You Are Here: Home - history - THE CORONATION OF KING DATHA-RAJA (1153-1165 A.D)

SAN SHWE BU J.B.R.S Vol. Part 2. 1917

In India Buddhism flourished in its purest form till the close of the first century A.D. during which time it had no rival faith worthy the name. That the Jains of those days formed an insignificant minority will be clearly evidenced by the fact that more than three fourths of the people named, specified objects of donation, inscriptions throughout India from Asoka to Kanishka's time are Buddhist, while the majority of the remainder are Jain. From that time onwards the Brahmans, with their numerous gods and manifold sacrifices, became increasingly powerful till, in the first half of the eighth century a furious persecution instigated by the great Brahman apostle, Kumarila Bhata, succeeded in eliminating Buddhism from the land of its birth. It cannot, therefore, be supposed that such a mighty upheaval did not in some way influence the religious thoughts and ideas of Arakan, which is India's next door neighbour.

In fact all available records clearly indicate that just about this time or a little while after it, Brahman gods and their sacrificial forms came into Arakan and along with Buddhism ___ the original religion ___ they found equal favour with the people. It so profoundly affected the Arakanese of those days that a whole dynasty of their kings adopted Hindu names. The coins they struck bore on one side the effigy of the sacred bull, Nandi, the riding animal of the god Siva.

Temples were erected in quick succession in the approved Indian style and were specially dedicated to the worship of Siva and Vishnu. The decorations, which were used in these religious structures, consisted of figures illustrating the lesser gods of the Hindu Pantheon.

When Datha-Raja ascended the throne of Arakan in the 12th century, Buddhism and Brahmanism shared equal honours and the cults of Siva and Vishnu were in high favour. Indeed, so deeply rooted were the latter faiths in his country that they affected all the ceremonials, even of a purely domestic nature. They permeated every household and influenced the individual and domestic concerns of everyday life. They interfered with marriage, which before that time, was purely a civil contract; they required a person to perform certain sacrifices before undertaking a journey; they imposed obligation on cultivators and fishermen and, in a thousand different other ways, which constituted the daily life of the people.

Nowhere in the history of Arakan is this fact so prominently brought out than in the coronation of King Datha-Raja on the full moon day of Kason 1158 A.D., which the old chroniclers have handed down to us with all the accuracy and vividness of the Dutch School. The following is a summary of what I have been able to gather from various sources, which, I trust, will enable the general reader to from a just estimate of the powerful influence of Brahmanism in Arakan from the end of the 8th to the middle of the 14th century A.D.

By the advice of the astrologers and the other Brahmans, whose specially duty was to conduct religious ceremonies, active preparations were made for the coronation of the King. From the seven different hills in the various parts of the kingdom earth was collected. A particular kind of wood was cut at a certain hour of certain day of a certain week for the erection of the pandals. On the most auspicious day of that year, i.e. the full moon day of Kason, three kinds of pandals were erected, having for their roofing a particular kind of leaves brought by the Shans of the north-east. The place selected was the right bank of the Lemro river, a parallel stream to the east of the Kaladan. The first pandal had the general appearance of a lion and was called Thi-Har-Tha-Na (oD[moe). The second resembled an elephant and was called Ga-Zar-Tha-Na (*Zmoe). The third resembled a peacock and was called Mor-Rar-Tha-Na (arm&moe). The first was decorated all in white, the second in red, and the third in blue. In the first Brahmans, in the second sailors, and the third cultivators, waited in attendance. Then the ground covered by each of the pandals was laid over with a layer of the earth brought from the seven different hills. In the first pandal, a millionaire's son clothed in yellow robes had to till the ground by means of a gold ploughshare drawn by white bulls. In the second, the son of one who belonged to the middle class and clad in red robes had to do the same by means of a silver ploughshare. The son of an agriculturist in green robes had to do likewise in the third by means of an iron ploughshare. After this, the earth was well mixed with cow's milk and dung and then grains of paddy, millet, sessamum and so forth were strewn over. The whole place was then fenced off so as to prevent the intrusion of those who were not directly concerned with the ceremonies.

When these preliminaries had been gone through, the Brahmans conveyed the images of Sarasvati, Parvati and Visnu on chariots decked out for the occasion, and placed them in the pandals amidst the chants of mantras and other incantations. Twelve other Brahmans and four Bhikkhus intoned special hymns usually employed at the ordination of Buddhist monks. At the same time, another class of Brahmans repeated appropriate slokas from the vedic texts. This ended, there was a simultaneous blowing of conches during which the structures were sprinkled with holy water.

The sacred water of the Ganges was then brought in jars of gold, and, at the most favourable conjunction of the planets, the water of the Kaladan and the Lemro rivers was conveyed by forty virgins belonging to the five highest classes of the people. Eight were princesses with gold jars; eight were daughters of Brahmans with earthen-ware jars; eight were daughters of ministers with copper jars; eight were daughters of millionaires with silver jars; and eight were daughters of middle class people with iron jars. Each class went in separate boats and were accompanied by Brahmans, ministers and representative agriculturists. Then in the midst of strains of joyous music, the boats pulled towards midstream, where the jars were filled and then the parties returned to the shore. The water conveyed by the princesses and the daughters of Brahmans was placed in the lion pandal, that brought by the daughters of ministers in the elephant pandal and the remainder in the peacock pandal. The whole route from the Royal Palace to the pandals was sprinkled with holy water and flowers by Brahmans, who chanted hymns at the same time. It was also completely roofed over all the way so as to shut out sunlight, and, on both sides, sugar cane and plantain trees were alternately planted.

At the conclusion of all these elaborate preparations, the King and Queen clad in splendid robes, glittering with the nine kinds of gems that ornamented them, proceeded on a white elephant towards the pandals, escorted by armed soldiers, Brahmans and ministers, who went both before and behind them. On arrival, they entered the lion pandal. Here, the King separating himself from the queen uttered certain formulas while humbly seated on the floor. He then bathed himself in the elephant pandal, and, in the other, he washed his head. Having performed this acts, the eight princesses clad in beautiful raiment stood before the King, and administered the first coronation oath: “Oh King, in all your conduct, be you guided by the wisdom and experience of all the wise monarchs who ruled the earth before you. Oh King, it is our fervent hope that you will not be the first to give offence to other neighbouring kings; that you will always encourage and support all the industrial and commercial enterprises of your subjects; that you will always treat your people as if they were your own children; that you will guard and protect their properties and possessions and that you will always regard their lives as dear as your own. Oh King, we wish you to discard every form of anger, malice and hatred, and to do and say only that which is right and appropriate.” Saying this, with one accord and with uplifted hands, they poured from silvery white conches studded with gems the sacred Ganges water over his head.

Eight high-class Brahmans then stepped forward and administered the second oath: “Oh King, be the defender of your faith. Strive always to make it popular and universal. Love and defend all living beings as you would own self. Protect the properties of your subjects as you would your own. In all political relations with other countries, do not be the aggressor. We implore you to discharge your kingly duties always, to listen to the advice of wise counselors and to preserve the honour of your race”. They then went through the same ceremony of pouring Ganges water over his head.

Eight men belonging to the middle class then stepped forward and administered the third oath: “Oh King, we trust you will introduce just and benign laws for the prosperity and progress of your subjects. We implore you to avoid all forms of evil and to shun the companionship of those who have no honour nor self-respect.”

At the conclusion of this ceremony, the representatives of all the different classes of people took their stand before the King, and administered the fourth and final oath: “Oh King, by virtue of the ( water pouring) ceremony, which we have just performed, we hope you will be able to carry out all our wishes in every particular. Rule us wisely and well, and never levy taxes more than the legitimate one-tenth of our incomes. Oh King, if you fulfill all our wishes and act and say all that we implore you to do, your majesty, might and power, both in the present and the future, will steadily increase, like the rising sun and the waxing moon. All the other kings will bow down before you, and own your allegiance, and all the territories over which you bear rule will be from robbers and evil-doers. There will be profound peace, prosperity and plenty, and, above all, you will enjoy a long and happy life. But if, on the other hand, you set our wishes at naught, and give rein only to your own wicked and selfish desire, without any regard for the happiness and welfare of your subjects, may there be not only a speedy disintegration of your Kingdom by the prevalence of frequent storms, earth-quakes, fires and other destructive forces of nature, by the depredation of thieves, robbers and all other agents of lawlessness, but may you yourself also have a short and miserable life, and, in the end, may you suffer unto eternity all the indescribable horrors of the nethermost hell.”

The King then, having made a solemn vow that he would conduct himself in such a way as to give satisfaction to every one of his subjects, returned with his Queen to the Royal Palace in the same imposing order as when he started from it. This concluded the whole ceremony, and the three pandals were dismantled and cast into the Lemro river in order to prevent the commission of sacrilege on them.

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