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Myanmar Temples & Pagodas


Inside Ananda Pagoda Bagan


Introduction to Myanmar

  • Myanmar also known as Burma is in Southeast Asia and is bordered by Bangladesh and Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and the Mizoram states of India in the northwest. In the north and northeast by the Tibet Autonomous Region and Chinese Yunnan province and in the southeast by Thailand and Laos. Myanmar has a total area of 678,500 square kilometres. Capital city of Myanmar is Naypyidaw and its biggest city is Yangon (Rangoon).

 



Etymology

  • The military government officially changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar in 1989.




Irrawaddy River at Sunset Myanmar


History

Prehistory

  • Archaeological evidence demonstrates that Homo erectus resided in Myanmar as early as 400,000 years back. The 1st evidence of Homo sapiens is dated to roughly 11,000 BC. Evidence of Neolithic age domestication of animals and plants dating between 10,000 and 6,000 BC has been found in the shape of cave paintings.
  • The Bronze Age arrived around 1500 BC when people in the area were domesticating pigs and poultry, growing rice and turning copper into bronze. The Iron Age started around 500 BC. Evidence also suggests the presence of rice-growing settlements between 500 BC and 200 AD which traded with their surroundings as far as China.

 

Early city-states

  • The first-known city-states developed in central Myanmar around the 2nd century BC. The Pyu culture was highly inspired by trade with India, importing Buddhism and other political, architectural and cultural concepts.
  • Many city-states had developed across the land. Between the 750s and the 830s, the balance was disturbed when the Pyu came under constant assaults from Nanzhao. The Bamar people established a small settlement at Bagan in the mid-to-late 9th century.

 

Imperial Burma

  • Gradually Pagan grew to take up its adjoining states until the 1050s–1060s when Anawrahta established the Pagan Kingdom. The Khmer Empire and the Pagan Empire were 2 main powers in Southeast Asia in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the late 12th century, the Burmese culture and language gradually became dominant eclipsing Pali, Mon and Pyu norms.
  • Theravada Buddhism gradually started to spread to the village level. Pagan's wealthy and rulers constructed more than 10,000 Buddhist temples in the Pagan capital zone. In 1287 constant Mongol assaults overthrew the four-century-old kingdom.
  • Pagan's downfall was followed by 250 years of political disintegration which continued well into the 16th century. The Kingdom of Mrauk U incorporated the Arakan coastline in 1437. In 1527, the Confederation of Shan States occupied Ava and ruled Upper Myanmar till 1555.
  • Like the Pagan Empire, Hanthawaddy, Ava and the Shan states were all multi-ethnic polities. In spite of the wars, cultural synchronisation lasted. This period was a golden age for Burmese culture. Hanthawaddy rulers introduced religious reforms which later spread to the rest of the country. During this period a number of wonderful temples of Mrauk U were constructed.

 

Taungoo and colonialism

  • As a result of the efforts of Taungoo, a former vassal state of Ava, political merger returned in the mid-16th century. Taungoo's ambitious, young king Tabinshwehti defeated the more powerful Hanthawaddy. His successor Bayinnaung conquered a huge swath of Southeast Asia including southern Arakan, Lan Xang, the Ayutthaya Kingdom, Mong Mao, Manipur, Lan Na and the Shan states. After Bayinnaung's death in 1581, the biggest empire in the history of Southeast Asia completely collapsed by 1599. Ayutthaya captured Lan Na and Tenasserim and Portuguese soldiers established Portuguese rule at Thanlyin.
  • The dynasty regrouped and restored a smaller kingdom, including upper Tenasserim, Lan Na, Shan states, Upper Myanmar and Lower Myanmar. The Restored Toungoo kings created a political and legal framework. From the 1720s onward, the kingdom was affected by a revolt in Lan Na and constant Meithei attacks into Upper Myanmar. The Mon of Lower Myanmar established the Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom in 1740. The 266-year-old Toungoo Dynasty ended when Hanthawaddy forces destroyed Ava in 1752.
  • After the fall of Ava, Alaungpaya defeated the Restored Hanthawaddy. He reunited all of Manipur and Myanmar and ejected the British and the French. By 1770, Alaungpaya's successors had controlled much of Laos and won war against Ayutthaya and against Qing China.
  • By 1770, Ayutthaya recaptured its territories and captured Lan Na by 1776. King Bodawpaya acquired Assam, Manipur and Arakan.
  • Burma lost Tenasserim, Assam, Manipur and Arakan to the British. The British seized Lower Burma in 1852. The British occupied the remainder of the country in 1885.

 

British Burma (1824–1948)

  • After 3 Anglo-Burmese Wars, the country was colonised by Britain. British rule brought administrative, cultural, economic and social changes.
  • Throughout the colonial period, a number of Indian traders, construction workers, civil servants and soldiers arrived. Rangoon became the capital of British Burma.
  • Burma was ruined during World War II. By March 1942, Japanese troops entered Rangoon and the British administration collapsed. In August 1942, Japanese established Administration headed by Ba Maw. In late 1944, allied troops defeated Japanese.

 

Independence

  • Burma achieved independence on 4 January 1948. Sao Shwe Thaik was its first President and U Nu was its first Prime Minister.

 




Monks Monastery Nyan Shwe Kgua Inle Myanmar


Society

Demographics

  • According to the country's 2014 census, its population is 51,419,420. There are more than 600,000 registered workers from Myanmar in Thailand, and millions more work unlawfully. About 80% of Thailand's migrant workers are Burmese. Population density in Myanmar is 76 per square kilometre which is among the lowest in Southeast Asia.
  • As of 2011, Myanmar's fertility rate was 2.23. The fertility rate was 4.7 children per woman in 1983 and 2.4 in 2001, in spite of the absence of any national population policy. In urban areas the fertility rate is much lower. In Myanmar, the average age of marriage is 26.4 for women and 27.5 for men.

Largest cities

Myanmar's largest cities are:

  1. Yangon
  2. Mandalay
  3. Naypyidaw
  4. Bago
  5. Hpa-An
  6. Taunggyi
  7. Monywa
  8. Myitkyina
  9. Mawlamyine
  10. Magway

  Religion

  • Myanmar is a multi-religious country. There isn’t any official state religion, but the government prefers Theravada Buddhism, the majority religion which is practiced by 89% of the population. Once Burma's Jews numbered in the thousands. But most of the Jews left Myanmar at the start of the Second World War.

Buddhism in Myanmar

  • Buddhism in Myanmar is practised by 89% of the country's population. It is the most religious Buddhist country in terms of income spent on religion and the proportion of monks in the population. Monks are venerated members of Burmese society.

Christianity in Myanmar

  • In Myanmar Christianity is practiced by 4% of the population. About four-fifths of the country’s Christians are Protestants.

Hinduism in Myanmar

  • In Myanmar, Hinduism is practiced by about 840,000 people. Most Hindus in Myanmar are Burmese Indians.
  • During ancient times Buddhism, along with Hinduism arrived in Burma. The migration of Buddhism and Hinduism into Myanmar took place gradually through Manipur and by South Asian seaborne traders. In pre-colonial times Hinduism greatly influenced the royal court of Burmese kings as seen in the structural design of cities like Bagan. More than a million Hindu workers were brought in by British colonial government in 19th and 20th century in order to serve in mines and plantations. Between 1963 and 1967 Burmese government expelled 300,000 Indian Hindus and Buddhists and 100,000 Chinese.

Islam in Burma

  • In Myanmar Islam is practiced by about 4% of the population. Muslims are divided amongst Panthays, Arabs, Persians, Indo-Burmese, Indians and the Chinese Hui people.
  • Muslims are spread across the country. The Indian-descended Muslims reside mainly in Rangoon.