Among 14 kings who ruled Bagan after Anawrahta only two were his equal in might and main, statesmanship and religious deeds. The rest were either mediocre or weakling and one Narathu (1167-1170 AD), was a tyrant. We shall deal with only two equals Kyansittha and Alaungsithu.
Kyansitha’s achievements were political, economic, social and religious.
Kyansittha re-consolidated and strengthened Anawrahta’s Empire which was weakened by the misrule of Anawrahta’s son and successor king Sawlu. Kyansittha constructed dams, canals, repaired old ones. He extended agriculture by more land reclamation. He encouraged trade and commerce both domestic and foreign. His religious reforms were suppression of spirit worship, superstitious belief, practices and purification of Buddhism with Tipitaka learning and Dhamma teaching.
His social works were building of rest houses, digging water tanks and wells for the irrigation and public consumption and promoting monastic education for the masses. He encouraged Pariyatti schools, meditation centers, caves and tunnels and built monasteries throughout his kingdom.
He completed building Shwezigon pagoda which was left unfinished by Anawrahta. He built many religious monuments Anada temple, Nagayone temple, Myinkaba Kubyauk Kyi temple are very prominent.
Shwezigon pagoda (See more: Press the Shwezigon pagoda image)
Myinkaba Gubyauk-gyi Temple (Press this image to see about Myinkaba Gubyauk-gyi Temple)
Kyansitha was the unifier of Mon and Bama kingdoms and cultures.
The great Mon bhikkhu Shin Arahan and his Mon monk colleagues exerted their religious and cultural influence upon Kyansittha. He was crowned according to the Mon coronation rites. Shin Arahan and party of Mon monks chanted paritta and mantras in Mon Pali to consecrate the occasion. A new palace was built on the Mon design.
In the stone inscription in Mon language recording the rites and ceremonies performed at every stage of the palace building, Mon cultural influence was strongly reflected. A blend of Hindu Brahmanism, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism was noticed in this stone inscription.
Kyansittha proved he was a noble and benevolent king observing the tenets of a Buddhist king on the model of Emperor Asoka.
The following excerpt from the Mon inscription at Shwezigon Pagoda set up in his lifetime sums up his economic, social and religious works for his people not only for the betterment of present life but also of the life here after.
“With loving kindness … shall king Kyansittha wipe away the tear of those who are parted from their trusty friends … his people shall be into him as a child to its mother’s bosom … he shall soften the hearts of those who intend evil … he shall exhort to speak good those who speak evil. With wisdom which is even as a hand shall king Kyansittha draw open the bar of the Gate of Heaven which is made of gold and wrought with gems … He shall offer treasures of three kinds, with images in gold reliquary like a lamp that glows so brightly shall it shine.” (Epigraphic Brimanica. Vol.1 part 2, pp. 90).
Kyansittha preached Buddha Dhamma to a Chola prince who was in Bagan on a diplomatic mission. Chola prince came to understand Dhamma and finally became Buddhist.
In the graceful Ananda temple he built in 1090 AD, can be seen till today his statue in a worshiping gesture opposite to it is the statue of Shin Arahan, Raja guru of Kyansittha also in the gesture of paying homage to the Buddha.
Kyansittha’s religious works were many and not confined to his kingdom alone. Many stone inscriptions he set up at religious monuments he built mention his religious deeds and social works he carried out at home and abroad.
He sent craftsmen and artists to Bodhgaya to repair and renovate Mahabodhi Temple (which was destroyed by a foreign non Buddhist king).
He set a tradition with later Myanmar kings, to dispatch craftsmen to repair the temple to donate pagoda slaves to maintain the temple and to purchase land for their livelihood and to grow paddy to feed Buddhist monks residing in foreign land.
Monk missions were exchanged between Bagan and Srilanka. Religious literature, gifts and sacred relics including saplings of the Bodhi tree were brought to Bagan. Srilanka style of stupa (Sapada zedi) and monastery (Singhalese Kyaung) were built.
Review and purification of the Tipitaka were made by bhikkhus. A pioneer to two futures Buddhist Sanghayana (synods) that were held in Myanmar.
The 5th Great Buddhist Council Theravāda Buddhism, established during the Bagan Era continued to blosson in the age of Yatanābon, Mandalay. In 2395 AB (Anno Buddhae), (1214 Myanra Era), (1852 AD), King Mindon ascended the throne and held the Fifth Great Buddhist Council with the noble aim of perpetuating Theravāda Buddhism forever. Commencing from the Myanmar month of Tazaunmon (November), in 2404 AB, (1222 ME), (1860 AD), the three Pitakas were inscribed on 729 marble slabs; - Vinaya Pitaka was inscribed on 111 slabs. - Abhidhammā Pitaka was inscribed on 208 slabs. - Suttanta Pitaka on 410 slabs. This inscription work was finished on the 14 waxing day of Kason (May) in 1230 ME (1868 AD). The 6th Great Buddhist Council Myanmar Buddhist held the The 6th Great Buddhist Council at Mahāpāsāna Great Sacerd Cave, Kaba-Aye, Yangon in 2498 AB (1316 ME), (1954 AD). Two thousand and five hundred Bhikkhus from five Theravāda Buddhist countries convened to recite and scrutinize the Scriptures which were later spread throughout the world.
A comparative study of Singhalese and Suvanna -bhumi Tipitakas. Editing was done with the help of Singhalese monks. Ancient Mon Tipitaka and texts from Mahavihara of Srilanka were examined and compared. Kyansitha placed emphasis on the orthodoxy of Mahavihara.
Policy of religious tolerance was followed resulting in peaceful coexistence between pre-Buddhists religion and Buddhism of Mahayana and Theravada types.
Anawrahta is said to have observed “Men will not come for the sake of the new faith. Let them come for their old gods and gradually they will be won over.” Kyansittha followed Anawrahta’s foot steps.
Because of tolerance, Aries and their debased religion made a gradual comeback. Grassroots (common people) were not ready for a highly developed religion that is Theravada Buddhism. They adhered to their old beliefs.
Till today, Myanmar people have two religions pre-Buddhist religions to promote their material interest and to improve their mundane life. Theravada Buddhism for the betterment of their life here after their spiritual interest Niver the final goal.
Riddles regarding the total numbers of religious monuments in Bagan
Not only 55 kings but also members of royal families’ courtiers’ nobilities aristorace, monks, wealthy men and commoners built religious buildings according to their social status, rank and means. Hence a multitude of buildings in various degrees of preservation still stand within the area of 25square miles of old Bagan. The total numbers are given in the form of riddle composed in rhyme at different times.
- လှည်းဝင်ရိုးသံ၊ တညံညံ၊ ပုဂံဘုရားပေါင်း (၄၄၄၆)
- ဝင်းဝင်းထိန်လျှံ၊ ပြည်ပေါက်ကံ (၄၄၇၄)
Archaeology Department is still busy and remaking inventories because of new discoveries of pagodas and monuments at excavation sites or in the Rivers banks and on the hill summits.
During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, 4,446 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of 3,822 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.
UNESCO inscribed Myanmar’s ancient capital of Bagan as a World Heritage Site on 6 July 2019. The 21-member World Heritage Committee announced the decision on July 6 at a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, based on the recommendation of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (နိုင်ငံတကာ အထိမ်းအမှတ် အဆောက်အအုံနှင့် နေရာဒေသများကောင်စီ) Bagan becomes Myanmar’s second addition to the World Heritage List, after the three ancient Pyu cities of Sri Ksetra, Hanlin and Beikthano, which were listed in 2014.
Go to UNESCO Official Gallery Website for Pyu Ancient Cities (ဗိဿနိုး၊ ဟန်လင်း၊ သရေခေတ္တရာ)
Go to Bagan Gallery Website (UNESCO World Heritage)
- State Party: Myanmar (Date of Submission)
- 1. Ancient cities of Upper Myanmar: Innwa, Amarapura, Sagaing, Mingun, Mandalay (04/10/1996)
- 2. Ayeyawady River Corridor (25/02/2014)
- 3. Badah-lin and associated caves (04/10/1996)
- 4.Hkakabo Razi Landscape (25/02/2014)
- 5. Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (25/02/2014)
- 6. Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary (25/02/2014)
- 7. Inle Lake (04/10/1996)
- 8. Mon cities: Bago, Hanthawaddy (04/10/1996)
- 9. Mrauk-U (04/10/1996)
- 10. Myeik Archipelago (25/02/2014)
- 11. Natma Taung National Park (25/02/2014)
- 12. Pondaung anthropoid primates palaeontological sites (06/12/2018)
- 13. Shwedagon Pagoda on Singuttara Hill (06/12/2018)
- 14. Taninthayi Forest Corridor (25/02/2014)
- 15. Wooden Monasteries of Konbaung Period: Ohn Don, Sala, Pakhangyi, Pakhannge, Legaing, Sagu, Shwe-Kyaung (Mandalay) (04/10/1996)
- U Lu Pe Win, Pictorial Guide to Bagan
- Dr ThanTun, Buddhism in Bagan
- G E Harvey, History of Burma
- Htin Aung , Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism