of the rim lands and seaports throughout the world. When the Pope at Rome demarcated the spheres of influence and colonization between Spain and Portugal assigning Spain to the West and Portugal to the East of Vatican palace, these two Powers enjoyed exclusive right of colonization activity in their respective fields. The Portuguese after building up a chain of their strongholds along the seacoasts of India preceded farther a field. The seas coasts and seaports of South East Asia fall prey to Portuguese maritime aggression. 
Rim Land Theory (Nicholas John  Spykman) (1893- 1943)

Professor of IR , Yale University 




Defined geopolitics  - '' the planning of  security policy of a   country in terms of the geographic factors .'' 
" Power " as a means of preserving peace.

Eurasia – Europe  + Asia 

Rim land of Eurasia as more important than Heartland. 
Rim land like buffer zone between sea power and land power 
'' Who control the Rim land rules Eurasia '' 
'' Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world. '' 
Treaty of Tordesillas 

Demarcation of colonization for Portuguese and Spanish by Pope.
The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Spain, modifying an earlier division proposed by Pope Alexander VI. 

On June 7, 1494, the governments of Spain and Portugal agreed to the Treaty of Tordesillas, named for the city in Spain in which it was created. The Treaty of Tordesillas neatly divided the “New World” of the Americas between the two superpowers.

Spain and Portugal divided the New World by drawing a north-to-south line of demarcation in the Atlantic Ocean. 


Treaty of TordesillasTreaty of Tordesillas
Many causes favored Portuguese dominance in the east. 
1.	They had maritime knowledge and experience and up to date navigational apparatus and equipment especially mariner’s com-pass. 
2.	Portugal is not a fertile country. Hard living at home drove them out in quest of new green pasture. 
3.	The lure of the fabulously rich East attract them. 
4.	Adventure lust of the Portuguese sent them out to the sea and far-flung distances.
5.	Spice trade in the East Indies (Indonesia), was the source of wealth for the Arabs and Portuguese. 
6.	Slave raid and piracy were also source of good income for those who could command the sea coast and lanes. 
7.	Cathay (china) was the destination of all European seamen. 
8.	Papal support for the prorogation of Christianity. 
9.	Mercenary service of the Portuguese was a source of military strength to Eastern kings in their frequent warfare. In the early days of the Taungoo period, many European adventurers arrived at the capital or other towns in Myanmar either to prospect trade and commerce, to visit or to serve as mercenary. 
Mercenary (n): Hired professional soldier who fights for any state or nation without regard to political interests.
Nicolo di Conti, Ludovico Varthema, Sanstefano, Caesar Frederick, Gaspero Balbi  were Italian merchants who came for jewel trade. Later Portuguese such as Duarte Barbosa, de Brito, Castro, Francisco Baretto, came with the twin purposes of serving under the native kings and propagating Catholic religion as assigned by the Papacy at Rome. Portuguese strongholds in India such as Goa and in Malaysia such as Penang and Malecca were political and military bases where Portuguese Viceroy headquartered with arms men and galleons. 
Galleon [gal’-ee-yon] : 

Spanish sailing ship with a high stern.
A large sailing ship with square sails used from the 1400s to the 1700s especially by the Spanish.
Spanish galleonModel of an English galleon sporting four mast types: (left to right)
Alfonso de Albuquerque was the strongman who master-brained all Portuguese activities in South East Asia and the Far East. There were many Orders of Christian missionaries that operated in the Portuguese sphere in the east in cooperation with the Portuguese authorities of their strongholds. There were the Jesuit Order, the Dominican Order Franciscan Order, and Banabite Order. (See more: about Alfonso de Albuquerque)

Since the latter part of the 15th century the Portuguese and their missionaries were actively operating in the rim land and seaports of Myanmar. In Rakhine state they were active at Capital Mrauk U and other Rakhine seaports. Portuguese-Spanish half-caste Sebastio Gonzales was the leader of the ring and Father Manrique was the head of Christian mission that tried to convert the entire Rakhine kingdom by first converting the ruling class by imposing culture upon them and inter marriage between Rakhine and Portuguese.
 
Mercenary service of the Portuguese was so useful to the native kings that they won access to the court and won royal favor. Good Portuguese fighters gained title, status rank land and many other privileges by which they gradually exerted upper hand over the native people. One among those favored Portuguese was a man named Filipe de Brito (Philip de Brito e Nicote or Nga Zinga) who arrived at Mrauk U as a cabin boy on a Portuguese galleon. Due to his martial qualities and amiable character Rakhine kings raised him to high rank. When the Rakhine king marched on to Hamsavadi, de Brito accompanied him and proved his bravery and fighting ability in the wars that ensued. After defeating Taungoo and Hamsavadi, the Rakhine king returned home carrying with him many war booty including gold jewels gold images from the palace Kambozathadi as well as the bronze images which Bayint Naung brought from Ayutthaya.

As a reward for his services in war, De Brito with his Portuguese followers was appointed customs officer at a thriving seaport of Hamsavadi called Thanhlyin (Syriam). He was given full power to take charge of it. De Brito modernized the seaport by strengthening its harbor, jetty and built new fortresses. With his fighting men he diverted galleons from other seaports in South East Asia to Thanhlyin and levied heavy customs. But he provided security and good services. He became powerful and ruled with iron hand the whole area of Thanhlyin. He was an uncrowned king. Keeping strong army, navy and much storage of paddy and ration he received help from the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa. He also received the blessing of Pope in Rome in converting the local people even by force. He married his son Simon De Brito to the princess daughter of the Lord of Martaban which was another thriving seaport at the Gulf of Martaban so that one day he would set up a Portuguese dynasty at Hamsavadi. 

He even turned to several acts of sacrilege and blasphemy on Buddhism by looting and destroying the Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas. Gold and jewels were looted. Bells were melted down to make cannon ball. The biggest bronze bell of that time on the platform of Shwedagon pagoda was donated by king Dhammazedi. De Brito and his men brought it down and put on a ferry ship to take it to Thanhlyin. Unable to bear the load the ship slided and the bell went down to the button of the Dawbon creek where it still is in its watery grave. De Brito even went further to overthrow Myanmar king and take his throne by force. He entered into a secret alliance with one of the uncles of king of Inwa Maha Dhamma Raja or Anaukphetlun. He was Nat Shin Naung the Viceroy of Taungoo who held a grudge against his nephew king. So De Brito and Nat Shin Naung agreed to revolt against the king and to divide the country between them if they succeeded. Nat Shin Naung invited De Brito to take Taungoo first.
View of the Great Shwedagon Pagoda in 1825The Great Bell of Dhammazedi
When news of De Brito's activities was reported to the kings of Rakhine and Ava, the two formed a military alliance to attack their common enemy De Brito and eliminate Portuguese strongholds from Myanmar land. While Inwa king marched on to Thanhlyin by land and water, Rakhine king did the same from his kingdom. The two laid siege to De Brito’s stronghold. But strong fortresses, navy, army and artillery with Portuguese soldiers could hold out the besiegers and De Brito was quite secured within his fortified seaport. Besides he had the support of the Pope and Alfonso de Albuquerque the Portuguese Viceroy at Goa, who had sent out a fleet of fighters well equipped with arms ammunition to help De Brito. After long months of besiege the combined armies of Ava and Rakhine became almost exhausted. But a new strategy was adopted. From their camp sites to the walls of Thanhlyin tunnels were dug secretly. Through these tunnels Inwa and Rakhine soldiers secretly went into the fortified town at night and got hold of the Portuguese guard’s sentries and patrols. At many places underneath the fortified walls fires were burnt causing walls collapse due to heat. In that way the besiegers gained entry into Thanhlyin which fell into the hand of Ava and Rakhine. The entire Portuguese community and their followers were captured including the leader De Brito and his abettor Nat Shin Naung who, the Portuguese claimed, was now a Christian convert with Christian name Johann.
 
Mean-while military assistance sent by the Portuguese Vicery of Goa arrived. But they were captured by Inwa and Rakhine armies. De Brito and Nat Shin Naung were charged at the Court Martial in public on many accounts but the major charge was high treason. De Brito was not only a traitor but also criminal who committed several profane acts and blasphemy such as persecuting Buddhist forcibly looting the wealth of Buddhist monasteries temples, pagodas, ram sacking and destroying them. For such hideous crimes he was impaled at the market place where everyone was allowed to see him suffer from severe punishment for 7 days before he died so as to learn the lesson. Regarding Nat Shin Naung a long trial was held and after all witnesses were questioned evidences were piled up against him. He did not deny that he sent a sealed letter to De Brito whom he invited to invade Taungoo and later take Hamsavadi (Pago). His was a clear case of high treason not only against the state but also against the state religion, Buddhism for he made alliance with De Brito and himself a Christian convert.

After examining the precedents and decisions of Dhammathat (Law books), king Anaukphetlun gave him severe punishment execution by flinging opens his body at a public place and putting dead body into a red velvet shroud and burying it with due pomp and ceremony of a viceroy prince. Regarding the Portuguese and their follower’s fringes, king Anaukphetlun’s first order was death punishment. But being a Buddhist king he changed his mind and exercised royal clemency. After making they take oath of allegiance to him they were pardoned but deported them to up country where they were allowed to retain their religion and way of life the king gave them land to live, land to cultivate and land to raise domestic animals. They served under Myanmar kings as gunners, artillerymen, constructors of roads and bridges. Their descendants still live in villages and minor towns around Monywa, Ye U, Chaung U etc. With the execution of De Brito and his abettor Nat Shin Naung in 1613 AD, Portuguese dominance in Myanmar came to an end. With them were terminated the Endeavour’s of Roman Catholic missionaries to propagate the Gospel of Christ among ruling class. But successive Myanmar kings continued to practice religious to legation and non-Buddhist religious continued to enjoy freedom in the country. 

4 thoughts on “Buddhism in Nyaung Yan period

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