Mg Mg Nyo: Indians in Burma

Mg Mg Nyo: Indians in Burma

Indians are common in Burma. I remember buying tea and Nan flat bread from the Kaka Shop in Monywa when I was little.We enjoyed Indian food at home. My father was friendly withevery one in Monywa and he had many Indian friends. I still canrecall some of their names’ like Manjit Singh, Basu, Choudhury,Prakash, Laxmi. My elder brother was fond of Indian films and he used to tell us about them like Arwada, Mother India etc andIndian stars like Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Mala Singha etc.

It was about 50 or 60 years ago and I met many Indian friends and teachers as I grow older.

(The Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon)

I remember one Biology teacher from India who taught us zoology at the premedical intermediate of science class in the Rangoon University.His name was Nair and he taught us about the Ascaris lumbriciodes (Round Worm).He began with word, “It’s a common parasite, pale yellow in colour…” But he pronounced yellow as “ellow” and then he went on, “In the year 1936…” that he pronounced as “ear nineteen tirtysix…” . We could not make outwhat he meant as we were first exposed to the South Indian pronunciation.

But later we understood what he meant and we passed the examination.Since then I have been exposed to many Indian teachers like Professor Choudhury in physiology, Mr Roy in organic chemistry, Dr K.K.Ghose and Dr Sen Gupta in anatomy and Dr Chakrabathy in histology. One Indian teacher favoured the girls and he gave the most favour to the beautiful Muriel Yi Yi Myint first. I remember his words in histology practical, “Now see the slide one by oneladies first, Muriel come!”

(The Ananda Temple in Pagan, styled after the Ajunta Cave in India)

Later on I have many Indian friends and heroes. Colonel Lakhmypathy FRCSwas a smart surgeon at the Base Military Hospital in Maymyo in the late 1950s and he used to give surgical clinics at the Branch Medical Faculty (Now University of Medicine Mandalay) every Saturday. I used to attend it often and I joined the Medical Corps to step into his shoes. Colonel Balakrisna at the BMH, Maymyo was not only my commanding officer but also acted as my parent and friend.Then, I met Professor Harry Zaw Tun who taught me all the basic for doing Ph.D. in anatomy.

(Bust of Emperor Asoka or Dhammarsoka)

In fact, no Burman can live without any Indian friend or Indian culture.U Than Aung, former minister for education and later, the Burmese ambassador to India, rightly stated that ” India and Burma are bound by the golden chains of tradition, religion and culture” as our traditional history begins with King Abhi Rajah.We say, ” Myanmar Ahsa Tagaung Ga ( Burma begins with Tagaung).” Enjoy about the Indians in Burma.

(Lions Head of the Asoka Pillars)

Pyu and India

(Plan of Beikthano or Vishnu City)

[2] Pyu, one of the three founding father of Bamar or Myanmar race was believed to be the mixture of three groups; (i) Few insignificant local inhabitants since Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, (ii) many migrants came from India bringing in Hinduism and Buddhism along with their cultures and literatures successively (iii) and the last group believed to came down from north, Tibeto-Burman group.[6]

Pyu settlement

(Excavation at Beikthano or Vishnu City)

Pyu arrived in future Burma area in the 1st century BC or earlier and established village kingdoms at: Hanlin, Kutkhaing in the north, Thanlwin coastal line in the east, Gulf of Martaban and its coast in the south, Thandwein the southern west and Yoma in the west.[7]

(Baw Baw Gyi Stupa at Sri Ksetra Near Prome or Pyi)

Pyu had built towns in: Sri Ksetra (Pyeh) 4-8AD, Maingmaw, Beikthano.Actually VISHNU from Hindi god) (Khmer troops occupied 210-225 AD),Taung Dwin Gyi 1-4 AD,, Hanlin (Wet Let) 2-9AD, (Halingyi), Tagaung (Thabeikkyin) ,Waddi (Nga Htwoe Gyi), Maingmaw (Pinlay)(Myittha) , Beinnaka (Pyaw Bwe),and Bilin township (Mon state)[7]

(Curved Wall of Sri Ksetra)

Pyu variant of the Gupta script

Pyu established ancient kingdom (and its language) found in the central and northern regions of what is now Burma. The history of the Pyu is known to us from two main historical sources: the remnants of their civilization found in stone inscriptions (some in Pali, but rendered in the Pyu script, or a Pyu variant of the Gupta script) and the brief accounts of some travellers and traders from China, preserved in the Chinese imperial history.[8] (Buddha Acceptng Alms from the Untouchable Sunita) Pyu chronicles speak of a dynastic change in A.D. 94. Sri Ksetra village was apparently abandoned around A.D. 656 it was sacked by the Nan Cho Chinese Shan in the mid-9th century, ending the Pyu’s period of dominance.

(The Myazedi Stone Inscription Containing the Pyu Writings on One Face)

(Pyu Inscriptions of the 4th Century A.D.)
Pyu language started in 5AD in Southern Rakhine. At famous Mya Zedi Pagoda stone inscriptions were written in Pyu, Mon, Bama, and Pali in 1113AD. Pyu had written records, dated from 1st century A.D. and Mon from 5th century A.D. and Bama had its own written records only in 11th century A.D.[2][8]

Beikthano (Vishnu)

Beikthano (Vishnu) at the end of 4th. AD (9Khmer troops occupied 210-225 AD.(Taung Dwin Gyi) after which the Mons moved in, giving the cities names Panthwa and Ramanna pura. Religious remains show both forms of Buddhism, Mahayanism and Hinayanism, together with Vishnu worship. There are large stone Buddhist sculptures in relief in the Gupta style, bronze statuettes of Avalokitesvara, one of the three chief Mahayanist Bodhisattvas, and so many stone sculptures of Vishnu that the city was sometimes referred to as `Vishnu City’.[9] Pyu Kings are Maharajas

(City Plan of Hanlin)

In Chinese Chronicles they recorded Pyu as `P’aio’. But Pyu Called themselves Tircul. There are records of Nan Cho and Tibet alliance in 755 AD to defeat Chinese. Nan Cho king Ko-lo-fen communicate with Pyu. Pyu Kings were called Maharajas and  Chief Ministers were called Mahasinas. Nan Cho conscripted Pyu soldiers to attack of Hanoi in 863 AD. In 832 AD Nan Cho looted Han Lin village from Pyu.[11] Pyu kings named Vishnu as in Gupta, India Inscriptions in Pyu language using a South Indian script, showed a Vikrama dynasty ruling there at least from AD 673 to 718.[9] On Pyu’s stone inscriptions, kings names with Vikrama were suffix with Vishnu. The same tradition was noticed in Gupta era India 100 BC.and in Sri Kestia, Mon in south, Thai and Cambodia. Statue of Vishnu standing on Garuda with Lakshmi standing on the lotus on left. And Brahma, Siva and Vishnu thrones were also found. Name, Varman indicated that there was influence of Pallava of India.[11] The mentioning of Varman dynasty, an Indian name, indicated

there was a neighbouring and rival city, but Old Prome is the only Pyu site so` far to be excavated in that area.[9]

(Drawing of Pyu Coins Found at Hanlin)

Indian Dravidian tribe in Panthwa

(Real Pyu Coins)

In Chinese Chronicles Chen Yi-Sein instead gives an Indian derivation for Panthwa village, as the name of a Dravidian tribe settled in Mon’s areas around the Gulf of Martaban. This group was later one of the pioneers in a `Monized’ occupation of Beikthano village, which also led to the village/city being called Ramanna-pura, linked to Mon areas of southern Myanmar (1999:77).[12] (Hanlin in Shwebo District) The Tagaung dynasty is explicitly incorporated into the story of Duttabaung’s mother and father; the lineage of the Queen of Beikthano is less consistent, but always intertwined with that of the Sri Kestra village rulers. In all of these, links are made between territorial control, royal patronage of Hindu or Buddhist sects andsupernatural events. [12]

Indian Royal family

Abi Raja

(Map of Tahuang Where the Burmese History Begins)

Some believed that Burma started from Tagaung, built by Abi Raja, a Sakian(Tha Ki Win min), Indian Royal family member, migrated from Kapilavatthu(India) after defeated by the king of Panchala (India), Vitatupa. He left theMiddle Country (India) and established the Tagaung country, known at thattime as Sangassarattha or Sangassanagara. On the death of Abi Raja, younger son Kan Raja Nge (younger King Kan) got the throne. Thirty-three kings reigned there.[15]

(Excavation Finds in Tagaung)

Kan Raja Gyi ruled Arakan

Elder brother Kan Raja Gyi (elder King Kan) went down the Ayeyarwaddy River,ascended the Thallawadi River, arrived Kelataungnyo and ruled there as Rajagaha.He ruled the ancient Arakan.[16]Kan Raja Gyi’s son MuducittaHis son Muducitta became king of the Pyus (ancestors of modern Myanmar).He founded the city of Kyauppadaung. He conquered the Dhannavati (built by king Marayu).[17] (Votives Found at Tagaung)

Bhinnaka Raja

The invading Chinese from the north destroyed Tagaung. The last king ofTagaung, Bhinnaka Raja run away and died later. His followers splitin to three divisions.[18]One division founded the nineteen Shan States at the eastern part.Muducitta, grand son of Abi Raja Another division moved down Ayeyarwady River and combined with Muducitta (second generation migrant, grand son of Indian Abi Raja) and other Sakiyan (Indian) princes, among the Pyus, Kanyans and Theks.[19]

Naga Hsein, a Sakiyan Indian

(Finding at Tagaung Points to the Iron Age)

The third group stayed in Mali with the chief queen Naga Hsein, a Sakiyan.(Indian) She was the queen of the Sakyiyan king Dhaja Raja migrated from India. On the way he founded Thintwe’. Then they founded the upper Bagan(Pagan) .[20] Dahnnavata captured Thambula, queen of Pyus. But Nanhkan (China) queen of Pyus had driven out the Kanyans, who lived in seven hill-tracks beginning Thantwe’.[21]

(Pyu Urns by Dr Than Tun)

King Dwattabaung from Indian Royal Family

King Dwattabaung, direct descendent of Abi Raja (Indian Migrant) foundedThare Khit Taya (Sri Ksetra) in 443 BC. It was said to be self destroyed in 94 AD. The history is half -mystical at that time.[22]

(Pyu Sites in Burma)


Mons or Talaings, an Ethnic Minority Group of Myanmar, migrated from theTalingana State, Madras coast of Southern India. They mixed with the new migrants of Mongol from China and driven out the above Andhra and Orissa colonists.[23]Those Mon (Talaings) brought with them the culture, arts, literature, religion and all the skills of civilisation of present Myanmar. They founded the Thaton and Bago (Pegu) Kingdoms. King Anawrahta of Bagan (Pagan) conquered that Mon Kingdom of King Manuha, named Suvannabumi (The Land of Golden Hues).[24] The conquest of Thaton in 1057 was a decisive event in Burmese history. It brought the Burman into direct contact with the Indian civilizing influences in the south and opened the way for intercourse with Buddhist centres overseas, especially Ceylon.[25] The evidence of the inscriptions, Luce[26] warns us, shows that the Buddhism of Pagan `was mixed up with Hindu Brahmanic cults, Vaisnavism in particular.[ 25]

Ah Yee Gyis

Ah Yee Gyis or Aries, notoriously powerful in Pagan or Bagan, before the Buddhist Religion arrived. Ah Yee Gyis or Aries were related to one Indian sect or religion.The Indian Aris or Ah Yees were also known for, swimming, martial arts, traditional medicine practice and the custom of sleeping with the brides on the first night of weddings. They are the last to eliminate just after formation of first Bama Empire.Bengal prince Pateik Kara Pateikkara was an Indian (Kala) prince from ancient Bengal who fall in love with Burma Bagan’s 3rd Great King Kyansittha’s daughter. King Kyansittha indirectly cause the death of his daughter, Shwe Ein Si’s lover, Prince of Pateik Kara. He used to bribe the royal guards with ten baskets of silver to see the princess. When the king heard of the secret lovers’ tryst, he forced his daughter to marry Sawyun, the son of late King Sawlu, although Sawyun was a handicapped person walking with a limp. Kyansittha preferred him rather than a Kala (Indian). [27

India and Arakan

The Arakanese chronicles claim that the Kingdom was founded in the year 2666 BC.[28] Wesali founded by Hindu Chandras “The area known as North Arakan had been for many years before the 8th century the seat of Hindu dynasties. In 788 AD a new dynasty, known as the Chandras, founded the city of Wesali. This city became a noted trade port to which as many as a thousand ships came annually; the Chandra kings were upholders of Buddhism, … their territory extended as far north as Chittagong;- — Wesali was an easterly Hindu kingdom of Bengal — Both government and people were Indian.[29] So far as Arakan is concerned, the inscriptions show traces of two early dynasties holding sway in the north. The earlier one, a Candra dynasty, seems to have been founded in the middle of the fourth century A.D. Its capital was known by the Indian name of Vaisali and it maintained close connections THE PRE-PAGAN PERIOD 9 with India. Thirteen kings of this dynasty are said to have reigned for a total period of 230 years. The second dynasty was founded in the eighth century by a ruler referred to as Sri Dharmavijaya, who was of pure Ksatriya descent. His grandson married a daughter of the Pyu king of Sri Ksetra.[30]

(Pyu Towns in Burma by Dr Than Tun)

Hindu statues and inscriptions in Wesali The ruins of old capital of Arakan – Wesali show Hindu statues and inscriptions of the 8th century AD. Although the Chandras usually held Buddhistic doctrines, there is reason to believe that Brahmanism and Buddhism flourished side by side in the capital.

Chittagong is from Tsit-ta-gung

The Arab chief was the Thuratan, in the Arakanese utterance whom the king of Arakan Tsula-Taing Tsandra (951-957 AD.), claimed to have defeatedin his invasion of Chittagong in 953 AD. In memory of his victory the Arakaneseking set up a stone trophy, in the conquered land. And ins cribed on it the Burmese word,”Tsit-ta-gung” meaning “there shall be no war”. And from this remark of the monument,according to Burmese tradition, the district took its name, Chittagong.[ 31]

Indians in Modern Day Burma

Sayadaw U Ottama was educated in India and he urged the Burmese to strivefor “home rule” in the early 1920s that led to independence movement of Burma.He was a follower of Mahatama Gandhi.Dr Nath or Yebaw Tun Maung and Goshal or Thakhin Ba Tin were Bengalis joiningthe Dohbamar Asiayone and later the Communist Party.In the post war period, Thakhin Thar Khin was one time minsire for home affairs and he was an Indian from Mogok. Ministers U Khin Maung Latt and U Raschidwere also Indians. U Raschid had his elder brother Raschid coming to Burma as the Indian ambassador to Burma.Minister U Raschid was a close friend ofBogyoke Aung San and he died in Pakistan where his son lives.Professor of Surgery Sayagyi U Khin Maung latt was a Punjabi, but he removed his beard and Punjabi paraphernalis to show his loyalty Burma.Sayagyi U Aung Nyunt from Mandalay was also an Indian.So were Professors Mohan and Ramdev.I have many Indian doctors friends like Ivan Win Pe, Terence Varma,S.C. Soni, Prakash Singh Talwar, Krishna Brajwaja, Inderjit Singh Toor etc. <!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–> <!–[endif]–> 


Burma is part of “Farther India” and its history an people are closely intertwinedto India. Both Buddhism and Hinduism contributed to the culture ofour country and many pagodas and stone inscriptions are testaments to it.In short, Indians contribute a lot to Burma.

Dr Maung Maung Nyo

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