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Home Articles Vedic India And The Road To Mandalay

 

Ancient India and Burma were pretty much bordered by the thickness of a washing line, so its not too difficult to appreciate that throughout their existence these two countries must have at one time shared a common culture, and when we consider the vastness of the civilisation of Vedic India, its not too difficult to appreciate who influenced whom.

 

Burma/Myanmar may have once been known as “Brahma desa” meaning “the land of Brahma”. The great Burmese poet and nationalist Thakin Kodaw Hmaing wrote “ Those who lived in Sunaparanta and Tampadipa were known as “Brahma - kind - of - people” as they worshipped the Brahma spirits who derived from the lineage of the Brahma nats, living at the beginning of the world.. That is why in the old Arakanese chronicles “Burma” is referred to as the country of the eastern Brahmas ”.  ( Myin hswei 1977 : 363 ).

 

Gustaaf Houtman in his book “Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics” writes “though modern linguists might deride such popular derivations, we must not forget that this is not a consideration held only by the Burmese, for the languages which had early contact with Burma, such as India and European romance languages, Burma was constantly referred to as “Brahma”. Indeed even today in Hindi “Burma” is referred to as “Brahma Desa”.

 

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According to Burmese tradition, their ( recorded ) history begins over 3000 years ago with the appearance of King Abhiraj, a Sanskrit/Vedic name meaning “ the fearless ( abhi ) king ( raj )”. Sentiments confirmed by the Burmese ambassador to India Mr U. Than Aung, who says “ India and Burma are bound by the golden chains of tradition, religion and culture, as our traditional history begins with King Abhiraj “.

 

Abhiraj was a king of the Sakya dynasty of the Suryavamsas, the same dynasty in which Lord Buddha was born. The descendants of King Abhiraj prospered spreading throughout the fertile plains of Burma, their names are all Vedic/sanskrit  -  Jambudwipa Raja  -  Sangassa Raja  -  Vippana Raja  -  Devata Raja  -  Munika Raja  -  Naga Raja  -  Indra Raja  -  Samuti Raja  -  Deva Raja  -  Mahindra Raja  -  Vimala Raja  -  all Vedic Kings and all part of the early ( recorded ) history of Burma. Abhiraj was part of the "Abhiras" who are mentioned in the Bhagavatam 2.4.18 and also the following verse from the Mahabharata.

 

“ And the illustrious hero soon brought under subjection the mighty Gramaniya that dwelt on the shore of the sea, and the Sudras and the Abhiras that dwelt on the banks of the Saraswati, and all those tribes that lived upon fisheries, and those also that dwelt on the mountains, and the whole of the country called after the five rivers "  -  The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 1 Books 1, 2 and 3.

 

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The Irawaddy, as shown above, was immortalised by Rudyard Kipling as "the road to Mandalay". Its the main river of Burma flowing some 1400 miles before merging into the Andaman sea. A Vedic/Sanskrit name, its source being "Iravati" the daughter of Kashyapa Muni and the mother of Lord Indras mount "Airavata". Its the counterpart of the river Ravi in India whose source is also mother Iravati. The Irawaddy journeys to the Andaman sea which is also Sanskrit/Vedic, the name "Andaman" being a corruption of "Handuman" which is a Malaysian corruption of "Hanuman" the great personality from Ramayana. As the Iravati winds its way throughout Burma its history has seen many kingdoms and we find that most are from Vedic/India.

 

Taguang was the first city which was built by King Abhiraj some 3000 years ago. Its original name obviously reflects the ancient Vedic culture he was coming from and according to the Burmese glass chronicles it was “Sangasaratta” a Sanskrit word meaning “the union ( sanga ) of warriors ( saratha ). The successors to King Abhiraj was a long line of Vedic kings  -  Abhiraj  -  Jambhudviparaj  -  Sangassaraj  - Vippanaraj  - Devataraj  -  Munikaraj  -  Nagaraj  -  Indraraj  -  Samutiraj  -  Devaraj  - Mahindaraj  - Vimalaraj  -  Sihanuraj  -  Mangalaraj  -  Kamsaraj  -  Kalingaraj  -  Sihalaraj  - Hamsaraj  - Vararaj  -  Suriyaraj  -  Madhuraj  -  Bhinnakaraj  -  a whole list of Kings with Sanskrit/Vedic titles who descended from King Abhiraj.

 

Sri Ksetra was once the capital of pagan, its name is Sanskrit meaning " field ( ksetra ) of fortune ( sri ) ". Its over 1500 years old, the city was designed according to Vedic/Buddhist cosmology in the form of a mandala state. The original city had a circumference of 13km and 4km in diameter. The walls were some 4.5 metres high, there were twelve gates each with a huge Devata guarding and at each of the four corners there was a pagoda, all of which is Vedic/Buddhist culture. Sri Ksetra was home to three Vedic dynasties, the Vikrama dynasty, a Sanskrit name meaning "Visnu" we see it in "Trivikrama" meaning he who separated ( vi ) the universe with three ( tri ) steps ( krama )". The second was the Gupta dynasty of Chandragupta, a Sanskrit name meaning "protector" and the third was the the Varman dynasty which once again means "protector" "defender". All of these Vedic Kingdoms spread out from Vedic India and established Kingdoms in places such as Burma.

 

Waithali was once the capital of the Burmese state of Rakhine. Its name is from an ancient Vedic King known as Visala, Sanskrit for "abundant" "powerful" "mighty" "great". In his honour "Visalapuri" a city in the Bihar state of India, was named after him. In time this became the birthplace of Mahavira, the great spiritual personality, it also became the last place in which Lord Buddha gave a sermon, hence "Visalapuri" became a great place of pilgrimage for the Jains and Buddhists. "Visalapuri" became "Vaishali" and when Buddhism spread to the mountainous region of Rakhine, they named their capital "Vesali" in memory, and over time this name has become the much corrupted "Waithali".

 

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The Mon dynasty are seen as one of the earliest people of the Indo/Chinese peninsula, dating back some 3500 to 4500 years ago. The motif of the Mon dynasty and the emblem on their flag was the swan, which was known by its Sanskrit name "Hamsa". The swan is a symbol of purity in Vedic India, its ability to separate milk from water and its indifference as it glides serenely upon the watery surface is expanded upon by great sages in the same way they elucidate the journey of the lotus as it breaks through the watery surface to experience the light above. The importance of the swan ( hamsa ) to the Mon dynasty is seen in the name of the Mon capital "Hathawaddy". Its a corruption of the Sanskrit "Hamsavati" meaning "an enclosure ( vati ) of swans ( hamsa )".

 

The Vedas describe the vahana ( vehicle ) of Lord Brahma as a hamsa ( swan ). The above picture is from the Srimad Bhagavatam where we find the following verse " Lord Brahma, the father of Narada Muni, is the supreme person within this universe. As soon as Narada saw the great swan, he could understand that Lord Brahma had arrived ". In the Brahma gayatri we also find the following verse " Aum, let me meditate upon the God with four faces, oh God who resides upon the swan, give me higher intellect and let Lord Brahma illuminate my mind ".

 

Sarasvati, the consort of Lord Brahma, also travels upon a swan, so although we find some confusion as to whether Lord Brahmas vahana is a swan or a goose or even a duck, the Vedic conclusion is his vahana is a swan, just as his wife Sarasvati also travels upon the swan. This was the emblem of the Mons dynasty, who chose it for its spiritual symbology, named its capital after it and it may be the background from which Burma may be a corruption of Brahma.

 

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The Mons, whose official flag, pictured above, depicts the hamsa meaning "swan" also held the Burmese Kingdom of Thaton which goes back over 2500 years. In the ancient Vedic scripture "Srimad Bhagavatam" we find the following verse " Lord Indra brought Sri Krsna the Sudharma assembly hall standing within which a mortal man is not subject to the laws of mortality. Indra also gave the parijata tree " Srimad Bhagavatam 10.50.54

 

This is the source of the name "Thaton" which was originally "Sudharma" meaning "assembly hall". According to academics "Sudharma" becomes "Thudam" which becomes "Thudan" which then becomes the Burmese city of "Thaton". The expansive Kingdom of the Mons was known as "Suvarnabhumi" the "land ( bhumi ) of gold ( suvarna )". The seat of this Kingdom was "Sudharma" the "assembly hall of the Mons" which over time has corrupted to the Burmese city of "Thaton".

 

As well as the Kingdoms they held in Burma, the Mon dynasty also held the Thailand provinces of Dvaravati and Haribhumjaya, both Sanskrit/Vedic names. “Dvaravati” is Sanskrit for “ an enclosure ( vati ) of gates ( dvara ) “ its named after the famed city of Lord Krsna “Dvaraka” the “city of gates”. The other name “Haribhumjaya” is “ the victorious ( jaya ) land ( bhumi ) of Hari ( Visnu ) “. One has to be brain dead not to see which culture these people are coming from, their Kingdoms having Vedic/Sanskrit names glorifying the Vedic Gods such as Krsna and Visnu which obviously reflect the ancient Vedic culture of India. On the island of Lao they also held the province of Sri Gotapura, once again a Sanskrit/Vedic name meaning “ the wealthy ( sri ) city ( pura ) of cows ( gota ) “ and once again emphasising how the people of Mon, one of the earliest settlers along the Indo/Chinese peninsula were Vedic, they came from the ancient culture of Vedic India.

 

 

Above, the national flag of the Burmese state of Rakhine. Its emblem is the Srivatsa, the mark of Visnu, meaning " the chest ( vatsa ) of Visnu, where Laxmi ( sri ) eternally resides ". The name "Rakhine" is from the Sanskrit "Raksa" meaning "protector" "guardian" "defender" "watcher". Its a name which may represent its geographical location by the sea and its mountainous terrain, both of which may create a state of "watching" for invaders or "guarding" against them. The same name is found upon the Panatian island between Java and Sumatra where we find "Mount Raksa" a modest summit, which looks out over the vast Indonesian ocean "watching" "defending" "guarding" and so this seems to be the meaning of this Sanskrit "Raksa" which is the source of the Burmese state of Rakhine.

 

The ancients were ever striving to bring heaven to earth, creating microcosms of the macrocosm. Rakhine may have been named in light of the great mount Meru, the abode of the Gods. The etymology of “Raksa” is to “link up ( ra ) in six directions ( ks )” the consonant cluster “ks” means “ the link ( s ) of points in space ( k ) “. It expresses the four cardinal points plus the zenith and nadir, and so “Raksa” meaning “protector” “guardian” “defender” is that which “guards” the six directions. On mount Meru, the abode of the Gods, these guardians would be known as “Lokapalas” meaning “ the guardians ( palas ) of the world ( loka ) “. The naming of Rakhine as well as Mount Raksa found upon the Panatian island is part of a much bigger picture, a Vedic picture, which once pervaded Indonesia and the Indo/Chinese peninsula.

 

The traditional history of Rakhine goes back some 5000 years. According to the Rakhine chronicles their first independent Kingdom was Dhanyawadi, a Sanskrit word the "Dhanya" meaning "rice" and "Vati" meaning "enclosure". Alongside the Kingdom of Dhanyavati flowed the Kaladan river, a Sanskrit word, the "Kala" meaning "black" "time" and the "Dan" meaning "giver" "gift". The Dhanyavati kingdom was founded around 3000 B.C by King Marayu. His successors were some 107 kings who ruled between 3000 and 326 AD. Their names were all Vedic/Sanskrit  -  Mara Setu  -  Madhucandra  -  Mokhacandra  -  Gunacandra  -  Kalacandra  -  Anantabhaya  -  Nanda Thuriya  -  Vatu Kundala  -  Rala Marayu  -  Surya Rupa  -  Surya Dhipati  -  Surya Mukha  -  Surya Kula  -  Surya Punya  -  Surya Vimala  -  Surya Bandha  -  all kings with Vedic/Sanskrit names appearing in the earliest documented history of Burma.

 

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For Rudyard Kipling the road of the Irawaddy, which travels the length of Burma, culminated in the city of Mandalay, whose remnants are pictured above. Its name is from the Sanskrit "Mandala" which is defined as "circle" "district" "disc" "region" "wheel" "globe". Its meaning, one being geometrical ( circle ) and two geographical ( region ) reflects the micro/macro world of Buddhist/Vedic cosmology which saw the universe as a cosmic mandala whose influence spreads from a centre in a circular fashion, and as Buddhism spread throughout the Indo/Chinese peninsula, cities such as Mandalay was designed to bring heaven to earth.

 

The Vedas explain how within this egg shaped universe there is a cosmic axial mountain known as "Sumeru" meaning "great ( su ) mountain ( meru )". On top of Meru is the abode of the Gods, known in different cultures as "Asgard" and "Olympus". Surrounding mount Meru is "Bhu mandala" a series of circular islands which spread out from the central point of Meru, and this is the model upon which these mandala states were formed.

 

The earthly mandala had three concentric rings. Its centre was the King, just as the Gods upon Meru are the central pivot of the universal islands of Bhu Mandala. He was seen as the upholder of dhama, around which the citizens revolved and amongst the Buddhists he was honoured as the Bodhisattva to be. This first ring of the mandala state, whose central pivot was the King, contained the capitals Kingdom, the great temple and the monastry of Brahmans/monks who would advise, direct and bless the King. The middle circle of the mandala were provinces ruled by princes who were usually the sons of the Kings. Although in many ways independent Kingdoms, they formed an alliance around the King protecting its centre. The outer ring was a region of independent Kingdoms which paid a tributary.

 

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Above the royal palace of Mandalay, the last of the formal royal palaces of the Burmese monarchy. "Mandala" also means "circle of kings" as these mandala states spread out they would overlap other mandala kingdoms. The western system was introduced or influenced by the Romans who would pace 1000 steps of conquered territory and place a marker which became known as a Roman "mile" the root of the word "military" which is appropriate as these boundaries were defined with "military" precision and authority. Without dwelling upon the western system, the "mandalas" of the east was based upon universal principles which placed the "Gods" in the centre and governed according to the universal laws of dharma.

 

Southeast Asia was originally made up of mandalas. In Burma we have "Thaton" "Sri Ksetra" "Pagan" "Vaishali" "Pegu" and "Mandalay" which were all mandala states. In Thailand there was the famous cities of "Ayuthaya" "Sukhothai" "Nakhon Si Thamarat" "Ramannadesa" and "Dvaravati". The "Majapahit" "Kediri" "Singhasari" and "Medang" Kingdoms of Java, in Malaysia there was the powerful Kingdoms of "Tambralinga" and "Langkasuka" the very ancient "Sarawak" and in Vietnam and Cambodia we have the mandala states of the Champa and Khmer dynasties.

 

These mandala cities, in their prime, were divine reflections of the higher spheres mentioned in the Vedas and the pure lands of the Buddhists. In Cambodia one such mandala still remains, the mandala state of Angkor Wat. Its central towers represent mount Meru, the cosmic axial mountain and the five walls and moats represent the mandalas ( concentric islands ) which spread out from its centre, Meru, the abode of the Gods.

 

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“The adoption of Indian concepts of city planning incorporated a belief in the efficacy of the world axis that connects the centermost point in a properly constructed Mandala city with the city of the Gods above in order to assure prosperity throughout the kingdom below”. – Dr. Richard M. Cooler (Prof. Northern Illinios University).

 

7th century Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang mentioned several Hindu kingdoms of Burma, SriKshetra being one of the capital cities. During the early years of the Christian era, despite rumors of demonic cannibals, its fertile plains attracted Hindu colonists. Their nobility founded dynasties.” “In its glory days, Vaishali contained hundreds of Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, and communities of craftsmen.” (referring Chandra dynasty of Vaishali/Arakan) – Noel F. Singer

 

“What the excavator finds in Burma is often Hindu rather than Buddhist. In some sculptures Buddha appears as an incarnation of Vishnu.” “……their (Burma) traditions, instead of harking back to China, refer to India…..Even their folk-lore is largely Hindu.”(p.6)  -  G.E. Harvey, History of Burma.

 

“There can be no doubt that the architects who planned and built the Ananda temple were Indians. Everything in this temple from Sikhara to the basement as well as the numerous stone sculptures found in its corridors and the terra-cotta…adoring its basement and terraces, bear the indubitable stamp of Indian genius and craftsmanship…In this sense, we may take it, therefore, that the Ananda, though built in the Burmese capital, is an Indian temple.”  –  Charles Duroiselle, pioneer of Burmese Studies in France.

 

“The civilizations of the Burmese and the Tibetans is derived from India.”  –  Horace Hayman Wilson, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University.

 

“Therefore, the Indianizaton of Burma and, particularly the adoption of art forms connected with Buddhism and Hinduism, was a peaceful and internally motivated process.”  –  Dr. Richard M. Cooler (Prof. Northern Illinios University).

 

”India and Burma are bound by the golden chains of tradition, religion and culture as our traditional history begins with King Abhi Raja.” – U. Than Aung, former Burmese ambassador to India.

 

"Indian art had accompanied Indian religion across straits and frontiers into Sri Lanka, Java, Cambodia, Siam, Burma, Tibet, Khotan, Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan. In Asia all roads lead from India.” Will Durant (1885-1981) American historian.

 

" This was the time of the great Indian expansion, when seafaring merchants fanned out across the Indian Ocean and brought to Southeast Asia a seething ferment of new ideas. From Burma to Indonesia, they established a chain of settlements along the coasts from which they traded for gold, precious stones, perfumes, and spices. The merchants brought with them their religion, Hinduism and Buddhism, their literary language, Sanskrit, their art and technology; and their science and mathematics." (source: Splendors of the Past: Lost Cities of the Ancient World - National Geographic Society. p.186-190).

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Last Updated (Wednesday, 31 January 2018 18:13)

 
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