Dhammasattha ("treatise on the law") is the Pali name of a genre of literature found in the Indianized kingdoms of Western Indochina (modern Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Yunnan) principally written in Pali, Burmese, Mon or the Tai languages, or in a bilingual Pali-vernacular nissaya style. "Sattha" is the Pali cognate of the Sanskrit term for instruction, learning, or treatise, śāstra.
"Dhammathat" is first mentioned in a Burmese inscription from 13th century Bagan, although it is likely that dhammasattha texts were transmitted there earlier. Certain dhammasatthas claim to have been compiled during the first millennium C.E. There are nine primary Burmese dhammathats, namely the Manu and Dhammavisala Dhammathats of the Pagan Kingdom, the Wareru Dhammathat (1270), Pasedha (1468), Dhammathat Kyaw (1581), and Pyanchi Dhammathats (1614) of the Taungoo Dynasty, and the Myingun Dhammathat (1650) of the Konbaung Dynasty.
There is an extensive tradition of dhammasattha exegesis, particularly in Myanmar (Burma). Hundreds of dhammasattha, commentaries, and related legal texts are extant in parabaik and palm-leaf manuscript form.
Dhammasattha influenced a number of Southeast Asian societies prior to the colonial era in matters concerning marriage, theft, assault, slavery, debt, kingship, property, inheritance as well as other issues. In contemporary Burma, although colonial and post-colonial laws predominate, it remains acceptable practice to use dhammathat in law courts in certain areas of family and inheritance law.
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