Friday, January 24, 2014

Mon Kingdom, Hamsavati

      It was situated in lower Burma in the Irawati delta. We were told the mythical story of the two hamsa or Sheldrake landing on the tiny atoll at the lower Burma coast line. The male hamsa was landing on an atoll barely sufficient for itself so that female hamsa had to land on the back of the male. It was the folk lore  saying due to above mentioned reason, the women of Hamsavati –Pegu are quite upper hand over their husbands or lovers. We did not know whether it was true or not but we noted that was the mythical story of Mon people.
   We are also curious that what type of bird was so-called Hamsa , mythical and it looks beautiful and elligant  as shown. However we have not seen such a bird like that of the picture.  The meaning of Hamsa on internet defined as:

Hamsa in English

Hamsa, Hansa (Sanskrit) The mystic swan or goose; representing divine wisdom beyond the reach of men. Exoterically, a fabulous bird which, when given milk mixed with water, drank only the milk and left the water, milk standing for spirit and water for matter. Anagrammatically, hamsa.

                     Mythical Bird Hinthar or Hamsa {Source: Courtesy of Google}

                 Sheldrake , The English version of the bird called Hamsa, Hansa (Sanskrit)
Any of various large Old World ducks of the genus Tadorna, especially T. tadorna, having predominantly black and white plumage. Also called shelduck.{According to online dictionary}
               We are searching for the ancestors or progenitors of the Mon-khmer people in the history. We know that they came from India. But we do not know where, which part of India and how they came into Burma and south-east Asia where they are identified as Mon-Khmer. When this author was still schooling in Burma, he met a Lady doctor who had very beautiful complexion, the colour of old Gold (shwe-O-yaung). But it was just a juncture but not specifically, noted at all.It was just strage for him that human has such distinct complexion.
   However again in Burma he found some of the Mon peoples who also has the same gold colour complexion. As the author was a marine engineer, he travelled in the regional countries along the coast line of Bengal namely Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Once in Bangladesh at Chittagong port he saw very remarkably beautiful girl who had gold colour complexion. Then he remember the drama of the “Papawati”. How the skin can be gold colour? She looks similar to the girl in the picture below but of course more than that.

                The Girl resemblance of Kiratas { Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia}

It can be analysed medically, scientifically. But it is not the subject and scope of this work. Nevertheless it gives us the clue for tracing where the Mon people comes from. From this starting point of the thread we pull through the events and foot prints of the Mon people who has gold colour complexion. Though it was not easy till we use the phrase “gold colour complexion” on the google search engine, we find the ancestors or believed to be progenitors of the Mon. They are called Kiratas.
   In the history of ancient India we have these people called Kiratas mentioned in numerous Indian texts such as Mahabharatas and Puranas.

From the Sabha Parva of the Mahabharatas it is quite evident that the Kiratas dwelling on the northern slopes of the Himavata(Modern Nepal of the Himalaya) and the mountains of the east, the mountains of the rising Sun in the region of karusha on the sea-coast and on both sites of the Lauhitya mountain or on the banks of the Lauhitya river (Brahmaputra) having the golden complexion and pleasant looking wore their hair in a pointed topknot, dressed themselves in skins, lived mostly on wild fruits and roots, armed themselves with cruel weapons and kept themselves always engaged in cruel deeds. The details provided here are concerning the Khasi-jaintias, the Garos, the Kacharis and the Pipperahs of North-East India, the Kiratas of Eastern Bengal, Tibet and Burma and other remnants of the Kirata population of the Himalayan region, who might as wild race or savage, covering themselves with the skins of wild beats, having claw like nails, strong enough to rip up raw fish and split the softer kinds of wood and ignorant of the use of iron. {G P Singh(2008);99}
      Actually the Kiratas are the chief tribe of the Munda, Khasi and all the sub-tribes linked or related to Mon-Khmer people. Though the Kiratas are mentioned as non-Aryan tribes but once some of the Kiratas were the Keshatrias. When they lost the battle they were supposed to be executed. But as they appealed to and agreed by the conquerors, they were spare their lives but forced to self-exile in the mountains and caves in the Vindhya ranges according to the Mahabaratas and Puranas. Kalika Purana provide us the following information.
the war of the Kiratas with mytho-historical king, Naraka in Pragjyotisa situated on the eastern fringe of Bharatavarsa and the subsequent changes which took place in their history and culture.” {G P Singh(2008);26}
      Beside there are also quite a number of the ancient inscriptions which mentioned the Kiratas. One of the famous inscriptions is the Nagarjunakonda inscriptions of the Iksvaku King. It is ascribed to the 3rd century AD, which was found on the right bank of the Krishna river in Andhra Pradesh, the Cilatas, fairly corresponding to the Kiratas, have been associated with the Cinas, Yavanas and other tribes. This inscription records that the Kiratas along with other tribes came within the pale of Buddhism. {G P Singh(2008);35}
      The Chinese pilgrims and traveler has met the Indian tribes having the golden complexion in Kamarupa or Pragjyotisha , modern Assam State of India.
         Hiuen-Tsang (AD 629-645) who visited India during the time of Harsa, has left behind an elaborate account of India. His account is important only for the purpose of identification of the Kirata people of the hill-areas of north-east India. He has compared the people of hill areas to the east of Kamarupa (Ka-Mo-Lu-Po) with Man and the Lao on the basis of his findings, that these areas touched the south-west of China. This is indirect indication about the hill people of Assam, who are known as “Mongoloid” Kiratas. Further, he refers to the people of small stature with dark yellow complexion. {G P Singh(2008)
This particular source is of special significance for determining the actual position of Cinas-Kiratas, actually referred to in Sanskrit literature conjointly and location of China. With the help of this source as well as other corroborative evidence we can falsify the views of those scholars who have identified the ‘Cinas’ with the modern China and linked the Kiratas with this part of the world. Actually, the ‘Cina’ stands for the Chin-Hills bordering Manipur, which can be amply substantiated by the statement made in the translated text. {G P Singh(2008);51}
       Here what we are emphasising is the complexion of the people, Kiratas who are proved to be ancestors of the Mon-khmer people of South-east Asia. Here the cina does not mean the modern China as most of the scholars misinterpreted. GP Singh(2008) has mentioned in his work for Kiratas as follow. These are convincing facts of the history confirming the Mon people of modern Burma came from North-Western and Western parts of the country.

     These are not all, the Kiratas are also linked to Arakan, part of Bramah-desa or modern Burma. It was recorded on the inscriptions in India.
Some Sanskrit inscriptions of Arakan supply valuable evidence as to the milie for Bramanisation and Indianisation of the Kiruta people of north Arakan and Chittagong before the dawn of the eighth century as stated by E.H. Johnston. A number of Sanskrit inscriptions going back to the middle of the 1st Millennium AD gives the impression that north Arakan, the abode of the Kiratas, was the eastern most outpost of India. {G P Singh(2008);51}
    Based on all the facts and evidences mentioned above we can fairly conclude that the Mon and Arakan also be akin if not all but some of them. There are also mentioning of the Mon Kingdom, famous as Suvanarbumi or Thuwunabumi-Thahton Pyi in Mramma Razawin or Burmese King chronicles. The name of the King was Manohar. The external sources also there confirming the existence of the Mon Kingdom. One such mentioning is of Indian historian, Col Ved Prakash who was in Assam for many years in his military career.
            Their port capital was Thaton, and through this window to sea, they saw India in its full glory, united and peaceful under Asoka, the Great and a flourishing centre of Theravada Buddhism. Asoka sent a mission of Buddhist monks to Suvarbabhumi(=Golden Land) which no doubt was Mon region of Lower Burma. The ancient monastic settlement of Kelasa, a few miles from Thaton, and founded by Asoka’s missionaries, was mentioned in early Ceylonese records as being represented at a great religious ceremony held in 2nd century BC.{ Prakash, Col Ved, (2007;P83)Encyclopaedia of North-East India, Volume 1”}
The above statement has been verified evidently by the European and Burman anthropologists as follow:
In fact, Winka and Ayetthema are villages at the foot of Mt. Kelasa in Bilin Township, Mon State. The remains of laterite, brick and stone constructions in these villages are linked to sacred hermitage sites on the mountain. Hsindat- Myindat is a carved laterite wall, part of the Zothoke-Kyaikhtisaung complex, a multiple-walled site located southeast of Kelasa. This was perhaps a centre of teaching and ordination complementing Kelasa in a manner similar to the associations between Thaton and Zingyaik (Gacchagiri) mountain (16.41n x 97.28e) to the south. {Elizabeth Moore-2004}

    In the early first Million AD or 1st to 5th Century AD,  probably most of the Irawaddy (Iravati) delta regional towns are under sea water. The land and islands were beginning to form and progressing with the marine clay and silt depositing at the mouths of rivers Irrawaddy (Iravati) and Sittang(Chittang). The coast line of the bay of Bengal might be at the further north, perhaps Prome (Seri Ksetra) might be a sea port by then. So that the would be the capital of Mon Kingdom Hamsavati – Pegu might be a small atoll at the shore line of the sea and Yangon might as well be still in formation stage. Mr. Choudhury, P.C., (1959) has described in his work “The History of Civilization of The people of Assam to the Twelfth Century A.D.” as under:
If  Pragjyotisa was known to the authors of the pre-Buddhist and Buddhist literature, it was merely a name. It is difficult to determine the extent of the kingdom either of Naraka of the age of Janaka or of his successors. But it appears, on the basis of the literary evidence, that at a time whan Pragjyotisa was a flourishing kingdom, most parts of South-east Bengal were under the Lpohita sea, and the Bengal Delta was just beginning to form. The confluence of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra formed this Eastern Sea, which finds mention as late as the period of the Brhatsamhita of the 5th century AD. It is likely that the southern boundary of Pragjyotisa in the pre-Buddhist period or at a later time touched the sea. It is pointed out that in the Epic age at least, the whole of Mymensingh, including three-fourths of modern Bengal was under the Lohita sea, and the Brahmaputra fell into it, taking a southern course round the Garo Hills as it does today. But on the other hand, the classical writers, beginning with the 4th century BC make mention of the Gangaridae or Gangarstra. Even the Nikayas mention Anga and Vanga among the sixteen Mahajanapadas. South-east Bengal came to be known as Samatata. Even about the 1st century AD, as appears from the Periplus, the lands to the east of Samatata, comprising southern Mymensingh, western Sylhet and protions of Comilla and Noakhali, were probably under water. The existing evidence seems to indicate that long before the foundation of Gauda and Pundravardhana except, however, Anga and Vanga in Southern Bengal, Pragjyotisa may have included some portions of Bengal towards the south-east even when the delta was formed and many islands came up the Lolita sagara.Refer the following map.
             Map of Lohita Sea (Bay of Bengal) { Photo: Courtesy of Google}

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