The History of Myanmar

By William J. Topich; Keith A. Leitich | Go to book overview

3
Bagan (1044–1287) and
Small Kingdoms (1287–1531)

HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL BACKGROUND

There is some dispute as to the origins of the first Burmese empire at Bagan. Early research did not address the question of the origins of Bagan but focused on understanding Bagan’s history, culture, and society. It wasn’t until the issue of ethnicity and language appeared in Burmese history textbooks did the issue of the first inhabitants of Bagan become salient. Establishing the origins of Bagan has been hampered by lack of source material (e.g., inscriptions and/or epigraphs) from the Bagan period. Unfortunately, under King Bodawpaya many of the inscriptions were removed and taken to Amarapuvo in the late 18th century. Tradition established by local chronicles suggests Bagan was founded by the Pyū king Thamoddarit in the first century CE and that the original inhabitants were Pyū, although this claim cannot be substantiated. The Glass Palace Chronicle indicates that Bagan, formerly known as Arimaddanapura (the city of the enemy crusher) and also as Tambadipa (the land of copper) or Tassadessa (the parched land), was founded in 849 during the reign of Pyinbya (r. ca. 846–878). Lacking either definitive archaeological or epigraphical evidence, there can only be speculation regarding the origins of Bagan, neither of which is grounded in fact nor without its detractors.

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