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The Konbaung dynasty ( my, ကုန်းဘောင်ခေတ်, ), also known as Third Burmese Empire (တတိယမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်) and formerly known as the Alompra dynasty (အလောင်းဘုရားမင်းဆက်, Alaungphra dynasty) and the Hunter dynasty (မုဆိုးမင်းဆက်, Mokso dynasty), was the last dynasty that ruled
Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos a ...

Burma
/
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
from 1752 to 1885. It created the second-largest empire in
Burmese history The history of Myanmar (also known as Burma; my, မြန်မာ့သမိုင်း) covers the period from the time of first-known human settlements 13,000 years ago to the present day. The earliest inhabitants of recorded history were ...
and continued the administrative reforms begun by the
Toungoo dynasty , conventional_long_name = Toungoo dynasty , common_name = Taungoo dynasty , era = , status = Empire , event_start = Independence from Ava Kingdom, Ava , year_sta ...
, laying the foundations of the modern state of Burma. The reforms, however, proved insufficient to stem the advance of the
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
, who defeated the Burmese in all three
Anglo-Burmese wars The Anglo-Burmese Wars were a clash between two expanding empires, the British Empire against the Konbaung Dynasty The Konbaung dynasty ( my, ကုန်းဘောင်ခေတ်, ), also known as Third Burmese Empire and formerly know ...
over a six-decade span (1824–1885) and ended the millennium-old Burmese monarchy in 1885. An expansionist dynasty, the Konbaung kings waged campaigns against
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...
,
Arakan File:Muhghazi.jpg, Coinage with an Arabic language, Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century Arakan ( or ) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcont ...
,
Assam Assam (, ) is a state in Northeast India, northeastern India, south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra Valley, Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. Assam covers an area of . The state is bordered by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to ...

Assam
, the Mon kingdom of
Pegu Bago (formerly spelt Pegu; , ), formerly known as Hanthawaddy, is a city and the capital of the Bago Region in Myanmar Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, i ...
, and the Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, and the
Qing Dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
of China – thus establishing the . Subject to later wars and treaties with the British, the modern state of
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
can trace its current borders to these events. Throughout the Konbaung dynasty, the
capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowercase (or more formally ''minusc ...
was relocated several times for religious, political, and strategic reasons.


History


Establishment

The dynasty was founded by a village chief, who later became known as
Alaungpaya Alaungpaya ( my, အလောင်းဘုရား, ; also spelled Alaunghpaya or Alaung Phra; 11 May 1760) was the founder of the Konbaung Dynasty of Myanmar, Burma (Myanmar). By the time of his death from illness during his Burmese–Siamese ...

Alaungpaya
, in 1752 to challenge the
Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom The Restored Hanthawaddy Kingdom ( my, ဟံသာဝတီ နေပြည်တော်) was the kingdom that ruled Lower Burma Lower Burma in pink, as opposed to Upper Burma in orange. Lower Burma ( my, အောက်မြန်မာ ...
which had just toppled the Taungoo dynasty. By 1759, Alaungpaya's forces had reunited all of Burma (and
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
) and driven out the French and the British who had provided arms to Hanthawaddy. Alaungpaya's second son,
Hsinbyushin Hsinbyushin ( my, ဆင်ဖြူရှင်, , ; th, พระเจ้ามังระ; 12 September 1736 – 10 June 1776) was king of the Konbaung dynasty of Burma Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ...
, came to the throne after a short reign by his elder brother,
Naungdawgyi Dabayin Min ( my, ဒီပဲယင်းမင်), commonly known as Naungdawgyi ( my, နောင်တော်ကြီး ; 10 August 1734 – 28 November 1763) was the second king of Konbaung Dynasty of Burma (Myanmar), from 1760 to 1763. ...
(1760–1763). He continued his father's expansionist policy and finally took Ayutthaya in 1767, after seven years of fighting.


Reforms

Realising the need to modernise, the Konbaung rulers tried to enact various reforms with limited success. King Mindon with his able brother Crown Prince
Kanaung Kanaung is a town in the Ayeyarwady Division of south-west Myanmar. It is the seat of the Myanaung Township in the Hinthada District. Populated places in Ayeyarwady Region Township capitals of Myanmar {{Ayeyarwady-geo-stub ...
established state-owned factories to produce modern
weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defe ...
ry and
goods In economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant ...
; in the end, these factories proved more costly than effective in staving off foreign invasion and conquest. Mindon also tried to reduce the tax burden by lowering the heavy
income tax An income tax is a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelate ...
and created a
property tax A property tax or millage rate is an ad valorem tax An ''ad valorem'' tax (Latin language, Latin for "according to value") is a tax whose amount is based on the value of a transaction or of property. It is typically imposed at the time of a ...
, as well as
duties A duty (from "due" meaning "that which is owing"; fro, deu, did, past participle of ''devoir''; la, debere, debitum, whence "debt Debt is an obligation that requires one party, the debtor, to pay money or other agreed-upon value to anot ...
on foreign exports. These policies had the reverse effect of increasing the tax burden, as the local elites used the opportunity to enact new taxes without lowering the old ones; they were able to do so as control from the centre was weak. In addition, the duties on foreign exports stifled the burgeoning trade and commerce. Konbaung kings extended administrative reforms begun in the Restored Toungoo dynasty period (1599–1752), and achieved unprecedented levels of internal control and external expansion. They tightened control in the lowlands and reduced the hereditary privileges of
Shan Shan may refer to: People *Shan (surname), or 单 in Chinese, a Chinese surname *Shan, a variant of the Welsh given name usually spelled Siân *Occasionally used as a short form of Shannen/Shannon (given name), Shannon Ethnic groups *Shan people ...
chiefs Chief may refer to: Title or rank Military and law enforcement * Chief master sergeant, is the ninth, and highest, enlisted rank in the U.S. Air Force, * Chief of police, the head of a police department * Chief of the boat, the senior enlis ...
. They also instituted commercial reforms that increased government income and rendered it more predictable. Money economy continued to gain ground. In 1857, the crown inaugurated a full-fledged system of cash taxes and salaries, assisted by the country's first standardised silver coinage. Nonetheless, the extent and pace of reforms were uneven and ultimately proved insufficient to stem the advance of British colonialism.


Relations with Siam

In 1760, Burma began a series of wars with
Siam ) , royal_anthem = '' Sansoen Phra Barami''( en, "Glorify His prestige") , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Bangkok Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai language, ...
that would last well into the middle of the 19th century. By 1770, Alaungpaya's heirs had temporarily defeated Siam (1765–1767), subdued much of
Laos , national_anthem = "Pheng Xat Lao "Pheng Sat Lāo" () is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that officially symbolizes a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often r ...

Laos
(1765) and defeated four invasions by
Qing China The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pre ...
(1765–1769). With the Burmese preoccupied for another two decades by another impending invasion by the Chinese, the Siamese recovered their territories by 1770, and went on to capture Lan Na by 1776. Burma and Siam went to war until
1855 Events January–March * January 1 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in leap years). This day is known as New Year's Day s ...
but after decades of war, the two countries exchanged Tenasserim (to Burma) and Lan Na (to Siam).


Relations with China

In the defence of its realm, the dynasty fought four wars successfully against the Qing dynasty of China which saw the threat of the expansion of Burmese power in the East. In 1770, despite his victory over the Chinese armies, King Hsinbyushin sued for peace with China and concluded a treaty to maintain bilateral trade with the Middle Kingdom which was very important for the dynasty at that time. The Qing dynasty then opened up its markets and restored trading with Burma in 1788 after reconciliation. Thenceforth peaceful and friendly relations prevailed between China and Burma for a long time.


Relation with Vietnam

In 1823, Burmese emissaries led by George Gibson, who was the son of an English mercenary, arrived in the Vietnamese capital of
Saigon Ho Chi Minh City ( vi, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh; or ), commonly and formerly officially known as Saigon ( vi, Sài Gòn; or ), is the largest city in , situated in the . In the southeastern region, the city surrounds the and covers about . P ...

Saigon
. The Burmese king
Bagyidaw Bagyidaw ( my, ဘကြီးတော်, ; also known as Sagaing Min, ; 23 July 1784 – 15 October 1846) was the seventh king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg">Aztec King ...
was very keen to conquer
Siam ) , royal_anthem = '' Sansoen Phra Barami''( en, "Glorify His prestige") , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Bangkok Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai language, ...

Siam
and hoped Vietnam might be a useful ally. Vietnam had then just annexed Cambodia. The Vietnamese emperor was
Minh Mạng Minh Mạng (, vi-hantu, wikt:明, 明wikt:命, 命, lit. "the bright Mandate of Heaven, favour of Heaven"; 25 May 1791 – 20 January 1841; born Nguyễn Phúc Đảm, also known as Nguyễn Phúc Kiểu) was the second List of monarchs of ...
, who had just taken the throne after the death of his father, the founder of the
Nguyen dynasty Nguyễn is the most common Vietnamese family name. Outside of Vietnam, the surname is commonly rendered without diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter or bas ...
Gia Long Gia Long (; 8 February 1762 – 3 February 1820), born Nguyễn Phúc Ánh or Nguyễn Ánh, was the first Emperor of the Nguyễn dynasty of Vietnam. Unifying what is now modern Vietnam in 1802, he founded the Nguyễn dynasty, the last of the ...
. A commercial delegation from Vietnam has recently been in Burma, eager to expand the trade in birds nests ''(tổ yến)''. Bagyidaw's interest in sending a return mission however was to secure a military alliance.


Relations with the British and downfall

Faced with a powerful China and a resurgent Siam in the east,
Bodawpaya Bodawpaya ( my, ဘိုးတော်ဘုရား, ; th, ปดุง; 11 March 1745 – 5 June 1819) was the sixth king of the Konbaung Dynasty The Konbaung dynasty ( my, ကုန်းဘောင်ခေတ်, ), also known as ...
acquired western kingdoms of
Arakan File:Muhghazi.jpg, Coinage with an Arabic language, Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century Arakan ( or ) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcont ...
(1784),
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
(1814) and
Assam Assam (, ) is a state in Northeast India, northeastern India, south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra Valley, Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. Assam covers an area of . The state is bordered by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to ...

Assam
(1817), leading to a long ill-defined border with
British India The Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India and still earlier, Presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance in the Indian subcontinent. Collectively, they have been called British India. In one ...

British India
.
Europeans Europeans are the focus of European ethnology, the field of anthropology related to the various indigenous groups that reside in the List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Europe, nations of Europe. Groups may be defined by commo ...
began to set up trading posts in the
Irrawaddy delta 200px, Portions of the low-lying delta, were destroyed by Cyclone Nargis The Irrawaddy Delta or Ayeyarwady Delta lies in the Irrawaddy Division, the lowest expanse of land in Myanmar Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ...
region during this period. Konbaung tried to maintain its independence by balancing between the French and the
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
. In the end it failed, the British severed diplomatic relations in 1811, and the dynasty fought and lost three wars against the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
, culminating in total annexation of Burma by the British. The British defeated the Burmese in the
First Anglo-Burmese War The First Anglo-Burmese War ( my, ပထမ အင်္ဂလိပ် မြန်မာ စစ်; ; 5 March 1824 – 24 February 1826), also known as the First Burma War, was the first of three wars fought between the British British ma ...
(1824–1826) after huge losses on both sides, both in terms of manpower and financial assets. Burma had to cede Arakan, Manipur, Assam and Tenasserim, and pay a large indemnity of one million
pounds Pound or Pounds may refer to: Units * Pound (currency), a unit of currency * Pound sterling, the official currency of the United Kingdom * Pound (mass), a unit of mass * Pound (force), a unit of force * Rail pound, in rail profile Symbols * Po ...
. In 1837, King
Bagyidaw Bagyidaw ( my, ဘကြီးတော်, ; also known as Sagaing Min, ; 23 July 1784 – 15 October 1846) was the seventh king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg">Aztec King ...
's brother, Tharrawaddy, seized the throne, put Bagyidaw under house arrest and executed the chief queen Me Nu and her brother. Tharrawaddy made no attempt to improve relations with Britain. His son
Pagan Paganism (from classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, includ ...
, who became king in 1846, executed thousands – some sources say as many as 6,000 – of his wealthier and more influential subjects on trumped-up charges. During his reign, relations with the British became increasingly strained. In 1852, the
Second Anglo-Burmese War The Second Anglo-Burmese War or the Second Burma War ( my, ဒုတိယ အင်္ဂလိပ် မြန်မာ စစ် ; 5 April 185220 January 1853) was the second of the three wars fought between the Burmese Empire and British Empi ...
broke out. Pagan was succeeded by his younger brother, the progressive Mindon. Mindon attempted to bring Burma into greater contact with the outside world, and hosted the Fifth Great Buddhist Synod in 1872 at
Mandalay Mandalay ( or ; ) is the second-largest city in Myanmar, after Yangon. Located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, north of Yangon, the city has a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census). Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min, ...

Mandalay
, gaining the respect of the British and the admiration of his own people. Mindon avoided annexation in 1875 by ceding the
Karenni States 260px, Territories claimed by Thailand in the Shan and Karenni States during World War II and ''Saharat Thai Doem'' northern province.">Saharat_Thai_Doem.html" ;"title="World War II and ''Saharat Thai Doem">World War II and ''Saharat Thai Doem' ...
. He died before he could name a successor, and
Thibaw
Thibaw
, a lesser prince, was manoeuvred onto the throne by Hsinbyumashin, one of Mindon's queens, together with her daughter,
Supayalat Supayalat ( my, စုဖုရားလတ်, ; 13 December 1859 – 24 November 1925), also spelt Suphayalat, was the last queen of Burma who reigned in Mandalay (1878–1885), born to King Mindon Min and Queen of Alenandaw (literally Middle Pal ...
. (
Rudyard Kipling Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( ; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)''The Times ''The Times'' is a British daily Daily or The Daily may refer to: Journalism * Daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical pub ...

Rudyard Kipling
mentions her as Thibaw's queen, and borrows her name, in his poem "
Mandalay Mandalay ( or ; ) is the second-largest city in Myanmar, after Yangon. Located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, north of Yangon, the city has a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census). Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min, ...
") The new
King Thibaw Thibaw Min, also Thebaw or Theebaw ( my, သီပေါ‌မင်း, ; 1 January 1859 – 19 December 1916) was the last king of the Konbaung Dynasty of Myanmar (Myanmar) and also the last Burmese sovereign in the History of Burma, countr ...

King Thibaw
proceeded, under Supayalat's direction, to massacre all likely contenders to the throne. This massacre was conducted by the queen. The dynasty came to an end in 1885 with the forced abdication and exile of the king and the royal family to India. The British, alarmed by the consolidation of
French Indochina French Indochina (previously spelled as French Indo-China; french: Indochine française; vi, Đông Dương thuộc Pháp, , lit. 'East Ocean under French Control; km, សហភាពឥណ្ឌូចិន), officially known as the Indochi ...
, annexed the remainder of the country in the
Third Anglo-Burmese War The Third Anglo-Burmese War ( my, တတိယ အင်္ဂလိပ် – မြန်မာစစ်, Tatiya Anggalip–Mran cac), also known as the Third Burma War, was a conflict that took place during 7–29 November 1885, with sporad ...
in 1885. The annexation was announced in the British parliament as a New Year gift to
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of En ...

Queen Victoria
on 1 January 1886. Although the dynasty had conquered vast tracts of territory, its direct power was limited to its capital and the fertile plains of the Irrawaddy river valley. The Konbaung rulers enacted harsh levies and had a difficult time fighting internal rebellions. At various times, the
Shan Shan may refer to: People *Shan (surname), or 单 in Chinese, a Chinese surname *Shan, a variant of the Welsh given name usually spelled Siân *Occasionally used as a short form of Shannen/Shannon (given name), Shannon Ethnic groups *Shan people ...
states paid tribute to the Konbaung dynasty, but unlike the Mon lands, were never directly controlled by the Burmese.


Government

The Konbaung dynasty was an
absolute monarchy Absolute monarchy (or absolutism as doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme autocracy, autocratic authority, principally not being restricted by written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monar ...
. As in the rest of Southeast Asia, the traditional concept of kingship aspired to the ''
Chakravartin In Indian religions, a ''chakravarti'' (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branc ...
'' (Universal Monarchs) creating their own ''
mandala A mandala ( sa, मण्डल, maṇḍala, circle, ) is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for e ...
'' or field of power within the ''
Jambudipa
Jambudipa
'' universe, along with the possession of the white elephant which allowed them to assume the title ''Hsinbyushin'' or ''Hsinbyumyashin'' (Lord of the White Elephants), played a significant role in their endeavours. Of more earthly importance was the historical threat of periodic raids and aiding of internal rebellions as well as invasion and imposition of overlordship from the neighbouring kingdoms of the Mon, Tai Shans and Manipuris.


Administrative divisions

The kingdom was divided into provinces called ''myo'' (). These provinces were administered by ''Myosa'' (), who were members of the royal family or the highest-ranking officials of the Hluttaw. They collected revenue for the royal government, payable to the Shwedaik (Royal Treasury) in fixed instalments and retained whatever was left over. Each ''myo'' was subdivided into districts called ''taik'' (), which contained collections of villages called ''ywa'' (). The kingdom's peripheral coastal provinces (
Pegu Bago (formerly spelt Pegu; , ), formerly known as Hanthawaddy, is a city and the capital of the Bago Region in Myanmar Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, i ...

Pegu
, Tenasserim,
Martaban Mottama ( my, မုတ္တမမြို့, ; mnw, မိုဟ် တၟံ, ; formerly Martaban) is a small town in the Thaton district of Mon State, Myanmar. Located on the west bank of the Salween river, Thanlwin river (Salween), on the ...
and
Arakan File:Muhghazi.jpg, Coinage with an Arabic language, Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century Arakan ( or ) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcont ...
) were administered by a Viceroy called a ''Myowun'', who was appointed by the king and possessed civil, judicial, fiscal and military powers. Provincial councils (''myoyon'') consisted of ''myo saye'' (town scribes), ''nakhandaw'' (receivers of royal orders), ''sitke'' (chiefs of war), ''htaunghmu'' (jailer), ''ayatgaung'' (head of the quarter), and ''dagahmu'' (warden of the gates). Each province was divided into districts called ''myo'', each led by a ''myo ok'' (if appointed), or by a ''myo thugyi'' (if the office was hereditary). The Viceroy of Pegu was assisted by several additional officials, including an ''akhunwun'' (revenue officer), ''akaukwun'' (customs collector), and a ''yewun'' (conservator of port). The outlying tributary
fiefdom A fief (; la, feudum) was the central element of feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the hist ...
s on the edges of the kingdom were autonomous in practice and nominally administered by the king. These included the Tai-speaking (what became the
Shan States The Shan States (1885–1948) were a collection of minor Shan people, Shan kingdoms called ''mueang, muang'' whose rulers bore the title ''saopha'' in British Burma. They were analogous to the princely states of British Raj, British India. ...
during British rule), Palaung,
KachinKachin or Kakhyen may refer to: *Kachin State, in northern Myanmar/Burma * Kachin Hills, northeastern Myanmar *Kachin peoples, a generalised term for six non-Burman ethno-linguistic groups in Kachin State. **Jingpo people, Kachin people, including th ...
and
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
i kingdoms. The tributary princes of these fiefdoms regularly pledged allegiance and offered tribute to the Konbaung kings (through rituals called '' gadaw pwedaw'') and were accorded with royal privileges and designated ''
sawbwa Chao-Pha (; Tai Ahom: 𑜋𑜧𑜨 𑜇𑜡, th, เจ้าฟ้า}, shn, ၸဝ်ႈၾႃႉ, my, စော်ဘွား, ) was a royal title used by the hereditary rulers of the Tai peoples Tai people refers to the population of de ...
'' (from Shan saopha, 'lord of the sky') In particular, the families of Shan ''sawbwa''s regularly intermarried into Burmese aristocracy and had close contact with the Konbaung court.


Royal agencies

The government was centrally administered by several advisory royal agencies, following a pattern established during the Taungoo dynasty. The
Hluttaw The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw ( my, ပြည်ထောင်စု လွှတ်တော် lit. Assembly of the Union) is the ''de jure'' national-level bicameral Bicameralism is the practice of having a legislature divided into two separ ...
(, lit. "place of royal release," c.f. Council of State) held legislative, ministerial and judicial functions, administering the royal government as delegated by the king. Sessions at the Hluttaw were held for 6 hours daily, from 6 to 9 am, and from noon to 3 pm. Listed by rank, the Hluttaw was composed of: * Head of the Council – the king, his heir apparent, or a high-ranking prince who presided over the Hluttaw as its nominal head. * ''Wunshindaw'' (, Prime Minister) – served as the Chief Minister of the Hluttaw, an office established during the reign of
Mindon Min Mindon Min ( my, မင်းတုန်းမင်း, ; 1808 – 1878), born Maung Lwin, was the penultimate King of Burma This is a list of the monarchs of Burma (Myanmar), covering the monarchs of all the major kingdoms that existed ...
and most notably served by the
Kinwun Mingyi U Kaung Kinwun Mingyi U Kaung Order of the Star of India, C.S.I. ( my, ကင်းဝန်မင်းကြီး ဦးကောင်း, also spelt U Gaung; 3 February 1822 – 30 June 1908) was a chief minister during the reigns of Mindon Min, King M ...
* Four ''Wungyi'' () – jointly administered the Hluttaw's administrative portfolio and shared joint responsibility for the kingdom's administration. ** Four ''Wundauk'' () – served as deputies to the ''Wungyi'' * ''Myinzugyi Wun'' (, lit. "Minister of the Cavalry Regiments") – as the highest regular army position, oversaw the
Tatmadaw The Tatmadaw (, , ) is the official name of the armed forces of Myanmar Myanmar (; my, မြန်မာ ) or Burma ( my, ဗမာ ), officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia. Myanmar is ...
. * ''Athi Wun'' (, lit. "Minister of the ''Athi''") – responsible for allocating
corvée Corvée () is a form of unpaid, forced labour Unfree labour, or forced labour, is any work relation, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of destitution, detention, ...

corvée
labour resources and mobilisation of taxpaying commoners, called ''athi'', during wartime The '' Byedaik'' (, lit. "Bachelor Chambers," with ''Bye'' stemming from Mon ''blai'' , "bachelor") served as the
Privy Council A privy council is a body that advises the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 "he head of state He or HE may refer to: ...
by handling the court's internal affairs and also served as an interlocutor between the king and other royal agencies. The Byedaik consisted of: * Eight ''Atwinwun'' (, c.f. 'Ministers of the Interior')- communicated business affairs of the Hluttaw to the king, administered internal transactions of general affairs relating to the royal court. * ''Thandawzin'' (, "Heralds") – performed secretarial duties and attended king's audiences to note king's orders and forward them to Hluttaw for inscription. * ''Simihtunhmu'' (, lit. "Lamp Lighters") – kept a list of all persons sleeping in the palace * ''Hteindeinyanhmu'' (, "caretakers of royal appointments") – performed menial tasks such as maintaining the palace furniture, draperies and other appointments The ''Shwedaik'' () was the Royal Treasury, and as such, served as the repository of the state's precious metals and treasures. Moreover, the Shwedaik retained the state's archives and maintained various records, including detailed genealogies of hereditary officials and census reports. The Shwedaik was composed of: * ''Shwedaik Wun'' () –
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and the chief executive officer of HM Treasury, Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Grea ...
* ''Shwedaik Saw'' () – Governor of the Treasury * ''Shwedaik Kyat'' () – Superintendent * ''Shwedaik Saye'' () – Clerk of the Treasury * ''Shwedaik Thawkaing'' () – Keeper of the Treasury Key


Royal service

Each royal agency included a large retinue of middle and low level officials responsible for day-to-day affairs. These included the: * ''Nakhandaw'' () – charged with conveying communications to and from the King and Hluttaw. Also served as intermediary between royal agencies and between king and ministers. Collected, sorted, interpreted reports, read proclamations at official gatherings, transmitted orders to provincial councils. * ''Sayedawgyi'' (; great chief clerks) – performed executive level work and preliminary investigations for trials ** ''Saye'' (; clerks) * ''Ameindawgyi'' (; writers of great orders) – prepared and issued royal orders after necessary preliminary steps had been taken. * ''Athonsaye'' (; clerks of works) – oversaw construction and repairs of all public buildings * ''Ahmadawye'' (; recorders of orders) – drafted orders and letters to be issued by Hluttaw * ''Awayyauk'' (; distant arrivals) – received and read letters coming from distance before submission to ministers * ''Thandawgan'' () – ceremonial officers who received letters on behalf of the king and 3 classes of ceremonial officers: # ''Letsaungsaye'' (clerks of presents) – read lists of offerings made to the King at royal functions # ''Yonzaw'' (master of ceremonies) – arranged royal functions and audiences of the King # ''Thissadawge'' (recorders of great oaths) – administered oaths of fealty to those entering the royal service


Royal court

Konbaung society was centred on the king, who took many wives and fathered numerous children, creating a huge extended royal family which formed the power base of the dynasty and competed over influence at the royal court. It also posed problems of succession at the same time often resulting in royal massacres. The ''Lawka Byuha Kyan'' (), also known as the ''Inyon Sadan'' (), is the earliest extant work on Burmese court protocols and customs. The work was written by the Inyon Wungyi Thiri Uzana, also known as the Inyon Ywaza, during the reign of
Alaungpaya Alaungpaya ( my, အလောင်းဘုရား, ; also spelled Alaunghpaya or Alaung Phra; 11 May 1760) was the founder of the Konbaung Dynasty of Myanmar, Burma (Myanmar). By the time of his death from illness during his Burmese–Siamese ...

Alaungpaya
, the founder of the Konbaung dynasty. Royal court life in the Konbaung dynasty consisted of both codified rituals and ceremonies and those that were innovated with the progression of the dynasty. Many ceremonies were composed of Hindu ideas localised and adapted to existing traditions, both Burmese and Buddhist in origin. These rituals were also used to legitimise the rule of Burmese kings, as the Konbaung monarchs claimed descent from
Maha Sammata Maha and MAHA may refer to: * Maha (name), an Arabic feminine given name * Maha (film), ''Maha'' (film), a Tamil thriller film * MaHa, Nepali comedy duo, Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya * Maha Music Festival, an annual music festival ...
through the Sakyan clan (of which
Gotama Buddha The Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni) was a philosopher, mendicant, meditator, spiritual teacher, and religious leader who lived in ancient India (c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He is revered ...
was a member) and the
House of Vijaya The House of Vijaya (also known as the Vijayan dynasty and sometimes referred to as the "Great Dynasty") was the first recorded Sinhalese people, Sinhalese royal dynasty that ruled over the island, Sri Lanka. According to Sinhalese folklore Princ ...
. Life in the royal court was closely regulated.
Eunuchs A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot se ...
() oversaw the ladies of the royal household and apartments. Inferior queens and concubines could not reside in the main palace buildings. Brahmins, generally known as ''ponna'' () in Burmese, served as specialists for ritual ceremonies, astrology, and devotional rites to Hindu deities at the Konbaung court. They played an essential role in king-making rituals, consecration and ablution ceremonies called ''
abhiseka ''Abhisheka'' () in Sanskrit means "bathing of the divinity to whom worship is offered." It is a religious rite or method of prayer in which a devotee pours a liquid offering on an image or murti of a God or Goddess. Abhisheka is common to Ind ...
'' (). Court Brahmins (, ''parohita'') were well embedded in daily life at the court, advising and consulting the king on various matters. A social hierarchy among the Brahmins determined their respective duties and functions. Astrologer Brahmins called ''huya'' () were responsible for determining astrological calculations, such as determining the auspicious moment for the foundation of a new capital, a new palace, pagoda, or assumption of the royal residence, announcing an appointment, leaving a place, visiting a pagoda or starting a military campaign. They also established the religious calendar, prepared the almanac (), calculated upcoming solar and lunar eclipses, identified major festival days based on the lunar cycle, and communicated auspicious times and dates. A special group of Brahmins who performed ''abhiseka'' rituals were also selected as ''pyinnya shi'' (), appointed royal counselors.


Military


Royal rituals

Lavish affairs were also organised around the life ceremonies of royal family members. Brahmins presided over many of these auspicious ceremonies, including the construction of a new royal capital; consecration of the new palace, the royal ploughing ceremony; the naming, first rice feeding and cradling ceremonies; the ''abhiseka'' head anointing rituals, and the King's participation in Burmese New Year (Thingyan) celebrations. During Thingyan, a group of 8 Brahmins sprinkled water blessed by a group of 8 Buddhist monks, throughout the palace grounds, at the
Hluttaw The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw ( my, ပြည်ထောင်စု လွှတ်တော် lit. Assembly of the Union) is the ''de jure'' national-level bicameral Bicameralism is the practice of having a legislature divided into two separ ...
, various courts, the major city gates, and the 4 corners of the capital. The king attended many of the ceremonies involving royal family members, from cradling ceremonies () to ear-boring ceremonies, from marriages to funerals. Specific buildings in the royal palace served as the venue for various life ceremonies. For instance, the Great Audience Hall was where young princes underwent the ''
shinbyu Shinbyu (; , also spelt shinpyu) is the Burmese term for a novitiate, novitiation ceremony (pabbajja) in the tradition of Theravada, Theravada Buddhism, referring to the celebrations marking the Śrāmaṇera, sāmaṇera (novitiate) monastic ordi ...
'' coming-of-age ceremony and were ordained as monk novices. This was also the venue where young princes ceremonially had their hair tied in a topknot (). Elaborate Burmese New Year feasts took place at the Hmannandawgyi (Palace of Mirrors): on the third day of the New Year, the king and chief queen partook in Thingyan rice, cooked rice dipped in cold perfumed water, while seated on their throne. Musical and dramatic performances and other feasts were also held in that complex.


Consecration ceremonies (''abhiseka'')

The most significant court functions of a king's reign were the ''
abhiseka ''Abhisheka'' () in Sanskrit means "bathing of the divinity to whom worship is offered." It is a religious rite or method of prayer in which a devotee pours a liquid offering on an image or murti of a God or Goddess. Abhisheka is common to Ind ...
'' or consecratory rituals, held at various times throughout a king's reign, to reinforce his place as the patron of religion ( Sasana) and righteousness. ''Abhiseka'' rituals all involved the pouring of water from a conch on the candidate's (usually the king's) head, instructing him what to do or not to do for the love of his people and warning him that if he failed to oblige, he might suffer certain miseries. Ablution rituals were the responsibility of a group of 8 elite Brahmins uniquely qualified to perform the ritual. They were to remain chaste before the ceremony. Another group of Brahmins was responsible for the consecration of the Crown Prince. There were 14 types of ''abhiseka'' ceremonies in total: # ''Rājabhiseka'' () – coronation of the king # ''Muddhabhiseka'' () – formal vow by the king to work for the propagation of the Sasana (the Buddha's teachings); held five years after accession # ''Uparājabhiseka'' () – installation of crown prince # ''Mahesībhiseka'' () – coronation of chief queen # ''Maṅgalabhiseka'' () – held to celebrate the possession of
white elephants A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. In modern usage, it is an object, building project, scheme, business venture, facility, ...
# ''Siriyabhiseka'' () – held to renew the king's glory, held on occasion # ''Āyudighabhiseka'' () – held to gain longevity, held on occasion # ''Jayabhiseka'' () – held to ensure victory and success in war # ''Mahābhiseka'' () – held to increase economic prosperity, held seven years after accession # ''Sakalabhiseka'' () – held to ensure peace in the kingdom # ''Vijayabhiseka'' () – held to conquer enemies # ''Mandabhiseka'' () – held to marry the candidate to a queen of royal lineage. # ''Singabhiseka'' () – held to recommit a king to abide by the laws, whereupon full powers for the government and administration of the country are conferred


Coronation

''Rajabhiseka'' () – the Coronation of the king, which was presided over by Brahmins, was the most important ritual of the royal court. The ceremony was typically held in the Burmese month of ''
KasonKason ( my, ကဆုန်; mnw, ပသာ်) is the second month of the traditional Burmese calendar. Festivals and observances *Vesak, Full Moon of Kason () ** Bodhi tree, Bodhi Tree Watering Festival () Kason symbols *Flower: ''Magnolia cha ...
'', but did not necessarily occur during the beginning of a reign. The ''Sasanalinkaya'' states that Bodawphaya, like his father, was crowned only after establishing control over the kingdom's administration and purifying the religious institutions. The most important features of this ritual were: the fetching of the anointing water; the ceremonial bath; the anointment; and the king's oath. Elaborate preparations were made precisely for this ceremony. Three ceremonial pavilions (''Sihasana'' or Lion Throne of Burma, Lion Throne; ''Gajasana'' or Elephant Throne; and the ''Marasana'' or Peacock Throne) were constructed in a specifically designated plot of land (called the "peacock garden") for this occasion. Offerings were also made to deities and Buddhist ''paritta''s were chanted. Specially designated individuals, usually the daughters of dignitaries including merchants and Brahmins, were tasked with procuring anointing water midstream from a river. The water was placed in the respective pavilions. At an auspicious moment, the king was dressed in the costume of a Brahma and the queen in that of a queen from ''devaloka''. The couple was escorted to the pavilions in procession, accompanied by a white horse or a white elephant. The king first bathed his body in the Morasana pavilion, then his head in the Gajasana pavilion. He then entered the Sihasana pavilion to assume his seat at the coronation throne, crafted to resemble a blooming lotus (genus), lotus flower, made of figwood and applied gold leaf. Brahmins handed him the five articles of coronation regalia (, ''Min Myauk Taza''): # White umbrella (, ''hti byu'') # Crown, in the form of a crested headdress (, ''magaik'') # Sceptre (, ''thanlyet'') # Sandals (, ''che nin'') # Fly-whisk, made of yak tail (, ''thamyi yat'') At his throne, eight princesses anointed the king by pouring specially procured water atop his head, each using a conch bedazzled with gems white solemnly adjuring him in formulae to rule justly. Brahmins then raised a white umbrella over the king's head. This anointment was repeated by eight pure-blooded Brahmins and eight merchants. Afterward, the king repeated words ascribed to Buddha at birth: "I am foremost in all the world! I am most excellent in all the world! I am peerless in all the world!" and made invocation by pouring water from a golden ewer. The ritual ended with the king taking refuge in the Three Jewels. As part of the coronation, prisoners were released. The king and his pageant returned to the Palace, and the ceremonial pavilions were dismantled and cast into the river. Seven days after the ceremony, the king and members of the royal family made an inaugural procession, circling the city moat on a gilt state barge, amid festive music and spectators.


Installation of the Crown Prince

''Uparājabhiseka'' () – the Installation of the ''Uparaja'' (Crown Prince), in Burmese ''Einshe Min'' (), was one of the most important rituals in the king's reign. The Installation Ceremony took place in the ''Byedaik'' (Privy Council). The Crown Prince was invested, received appenages and insignias, and was bestowed a multitude of gifts. The king also formally appointed a retinue of household staff to oversee the Prince's public and private affairs. Afterward, the Crown Prince was paraded to his new Palace, commiserate with his new rank. Preparations for a royal wedding with a princess, specially groomed to become the new king's consort, then commenced.


Feeding of the first betel

''Kun U Khun Mingala'' () – the Feeding of the First Betel ceremony was held about 75 days after the birth of a prince or princess to bolster the newborn child's health, prosperity and beauty. The ceremony involved the feeding of betel, mixed with camphor and other ingredients. An appointed official () arranged the rituals preceding the ceremony. These rituals included a specific set of offerings to the Buddha, indigenous spirits (''yokkaso'', ''akathaso'', ''bhummaso'', etc.), Guardians of the Sasana, and to the parents and grandparents of the child, all of which were arranged in the infant's chamber. Additional offerings were made to the Hundred ''Phi'' (), a group of 100 Siamese spirits headed by Nandi (bull), Nandi (), personified by a Brahmin figure made of Desmostachya bipinnata, kusa grass, which was ceremonially fed scoops of cooked rice with the left hand.


Naming ceremony

''Namakarana, Nāmakaraṇa'' () – the naming ceremony took place 100 days after the birth of a prince or princess. Food was also offered for the dignitaries and entertainers in attendance. The infant's name was inscribed on a gold plate or on palm leaf. The night before the ceremony, a ''pwe'' was held for the attendees. The dawn of the ceremony, Buddhist monks delivered a sermon to the court. Afterward, at the Chief Queen's apartment, the infant was seated on a divan with the Chief Queen, with respective attendees from the royal court seated according to rank. A Minister of the Interior then presided over ceremonial offerings () made to the Triple Gem, the 11 ''Deva (Buddhism), deva'' headed by Thagyamin, 9 Hindu deities, indigenous ''nat (spirit), nat'', and the 100 ''Phi''. A protective prayer was then recited. After the prayer, a ''pyinnyashi'' prepared and 'fed' Nandi. At the auspicious moment calculated by astrologers, the name of the infant was read out thrice by the royal herald. Afterward, another royal herald recited an inventory of presents offered by the dignitaries in attendance. At the closing of the ceremony, a feast ensued, with attendees fed in the order of precedence. Offerings to the Buddha were shuttled to the pagodas, and those to Nandi, to the sacrificial Brahmins.


Royal Ploughing Ceremony

''Lehtun Mingala'' () – the Royal Ploughing Ceremony was an annual festival of breaking ground with ploughs in the royal fields east of the royal capital, to ensure sufficient rainfall for the year by propitiating the Moekhaung Nat, who was believed to control rain. The ceremony was traditionally linked to an event in
Gotama Buddha The Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni) was a philosopher, mendicant, meditator, spiritual teacher, and religious leader who lived in ancient India (c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He is revered ...
's life. During Suddhodana, King Suddhodana's royal ploughing of the fields, the infant Buddha rose to stand, sat cross-legged and began to meditate, underneath the shade of a Syzygium jambos, rose apple tree. The ceremony was held at the beginning of June, at the break of the southwest monsoon. For the ceremony, the king, clad in state robes (a ''Longyi, paso'' with the peacock emblem (''daungyut'')), a long silk surcoat or tunic encrusted with jewels, a spire-like crown (''tharaphu''), and 24 strings of the ''salwe'' across his chest, and a gold plate or frontlet over his forehead) and his audience made a procession to the ''leya'' (royal fields). At the ''ledawgyi'', a specially designated plot of land, milk-white oxen were attached to royal ploughs covered with gold leaf, stood ready for ploughing by ministers, princes and the kings. The oxen were decorated with gold and crimson bands, reins bedecked with rubies and diamonds, and heavy gold tassels hung from the gilded horns. The king initiated the ploughing, and shared this duty among himself, ministers and the princes. After the ceremonial ploughing of the ''ledawgyi'' was complete, festivities sprung up throughout the royal capital.


Head-washing ceremony

At Thingyan and at the end of the Vassa, Buddhist lent, the king's head was ceremonially washed with water from Gaungsay Gyun (lit. Head Washing Island) between Martaban and Mawlamyine, Moulmein, near the mouth of the Salween River. After the
Second Anglo-Burmese War The Second Anglo-Burmese War or the Second Burma War ( my, ဒုတိယ အင်္ဂလိပ် မြန်မာ စစ် ; 5 April 185220 January 1853) was the second of the three wars fought between the Burmese Empire and British Empi ...
(which resulted in Gaungsay Gyun falling under British possession), purified water from Irrawaddy River was instead procured. This ceremony also preceded the earboring, headdressing, and marriage ceremonies of the royal family.


Obeisance ceremony

The Gadaw, Obeisance ceremony was a grand ceremony held at the Great Audience Hall thrice a year where tributary princes and courtiers laid tribute, paid homage to their benefactor, the Konbaung king, and swore their allegiance to the monarchy. The ceremony was held 3 times a year: # ''Hnit Thit Gadaw'' () – Beginning of the Burmese New Year (April) # ''Wa-win Gadaw'' () – Beginning of the Vassa, Buddhist Lent (June or July) – required the attendance of princes, ministers and city officials # ''Wa-gyut Gadaw'' () – Thadingyut, End of the Buddhist Lent (October) – required the attendance of provincial governors and tributary princes (''sawbwa'') During this ceremony, the king was seated at the Lion Throne, along with the chief queen, to his right. The Crown Prince was seated immediately before the throne in a cradle-like seat, followed by princes of the blood (min nyi min tha). Constituting the audience were courtiers and dignitaries from vassal states, who were seated according to rank, known in Burmese as ''Neya Nga Thwe'' (): # ''Taw Neya'' (); # ''Du Neya'' (); # ''Sani'' (); # ''Atwin Bawaw'' (); # ''Apyin Bawaw'' () There, the audience paid obeisance to the monarch and renewed their allegiance to the monarch. Women, barring the chief queen, were not permitted to be seen during these ceremonies. Lesser queens, ministers' wives and other officials were seated in a room behind the throne: the queens were seated in the centre within the railing surrounding the flight of steps, while the wives of ministers and others sat in the space without.


Ancestor worship

Throughout the Konbaung dynasty, the royal family performed ancestor worship, ancestral rites to honour their immediate ancestors. These rites were performed at the thrice a year at the Zetawunsaung (Jetavana Hall or "Hall of Victory"), which housed the Goose Throne (), immediately preceding the Obeisance Ceremony. On a platform in a room to the west of hall, the king and members of the royal family paid obeisance to images of monarchs and consorts of the Konbaung dynasty. Offerings and Pali prayers from a book of odes were also made to the images. The images, which stood tall, were made of solid gold. Images were only made for Konbaung kings at their death (if he died on the throne) or for Konbaung queens (if she died while her consort was on throne), but not of a king who died after deposition or a queen who survived her husband. Items used by the deceased personage (e.g. sword, spear, betel box) were preserved along with the associated image. After the British conquest of Upper Burma, 11 images fell into the hands of the Superintendent at the Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, Governor's Residence, Bengal, where they were melted down.


Funerals

When a king died, his royal white umbrella was broken and the great drum and gong at the palace's bell tower (at the eastern gate of the palace), was struck. It was custom for members of the royal family, including the king, to be cremated: their ashes were put into a velvet bag and thrown into the river. King
Mindon Min Mindon Min ( my, မင်းတုန်းမင်း, ; 1808 – 1878), born Maung Lwin, was the penultimate King of Burma This is a list of the monarchs of Burma (Myanmar), covering the monarchs of all the major kingdoms that existed ...
was the first to break tradition; his remains were not cremated, but instead were buried intact, according to his wishes, at the place where his tomb now stands. Before his burial, the King Mindon's body was laid in state before his throne at the Hmannandawgyi (Palace of Mirrors).


Foundation sacrifice

The Foundation Sacrifice was a Burmese practice whereby human victims known as ''Hitobashira, myosade'' () were ceremonially sacrificed by burial during the foundation of a royal capital, to propitiate and appease the Nat (spirit), guardian spirits. to ensure impregnability of the capital city. The victims were crushed to death underneath a massive teak post erected near each gateway, and at the four corners of the city walls, to render the city secure and impregnable. Although this practice contradicted the fundamental tenets of Buddhism, it was in alignment with prevailing animistic beliefs, which dictated that the spirits of persons who suffered violent deaths became ''nat''s (spirits) and protective and possessive of their death sites. The preferred sites for such executions were the city's corners and the gates, the most vulnerable defence points. The Konbaung monarchs followed ancient precedents and traditions to found the new royal city. Brahmins were tasked with planning these sacrificial ceremonies and determining the auspicious day according to astrological calculations and the signs of individuals best suited for sacrifice. Usually, victims were selected from a spectrum of social classes, or unfortuitiously apprehended against will during the day of the sacrifice. Women in the latter stages of pregnancy were preferred, as the sacrifice would yield two guardian spirits instead of one. Such sacrifices took place at the foundation of Wunbe In Palace in Innwa, Ava in 1676 and may have taken place at the foundation of Mandalay in 1857. Royal court officials at the time claimed that the tradition was dispensed altogether, with flowers and fruit offered in lieu of human victims. Burmese chronicles and contemporary records only make mention of large jars of oil buried at the identified locations, which was, by tradition, to ascertain whether the spirits would continue to protect the city (i.e., so long as the oil remained intact, the spirits were serving their duty). Shwe Yoe's ''The Burman'' describes 52 men, women and children buried, with 3 buried under the post near each of the twelve gates of the city walls, one at each corner of those walls, one at each corner of the teak stockade, one under each of the four entrances to the Palace, and four under the Lion Throne. Taw Sein Ko's ''Annual Report for 1902–03'' for the Archaeological Survey of India mentions only four victims buried at the corners of the city walls.


Devotional rituals

Brahmins at the Konbaung court regularly performed a variety of grand devotional rituals to indigenous spirits (''nat'') and Hindu deities. The following were the most important devotional cults: * Ganesha (''Maha Peinne'' in Burmese) – During the Burmese month of Nadaw (November to December), a festival for Ganesha, the god of prudence and good policy, was held. Grain first reaped from the royal fields was sent to the Mahamuni Buddha Temple as an offering to Ganesha, in three huge containers in the shape of a buffalo, bullock and prawn, in which paddy, millet, and bulrush millet were respectively placed. Ganesha, mounted on a peacock, was placed on a ceremonial procession and was then brought before the king, who after paying homage, scattered pieces of silver and clothes among the poor. Ganesha occupied a prominent place in royal ceremonies, especially as he was considered a guardian deity of the elephants. Offerings to Ganesha, made in the Burmese month of Tazaungmon were established during Bodawpaya's reign. * ''Phaya Ko Zu'' (, lit. "Nine Deities") – This was a devotional rite performed by Khettara Brahmins. The deities referenced were either Buddhist: Buddha and the 8 arahats, or non-Buddhist: 5 Hindu deities, including Chandi, Candi and Ganesha, and 4 ''nat''s). * Skanda (Buddhism), Skanda () – King
Bodawpaya Bodawpaya ( my, ဘိုးတော်ဘုရား, ; th, ปดุง; 11 March 1745 – 5 June 1819) was the sixth king of the Konbaung Dynasty The Konbaung dynasty ( my, ကုန်းဘောင်ခေတ်, ), also known as ...
reformed the annual ceremonial procession to honour Ganesha to instead honour Skanda, the god of war (and a son of Shiva and Candi), following the advice of a Brahmin from Benares.Said Brahmin had the following issue: by the Govinda-maharajinda-aggamahadhammarajaguru. This procession was held in the Burmese month of Tabaung. Skanda was closely linked with a deity called Citrabali-mara (Cittarapali-mar[a]), both of whom were connected to rituals mentioned in ''Rajamattan'', a standard reference for ceremonies at the royal court compiled during Bodawphaya's reign. * Hindu deities: Candi (Canni), Indra (Thagyamin), Shiva, Vishnu, Asuras and the 4 Lokapala – These deities were placed at specific locations, at the entrances of the capital city, the royal palace, or in temples, to ward off evil. * Other spirits (''nat''): Planets, Sky, Sun, Moon, ''Hon'' (the fire spirit)


Society and culture


Social classes

During the Konbaung dynasty, Burmese society was highly stratified. Loosely modelled on the four Varna (Hinduism), Hindu ''varna''s, Konbaung society was divided into four general social classes () by descent: # Rulers () or ''Kshatriya, Khattiya'' () # Ritualists () or ''Brahmin, Brahmana'' () # Merchants () or ''Vaishya, Vessa'' () # Commoners () or ''Shudra, Tudda'' () Society also distinguished between the free and slaves (), who were indebted persons or prisoners of war (including those brought back from military campaigns in Kingdom of Arakan, Arakan, Ayutthaya Kingdom, Ayuthaya, and
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
), but could belong to one of the four classes. There was also distinction between taxpayers and non-taxpayers. Tax-paying commoners were called ''athi'' (), whereas non-taxpaying individuals, usually affiliated to the royal court or under government service, were called ''ahmuhtan'' (). Outside of hereditary positions, there were two primary paths to influence: joining the military () and joining the Buddhist Sangha (Buddhism), Sangha in the monasteries.


Sumptuary laws

Sumptuary laws called ''yazagaing'' dictated life and consumption for Burmese subjects in the Konbaung kingdom, everything from the style of one's house to clothing suitable to one's social standing from regulations concerning funerary ceremonies and the coffin to be used to usage of various speech forms based on rank and social status. In particular, sumptuary laws in the royal capital were exceedingly strict and the most elaborate in character. For instance, sumptuary laws forbade ordinary Burmese subjects to build houses of stone or brick and dictated the number of tiers on the ornamental spired roof (called ''pyatthat'') allowed above one's residence— the royal palace's Great Audience Hall and the 4 main gates of the royal capital, as well as monasteries, were allowed 9 tiers while those of the most powerful tributary princes (''sawbwa'') were permitted 7, at most. Sumptuary laws ordained 5 types of funerals and rites accorded to each: the king, royal family members, holders of ministerial offices, merchants and those who possessed titles, and peasants (who received no rites at death). Sumptuary regulations regarding dress and ornamentation were carefully observed. Designs with the peacock insignia were strictly reserved for the royal family and long-tailed hip-length jackets () and surcoats were reserved for officials. Velvet sandals () were worn exclusively by royals. Gold anklets were worn only by the royal children. Silk cloth, brocaded with gold and silver flowers and animal figures were only permitted to be worn by members of the royal family and ministers’ wives. Adornment with jewels and precious stones was similarly regulated. Usage of ''hinthapada'' (), a vermilion dye made from cinnabar was regulated.


Demography

Throughout the Konbaung dynasty, cultural integration continued. For the first time in history, the Burmese language and culture came to predominate the entire Irrawaddy river, Irrawaddy valley, with the Mon language and Mon people, ethnicity completely eclipsed by 1830. The nearer Shan principalities adopted more lowland norms. Captives from various military campaigns in their hundreds and thousands were brought back to the kingdom and resettled as hereditary servants to royalty and nobility or dedicated to pagodas and temples; these captives added new knowledge and skills to Burmese society and enriched Burmese culture. They were encouraged to marry into the host community thus enriching the gene pool as well. Captives from
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
formed the cavalry called ''Kathè myindat'' (Cassay Horse) and also ''Kathè a hmyauk tat'' (Cassay Artillery) in the royal Burmese army. Even captured French soldiers, led by Chevalier Milard, were forced into the Burmese army. The incorporated French troops with their guns and muskets played a key role in the later battles between the Burmese and the Mons. They became an elite corps, which was to play a role in the Burmese battles against the Siamese (attacks and capture of Ayutthaya from 1760 to 1765) and the Manchus (battles against the Chinese armies of the Qianlong Emperor from 1766 to 1769). Islam in Burma, Muslim eunuchs from
Arakan File:Muhghazi.jpg, Coinage with an Arabic language, Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century Arakan ( or ) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcont ...
also served in the Konbaung court. A small community of foreign scholars, missionaries and merchants also lived in Konbaung society. Besides mercenaries and adventurers who had offered their services since the arrival of the Portuguese people, Portuguese in the 16th century, a few Europeans served as Lady-in-waiting, ladies-in-waiting to the last queen
Supayalat Supayalat ( my, စုဖုရားလတ်, ; 13 December 1859 – 24 November 1925), also spelt Suphayalat, was the last queen of Burma who reigned in Mandalay (1878–1885), born to King Mindon Min and Queen of Alenandaw (literally Middle Pal ...
in
Mandalay Mandalay ( or ; ) is the second-largest city in Myanmar, after Yangon. Located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, north of Yangon, the city has a population of 1,225,553 (2014 census). Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min, ...

Mandalay
, a missionary established a school attended by Mindon Min, Mindon's several sons including the last king
Thibaw
Thibaw
, and an Armenians, Armenian had served as a king's minister at Amarapura. Among the most visible non-Burmans of the royal court were Brahmins. They typically originated from one of four locales: *
Manipur Manipur () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Manipur
– acquired with the conquest of Manipur; perhaps from Bengal, since Manipur was Hinduised by Bengali Brahmins in the 1700s *
Arakan File:Muhghazi.jpg, Coinage with an Arabic language, Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century Arakan ( or ) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcont ...
– acquired with the conquest of Arakan in 1785 by King
Bodawpaya Bodawpaya ( my, ဘိုးတော်ဘုရား, ; th, ปดุง; 11 March 1745 – 5 June 1819) was the sixth king of the Konbaung Dynasty The Konbaung dynasty ( my, ကုန်းဘောင်ခေတ်, ), also known as ...
's son, Thado Minsaw * Sagaing – long-established lines of Brahmins at Burman and Mon royal courts, who traced their origins to ninth century Sri Ksetra or 14th century Sagaing * Benares – Indian Brahmins from Benares who arrived in upper Burma between the late 1700s to early 1800s.


Literature and arts

The evolution and growth of Burmese literature and theatre continued, aided by an extremely high adult male literacy rate for the era (half of all males and 5% of females). Foreign observers such as Michael Symes (diplomat), Michael Symes remarked on widespread literacy among commoners, from peasants to Waterman (occupation), watermen. The Siamese captives carried off from Ayutthaya as part of the Burmese–Siamese War (1765–67) went on to have an outsize influence on traditional Burmese theatre and dance. In 1789, a Burmese royal commission consisting of Princes and Ministers was charged with translating Siamese and Javanese dramas from Thai to Burmese. With the help of Siamese artists captured from Ayutthaya in 1767, the commission adapted two important epics from Thai to Burmese: the Siamese Ramayana and the Enao, the Siamese version of Javanese Panji (prince), Panji tales into Burmese ''Yama Zatdaw, Yama Zattaw'' and ''Enaung Zattaw''.Brandon, p. 27 One classical Siamese dance, called ''Yodaya Aka'' (lit. Ayutthaya-style dance) is considered one of the most delicate of all traditional Burmese dances.


Architecture


Religion

Monastic and lay elites around the Konbaung kings, particularly from Bodawpaya's reign, also launched a major reformation of Burmese intellectual life and monastic organisation and practice known as the Sudhamma Reformation. It led to, amongst other things, Burma's first proper state histories.Charney 2006: 96–107


Rulers

Note: Naungdawgyi was the eldest brother of Hsinbyushin and Bodawpaya who was the grandfather of Bagyidaw who was Mindon's elder uncle. They were known by these names to posterity, although the formal titles at their coronation by custom ran to some length in Pali; ''Mintayagyi paya'' (Lord Great King) was the equivalent of Your/His Majesty whereas ''Hpondawgyi paya'' (Lord Great Glory) would be used by the royal family.


Family tree

;Notes


See also

* History of Burma


Notes


References

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Forty Years in Burma
John Ebenezer Marks, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1917
The Last Queen of Burma
Kenneth Champeon, ''The Irrawaddy'', July 2003
Before and after the wheel: Pre-colonial and colonial states and transportation in mainland Southeast Asia and West Africa
Michael Charney, ''HumaNetten'' 37 2016.
Ayutthaya and the End of History:Thai Views of Burma Revisted
Min Zin, ''The Irrawaddy'', August 2000
A rare meeting with the last of Burma's royals
''The Daily Telegraph'', 26 February 2008
Myanmar's last royal laments a crumbling nation
''Reuters'', 10 March 2008 {{Authority control Konbaung dynasty, Former countries in Burmese history Burmese monarchy 18th century in Burma 19th century in Burma Former monarchies of Southeast Asia States and territories established in 1752 States and territories disestablished in 1885 1752 establishments in Asia 1885 disestablishments in Asia 1750s establishments in Burma 1880s disestablishments in Burma Former monarchies Former monarchies of Asia