Sri Ksetra Kingdom
|Kingdom of Sri Ksetra|
|Religion||Buddhism, animism, Brahmanism|
|Historical era||Classical Antiquity|
|-||Founding of Kingdom||c. 5th to 7th century CE|
|-||Launch of Burmese calendar||22 March 638|
|-||Duttabaung ascends to throne||25 March 739|
|-||Fall of Kingdom||c. 1050s|
|History of Burma|
The Kingdom of Sri Ksetra (Burmese: သရေခေတ္တရာ ပြည်, IPA: [θəjè kʰɪʔtəjà pjì]; lit., "Field of Fortune" or "Field of Glory") was the premier Pyu city-state between the 7th and 9th centuries CE. The city-state was an important polity, according to Burmese chronicles, which claim that the "kingdom" existed between 483 BCE and 94 CE. The current Burmese calendar was launched at Sri Ksetra in 640 CE.
Sri Ksetra was an important entrepôt between China and India. Excavations at Sri Ksetra have yielded the most extensive remains of Theravada Buddhism of the Pyu realm. Religious art suggests several distinct occupations with earlier influences stemming from Southeast India and later influences from Southwest India while 9th century influences include those from the Nanzhao Kingdom. The state became part of the Pagan Empire in the 1050s.
According to Hmannan Yazawin, the royal chronicle of the Konbaung Dynasty, the Kingdom of Sri Ksetra was founded by two brothers named Maha Thanbawa and Sula Thanbawa in 483 BCE. The brothers were scions of the Tagaung Kingdom located in Upper Burma, and ultimately descended from kings Abhiyaza and Dazayaza, both of whom belonged to the Sakya clan of the Buddha. The brothers had been born blind, and ordered to be executed at birth by their own father Thado Maha Yaza for their blindness. Their mother, Keinnayi Dewi, however had raised them in secret until 482 BCE when the father discovered their existence, and ordered them killed once again. Their mother put the blind princes on a raft by their mother down the Irrawaddy river before the executioners of the king arrived. Adrift in the river, the brothers miraculously gained sight with the help of an ogress.
With their newfound vision, the brothers arrived at the environs of Sri Ksetra (near present-day Pyay (Prome)), whose Pyu inhabitants had been at war with Kanyan people. Having to lost their chief to the war, the Pyu nominated the newly arrived Maha Thanbawa as chief. The "Kingdom" of Sri Ksetra was founded in 483 CE. (Hmannan does not indicate the extent of the kingdom.) In all, a total of 27 kings of this dynasty are said to have reigned for 578 years.
Hmannan continues that the end of the kingdom came in 94 CE due to a civil war between the Pyu and the Kanyan, two of the three main ethnic groups of the kingdom. (The Mranma (Burmans) were the third.) The Pyu initially emerged victorious over the Kanyan. But the victors soon broke into three rival groups, and a second round of war ensued. Taking advantage of the confusion, a fourth group, the Mon of Lower Burma drove all indigenous groups out of Sri Ksetra. One of the refugee groups led by Thamudarit, nephew of the last king of Sri Ksetra, wandered on for a dozen years. In 107 CE, Thamudarit founded the city of Pagan (Bagan) and the Pagan Dynasty.
The legendary stories of Hmannan differ greatly from the reconstruction by the scholarship. The mainstream interpretation of the extant evidence "by archaeology, epigraphy, palaeography, and art history" holds that the city-state of Sri Ksetra, located 8 km southeast of Prome (Pyay) at present-day Hmawza village, was founded between the 5th and 7th centuries by the Pyu people. However, some prominent Burmese historians (e.g., Htin Aung and Than Tun) have argued that enough evidence exists for earlier dates. Part of the disagreement stems from how to date the inscriptional evidence because the Pyu used at least two calendar systems, and possibly three. The following is a list of funeral inscriptions of the royalty of Sri Ksetra. 
|Name||Date of death found in inscription||Equivalent date
using Early Pyu Era
using Gupta Era
using Standard Pyu Era
|Relative of Thuriya Wikyama||35||113 CE||354 CE||673 CE|
|Fifth month of year 50||128||369||July 688 (4 July to 1 August)|
|24th day of 2nd month of year 57||135||376||13 April 695|
|4th day of 2nd month of year 80||158||399||8 April 718|
Since earlier kings prior to these kings likely existed, the actual date of foundation of Sri Ksetra may even be a few centuries earlier. At any rate, Sri Ksetra likely overtook Halin as the premier Pyu city-state by the 7th or 8th century, and retained that status until the Mranma arrived in the 9th century. The city was home to at least two dynasties, and maybe three. (Inscriptional evidence indicates three distinct dynastic names—Wikyama (Vikrama), Warman (Varman) and Gupata (Gupta).) The first dynasty, called the Wikyama (Vikrama) Dynasty, is believed to have launched the Pyu calendar with the epochal date of 22 March 638, which later became the Burmese calendar, in 640 CE. The second dynasty was founded by King Duttabaung on 25 March 739 (11th waxing of Tagu 101 ME).
Sri Ksetra is the largest Pyu site discovered thus far. (Only Beikthano and Sri Ksetra have been extensively excavated. Other important Pyu cities as Maingmaw and Binnaka could yield more artefacts with more extensive excavations.) It occupied a larger area than that of the 11th century Pagan or 19th century Mandalay. Only the southern half of the city was taken up by the palace, monasteries and houses; the entire northern half consisted of rice fields. Together with the moats and walls, this arrangement ensured that the city could withstand a long siege by enemies.
Sri Ksetra was an important entrepôt between China and India. It was located on the Irrawaddy, not far from the sea as the Irrawaddy delta had not yet been formed. Ships from the Indian ocean could come up to Prome to trade with the Pyu realm and China. Trade with India brought deep cultural contacts. Sri Ksetra has yielded the most extensive remains of Theravada Buddhism. Religious art suggests several distinct occupations with earlier influences stemming from Southeast India and later influences from Southwest India while 9th century influences include those from the Nanzhao Kingdom. Much of the Chinese account of the Pyu states was through Sri Ksetra. Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang in 648 and Yijing in 675 mentioned Sri Ksetra in their accounts of Buddhist kingdoms of Southeast Asia. The Tang histories mention the arrival at the court of an embassy from the Pyu capital in 801.
- Htin Aung 1967: 8
- Aung-Thwin 1996: 77
- Aung-Thwin 2005: 24–26
- Hmannan Vol. 1 2003: 164–165
- Hmannan Vol. 1 2003: 168–170
- Phayre 1883: 17
- Hmannan Vol. 1 2003: 185–188
- Aung-Thwin 2005: 24
- Than Tun 1964: 42
- Htin Aung 1970: 8–10
- Than Tun 1964: 52
- Htin Aung 1967: 10–11
- Htin Aung 1967: 20–21
- Aung-Thwin, Michael (1996). "Kingdom of Bagan". In Gillian Cribbs. Myanmar Land of the Spirits. Guernsey: Co & Bear Productions. ISBN 0952766507.
- Aung-Thwin, Michael (2005). The mists of Rāmañña: The Legend that was Lower Burma (illustrated ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 9780824828868.
- Charney, Michael W. (2006). Powerful Learning: Buddhist Literati and the Throne in Burma's Last Dynasty, 1752–1885. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
- Htin Aung, Maung (1967). A History of Burma. New York and London: Cambridge University Press.
- Htin Aung, Maung (1970). Burmese History before 1287: A Defence of the Chronicles. Oxford: The Asoka Society.
- Phayre, Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur P. (1883). History of Burma (1967 ed.). London: Susil Gupta.
- Royal Historical Commission of Burma (1832). Hmannan Yazawin (in Burmese) 1–3 (2003 ed.). Yangon: Ministry of Information, Myanmar.
- Than Tun (1964). Studies in Burmese History (in Burmese) 1. Yangon: Maha Dagon.