Alaungsithu

Alaungsithu
အလောင်းစည်သူ
Sithu I
Min Sithu Nat.jpg
Portrayed as Min Sithu nat (spirit)
King of Burma
Reign c. 1112 – 1167
Predecessor Kyansittha
Successor Narathu
Consort Yadanabon
Tri Lawka Sanda
Yazakumari
Taung Pyinthe
Issue
Min Shin Saw
Narathu
Htaukhlayga
Taungpha
Shwe Kyu
Chit Oo
Kyaungdaw
Full name
Jayyasura Cansu I
House Pagan
Father Sawyun
Mother Shwe Einthi
Born 13 December 1089
Thursday, 8th waxing of Pyatho 451 ME
Pagan
Died 1167 (aged 77)
529 ME[1]
Pagan
Religion Theravada Buddhism

Alaungsithu or Sithu I (Burmese: အလောင်းစည်သူ [ʔəláʊɴ sìθù]; also Cansu I; 1089–1167) was king of Pagan Dynasty of Burma (Myanmar) from c. 1112 to 1167. Sithu's reign was a prosperous one in which Pagan was an integral part of in-land and maritime trading networks. Sithu engaged in a massive building campaign throughout the kingdom, which included colonies, forts and outposts at strategic locations to strengthen the frontiers, ordination halls and pagodas for the support of religion, as well as reservoirs, dams and other land improvements to assist the farmers. He also introduced standardized weights and measures throughout the country to assist administration as well as trade. He presided over the beginning of a transition away from the Mon culture toward the expression of a distinctive Burman style.

Sithu is remembered a peripatetic king who traveled extensively throughout his realm, built monuments and nurtured Theravada Buddhism with acts of piety.

Early life

Sithu was born Zeyathura Sithu (Burmese: ဇေယျ သူရ စည်သူ, Pali: Jayyasura Cansu)[2] to Sawyun (son of King Sawlu) and Shwe Einthi (daughter of King Kyansittha) on 13 December 1089.[note 1] The chronicles do not agree on the dates regarding his life and reign. The table below lists the dates given by the four main chronicles.[3]

Chronicles Birth–Death Age Reign Length of reign
Zatadawbon Yazawin 1093–1167 73 1111–1167 56
Maha Yazawin 1074–1158 84 1088–1158 70
Yazawin Thit 1079–1168 89 1093–1168 75
Hmannan Yazawin 1067–1167 100 1092–1167 75

At Sithu's birth, Kyansittha, who thought that he had no son, was so delighted that he crowned the infant as king, and presented the baby to the people saying "Behold your king! Henceforth, I reign only as his regent."[4] (It turned out that Kyansittha did have a son by a wife during one of his exiles in the 1070s. That son, Yazakumar, made no claims of the throne.)

Accession

Sithu faced no opposition to the throne after his grandfather died c. 1112/1113. His coronation was presided by an aging Primate Shin Arahan who also presided the coronations of the two predecessor kings, and adviser to three previous kings.[5] Upon ascending the throne, Sithu assumed the royal style Sri Tribhuwanaditya Pavarapandita Sudhammaraja Mahadhipati Narapatisithu.[6]

Reign

Administration

The early part of Sithu's reign was spent repressing revolts, especially in Tenasserim and north Arakan. A Pali inscription found at Mergui (Myeik) is evidence that Tenasserim then paid allegiance to the Pagan monarchy. In north Arakan, a usurper (Kahton, lord of Thets)[7] had driven out the rightful heir, who fled to Pagan, where he subsequently died. Pagan's initial attempt to restore the rightful heir Letya Min Nan—a combined land and seaborne invasion—failed but the second attempt in 1118 succeeded. (The Arakanese chronicles report the date as 1103.) Letya Min Nan, in gratitude, repaired the Buddhagaya shrine in the honor of his overlord Sithu.[8][9]

Sithu traveled far and wide throughout his dominions, building many works of merit. These pious pilgrimages form the main theme of the chronicles of his reign. He reportedly sailed as far south as Malaya and Bengal in the west. Like his great-grandfather Anawrahta, he also traveled to Nanzhao Kingdom.[10] There was apparently much disorder during his long absences from the capital.[8]

The rulings given at his court, some of which by himself, once existed in a collection, the Alaungsithu Hpyatton.[10]

Economy

Sithu's reign was a prosperous one in which Pagan was an integral part of in-land and maritime trading networks. Sithu engaged in a massive building campaign throughout the kingdom, which included colonies, forts and outposts at strategic locations to strengthen the frontiers, ordination halls and pagodas for the support of religion, as well as reservoirs, dams and other land improvements to assist the farmers. He also introduced standardized weights and measures throughout the country to assist administration as well as trade. The standardization provided an impetus for the monetization of Pagan's economy, the full impact of which however would not be felt until later in the 12th century.[11]

Culture

Thatbyinnyu Temple, the tallest in Pagan (Bagan)

The wealth funded the temple building boom that began in his grandfather's reign. However, a noticeable shift from the Mon architecture to a Burman-style architecture began. The temples built during his reign include the last examples of Mon architecture at Pagan as well as the earliest efforts to construct Burman-style temples, the most famous example of which is the Thatbyinnyu.[12] Consecrated in 1144, the temple stands about 500 yards from the Ananda Temple, and with its spire rising to a height of over 200 feet (61 m), it is the tallest of all the Pagan monuments.[8] He also built the Shwegugyi Temple, next to the palace.

Fall out with Min Shin Saw

His eldest son Min Shin Saw was the heir-apparent for most of Sithu's reign. In the 1060s, the king banished Min Shin Saw for the latter's ill treatment of people. Having sent Min Shin Saw a small town about 90 miles north of Pagan, Sithu then appointed the second son Narathu as heir apparent.[13]

Death

Shwegugyi Temple where Sithu was assassinated

In 1167, Sithu fell ill. Narathu, who could not wait to be king, moved the king from the palace to the nearby Shwegugyi Temple. When he regained consciousness, Sithu was furious that he had been set aside. Narathu came in and smothered the king with bedclothes.[8][14]

Sithu is posthumously remembered in Burmese history as Alaungsithu (lit. Sithu the Maitreya Buddha) for his numerous pious deeds. The devout Buddhist king was also inducted into the pantheon of Burmese animist nats as Min Sithu. (All but one of the nat sprits in the pantheon were murdered.)

Notes

  1. ^ (Than Tun 1964: 124): According to the chronicles, Sithu I was born two years after Kyansittha's accession, but a contemporary inscription (inscribed in 1115 CE) says the king was born in 451 ME (1089/1090 CE). Zatadawbon Yazawin (Zata 1960: 65) says he was born on 8th day of 10th month of 455 ME. But 455 ME is a typo since the numbers 1 () and 5 () in Burmese are similar. It should be year 451 as corroborated by the inscription.

References

  1. ^ Zata 1960: 40
  2. ^ Cœdès 1966: 114
  3. ^ Maha Yazawin Vol. 1 2006: 348
  4. ^ Harvey 1925: 39
  5. ^ Harvey 1925: 44
  6. ^ Taw, Blagden 1911: 216
  7. ^ Kyaw Thet 1962: 67
  8. ^ a b c d Hall 1960: 21–22
  9. ^ Harvey 1925: 46
  10. ^ a b Harvey, pp. 48-49
  11. ^ Wicks 1992: 130–131
  12. ^ Tarling 1999: 166
  13. ^ Pe Maung Tin, Luce 1960: 126–127
  14. ^ Harvey 1925: 50

Bibliography

Alaungsithu
Born: 13 December 1089 Died: c. January 1168
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Kyansittha
King of Burma
1112/1113–1168
Succeeded by
Narathu
Royal titles
Preceded by
Sawlu
Heir to the Burmese Throne
1089–1112/1113
Succeeded by
Min Shin Saw