Thursday, March 28, 2013
Monday, March 18, 2013
In obedience to the spirit’s orders, Anawrahata chose a plain bordered by two rivers, at Kyaukse, about 30 Km south of the present day city of Mandalay, and set to work. He collected forced labour from the nearby villages and hired irrigation experts from the Shan hill tribes of eastern Burma. For three years, tens of thousands of peasants toiled unceasingly in the steam bath heat of the plain. They built dams, dug canals, and changed the course of the rivers as Anawrahta ruthlessly pursued his vision. In the course of the projects, thousands died of tropical fevers and exhaustion.
The flooded paddy fields at Kyaukse became the economic powerhouse of Anawrahta’s realm, producing food for the people and a torrent of wealth to swell the royal coffers. Gradually more neighboring chieftains came under Anawrahta’s sway, and his territory spread north towards what are now the Indian and Chinese borders, east in to Thailand, and west to the Bay of Bengal. At the same time, he expanded the town he had chosen as his capital: Pagan, on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The town needed work to turn it into a city. The native Burmese were poor architects and worse artists, but to the south lay a civilization, the Mons, living in a patch work of city states that had been a centre of culture for more than 1000 years. From this centre, in 1056 AD, came a remarkable refugee: a Buddhist mon called Shin Arahan. Shin Arahan was a mon who believed fervently in the traditional creed of his people: an ascetic variety of Buddhism called Theravada. His faith, however, had come under pressure in his homeland, both from other Buddhist sects and from the Hindu influence of India. The final insult came when the Monk leaders agreed to a number of compromises with Hindu Beliefs. Shin Arahan, outraged by the changes, deserted his home and began his journey to Pagan.
Anawrahta was impressed by the power and passion of the monk. Within a year, the king was publicly converted to Buddhism, and ad agreed to invade the Mon territories to help to re establish the supremacy of Theravada Buddhism. With Shin Arahan at his side, the king marched south on one of the most important Mon cities- Thaton, on the coast of the Gulf of Martaban, east of Myanmar’s present day capital, Rangoon. When Thaton fell in 1057 after a three month siege, the other Mon city states submitted without a flight.