|King of Hanthawaddy|
|Reign||4 January 1384 – c. February 1421|
|Coronation||5 January 1384|
|Born||28 January 1368
Friday, 8th waxing of Tabodwe 729 ME
Donwun (near Martaban)
|Died||c. February 1421 (aged 53)
c. Tabaung 782 ME
|Burial||Kamathameinpaik, north of Pegu|
|Consort||Piya Yaza Dewi
Thiri Maya Dewi
Binnya Ran I
Razadarit (Burmese: ရာဇာဓိရာဇ် [jàza̰dəɹɪ̀ʔ]; Thai: ราชาธิราช, rtgs: Rachathirat; Sanskrit: राजाधिराज Rājādhirāja "King of Kings"; 1368–1421) was the ninth king of the Hanthawaddy Pegu Kingdom in Burma from 1384 to 1421. Considered one of the greatest kings in Burmese history, he successfully reunified all three Mon-speaking regions of southern Burma (Myanmar), and fended off major assaults by the Burmese-speaking northern Kingdom of Ava (Inwa) in the Forty Years' War (1385–1424).
When Razadarit became the ruler of Hanthawaddy in 1384, the 16-year-old boy-king held just the Pegu (Bago) province while the other two major Mon-speaking regions of the Irrawaddy delta and Martaban (Mottama) were in open rebellion. By his sheer will and military leadership, he defeated Ava's first wave of invasions in the 1380s, and by 1390, was able to reunify all three Mon regions. During the second half of the Forty Years' War, he met Minkhaung I of Ava and his son Minye Kyawswa head-on in Lower Burma, Upper Burma, and Arakan.
Razadarit is remembered as a complex figure: a brave military commander, who defeated Minkhaung I in single combat, and kept the kingdom independent; an able administrator who organized the kingdom; and a ruthless paranoid figure, who drove his first love Talamidaw to commit suicide, and ordered the execution of their innocent son Bawlawkyantaw. The king died of injuries received in hunting a wild elephant in 1421 at age 53. He left a strong, independent kingdom for the Mon people that would prosper for another 118 years. Three of his offspring later became rulers of Hanthawaddy. His daughter Shin Sawbu was the first and only female regent, and one of the most enlightened rulers in Burmese history.
The story of Razadarit's reign is recorded in a classic epic that exists in Mon, Burmese and Thai language forms. Razadarit's struggles against Minkhaung I and Minye Kyawswa are retold as classic stories of legend in Burmese popular culture.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Accession
- 3 Forty Years War
- 3.1 Consolidation of Lower Burma (1385–1391)
- 3.2 First truce (1391–1404)
- 3.3 Raids into Upper Burma (1404–1406)
- 3.4 Second truce (1406)
- 3.5 Invasion of Arakan and resumption of hostilities (1406–1409)
- 3.6 Minye Kyawswa years (1410–1415)
- 3.7 The final years (1415–1421)
- 3.8 Death
- 4 Administration
- 5 Razadarit in popular culture
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
Razadarit was born Binnya Nwe (ဗညားနွဲ့ [bəɲá nwɛ̰]) to King Binnya U and his queen Mwei Daw (မွေ့ဒေါ [mwḛ dɔ́]) on 28 January 1368 at Donwun (near Martaban). ("Binnya" was the highest title of royalty in Mon language.) (In the mid-1360s, Binnya U faced multiple rebellions that forced him out of Martaban some time between 1364 and 1369, and was camped out at Donwun, a town north of Martaban for a time. By 1369, he had relocated his capital to Pegu. Binnya Nwe's mother Mwei Daw was a wife of Prince Min Linka (မင်းလင်္ကာ [mɪ́ɴ lɪ̀ɴɡà]), who revolted against his younger brother the king. Binnya U defeated the rebellion, and conquered Mwei Daw who later gave birth to Razadarit.)
Binnya Nwe grew up in Binnya U's Pegu court. (Binnya U could not recover Martaban, which was ruled by the rebel chief Byattaba (ဗြထဗ [bjaʔ tʰa̰ ba̰].) Although Binnya Nwe was the eldest son, Binnya U chose his son by his chief queen Mwei Magu Tauk (မွေးမဂူတောက် [mwé məɡù taʊʔ]). Moreover, others like Princess Maha Dewi (မဟာဒေဝီ [məhà dèwì]) and Laukpya (လောက်ဖြား [laʊʔ pʰjá]), Governor of Myaungmya, were also interested in succeeding Binnya U. Maha Dewi was a powerful figure in her brother Binnya U's court, and was like a mother to Binnya Nwe. Her relationship with her nephew turned sour when her lover, Smim Maru (သမိန်မရူး [θəmèɪɴ məjú]), husband of Princess Tala Mi Thiri (တလမေသီရိ [təla̰ mè θìɹḭ]) wanted to be king.
In early 1383, Binnya Nwe, not yet 16, eloped with his half-sister Talamidaw and fled to Dagon (Yangon). The king, who was on his deathbed, pardoned both of his children. But the rival claimants to the throne the chief queen, Mahadevi/Smim Maru and Laukpya all wanted to get rid of Binnya Nwe, and sent three armies to Dagon. At Dagon, the young prince, aided by a few loyal forces and Muslim mercenaries, had already fortified the town. Within a few days of siege, two arimes, led by Laukpya and Byattaba (the rebellious governor of Martaban), withdrew, and only the army led by Smim Maru remained. On 11 May 1383 (10th waxing of Nayon 745 ME), Binnya Nwe's forces defeated Smim Maru's. Smim Maru was caught and executed.
On 10 December 1383,[note 1] the young prince now marched to Pegu. Not long after they got to Pegu, Binnya U died, and the young prince was at once proclaimed king by the palace officials on 2 January 1384 (10th waxing of Tabodwe 745 ME). He ascended the throne with the reign name of Razadarit (Pali: Rajadhiraj; King of Kings) on 4 January 1384 (Monday, 12th waxing of Tabodwe 745 ME).
At his accession, Razadarit controlled only the Pegu province out of three principal Mon regions in lower Burma. The Martaban region was ruled by Byattaba, and the Irrawaddy delta was under the rule of Laukpya of Myaungmya. Razadarit pardoned his aunt Mahadevi and gave her Dagon in fief but he could not buy his uncle Laukpya's loyalty. Laukpya, who had always ruled his fief like a king under his brother Binnya U, was not prepared to submit to his teenage nephew. In 1385, as Razadarit prepared to march to the delta, Laukpya sought assistance from King Swa Saw Ke of Ava with the promise of submission to Ava. Swa's acceptance of Laukpya's invitation resulted in the Forty Years' War between Ava and Pegu.
Forty Years War
Consolidation of Lower Burma (1385–1391)
In 1385, Swa initiated the hostilities that would last for another 40 years between the northern Ava and southern Hanthawaddy kingdoms. Swa launched a two-pronged invasion of Hanthawaddy down the Irrawaddy and Sittaung rivers, and Laukpya sent in his army from the delta. The young king did not lose nerve, and successfully fended off the invasions. In 1386, Razadarit again stopped another invasion by Swa.
Despite this success, Razadarit realized that he needed to reunify all three regions of Lower Burma if he were to fight Ava on equal terms in the long run. In 1388/89, Razadarit and his top general Lagun Ein in a series of military campaigns did just that. They chose to attack Martaban first, which had been independent since 1363, as it was a weaker foe than Myaungmya in the delta. In 1388, the Peguan forces captured Martaban albeit with much difficulty. Now with his rear base secure, Razadarit quickly moved to subdue the delta. Initially, he failed. His army could not take heavily fortified Myaungmya, and was defeated at Bassein which was defended by Laukpya's son and two sons-in-law. Then Laukpya ventured out of his defenses, and was promptly captured by Razadarit's forces. Myaungmya surrendered. The entire delta followed. Laukpya's son and his two sons-in-law fled to Ava.
Having overrun all three regions of Lower Burma, Razadarit looked to extend his rule northwards. In 1390, he attacked and conquered Myanaung, the northernmost town in the delta still under the control of Ava. He proceeded to lay siege to Prome (Pyay), farther up the Irrawaddy. But Swa sent a combined land and naval force and thwarted Razadarit's advance. In 1391, Razadarit and Swa reached a truce that gave Hanthawaddy control of Myanaung. Hanthawaddy now controlled all of Lower Burma south of Prome. (The entire Tenasserim coast was under Siamese rule. Razadarit's rule did not extend much beyond south of Mawlamyaing).
First truce (1391–1404)
Razadarit used the peace to beautify Pegu and improve its defenses. He entered into friendly communication with Siam.
Execution of Bawlawkyantaw
Razadarit grew tired of his first love Talamidaw, and cast her aside, taking away all the jewels bestowed upon her by their father Binnya U. Heartbroken, Talamidaw committed suicide. Hearing that their son Bawlawkyantaw, who must been about 7 years old, was practicing horsemanship and sharpening his elephant's tusks, Razadarit feared his eldest son of treason in the near future because Razadarit himself had rebelled against his father at a young age. The king sent executioners to kill off his young son. According to Mon and Burmese chronicles, the young prince swore a dreadful oath in front of the executioners before taking the poison:
- I do not plot against my father. Neither is there any fault in me. My father and mother played together as children. When she grew to womanhood, he took her beauty and then cast her away. She was a king's daughter, but he drove her away like a slave and drove her to her evil death. If I am guilty of treason by thought, word or deed, may I suffer in the fires of the nether regions for a thousand cycle times. If I am innocent, may I be reborn in the dynasty of Ava kings, and may I become the scourge of Mons.
Razadarit was greatly disturbed when he heard of the terrible oath. In the superstitious world of Burmese politics, he was alarmed when the chief wife of Prince Minkhaung of Ava gave birth to Minye Kyawswa a year after Bawlawkyantaw's death. Indeed, Minye Kyawswa would later grow up to be Razadarit's nemesis.
Raids into Upper Burma (1404–1406)
In April 1400, Swa of Ava died. After a 7-month-long succession crisis that felled King Tarabya, the Ava throne was succeeded by Minkhaung I, who was quickly greeted by a major rebellion by the lord of Yamethin. Taking advantage of the confusion, Razadarit broke the truce in November 1404 (Natdaw 756 ME), and invaded up country with a massive flotilla (4000 boats of every description, including transports for elephants and horses). Razadarit left his son-in-law to lay siege to Prome, whilst Razadarit laid siege to Ava. Minkhaung had no flotilla to meet Razadarit, and ordered his troops to defend behind the fortified walls of Ava and Prome. The fortified cities proved impregnable to the Hanthawaddy forces. The governor of Prome, Letya Pyanchi, a son-in-law of Laukpya, broke the siege led by Razadarit's son-in-law, and captured Razadarit's daughter. At Ava too, Razadarit was not prepared for a long siege, and withdrew his forces after hearing a sermon by a Buddhist monk on the wickedness of war. He executed his son-in-law who had failed to prevent his daughter's capture at Prome.
Minkhaung raised Razadarit's daughter to be a queen. Incensed, Razadarit had to wait until the end of the rainy season the following year before he was ready to attack Ava again. In late 1405, he sailed up the Irrawaddy river burning the granaries and boats along the way. Prome was besieged again. However, Razadarit had to lift the siege when, in January 1406, Minkhaung's forces arrived from up-country. But Razadarit's flotilla continued to control the entire span of Irrawaddy river, and continued using scorched earth tactics along the river, greatly disrupting Minkhaung's supplies and resources.
Second truce (1406)
In 1406, Minkhaung sued for peace. The two kings met at the Shwesandaw Pagoda in Prome. Minkhaung gave his sister to Razadarit in marriage, who in return gave custom duties at the port of Bassein. This shows that one of the reasons for the Forty Years War was Ava's need for access to a seaport. The arrangement in practice was doomed to failure as Bassein had to serve two masters. The boundary of their kingdoms was fixed a little to the south of Prome.
Invasion of Arakan and resumption of hostilities (1406–1409)
The second truce did not last even a year as neither king trusted the other. Minkhaung took offense when a Hanthawaddy garrison was left on the frontier near Prome. Soon after the truce with Razadarit, Minkhaung sent in an army to occupy Arakan, which had been raiding his territory. To reduce the probability of an opportunistic attack by Razadarit from the south, Minkhaung also sent a letter of alliance to the king of Lan Na (Chiang Mai) asking the latter to threaten Hanthawaddy from the east. But the letter was intercepted by Razadarit's men. Moreover, Minkhaung appointed his eldest son Minye Kyawswa as heir apparent. Minye Kyawswa was widely believed by both sides to be the reincarnation of the wrongly executed Mon prince. So when Minkhaung's brother Theiddat, who felt he should have been the heir apparent, fled Ava and offered his services, Razadarit readily accepted the offer, and gave Theiddat his sister in marriage, knowing full well that it was a declaration of war.
Razadarit could not allow Arakan to fall to Ava, and sent his army from Bassein to dislodge the Ava army now occupying Arakan. At the Araknese capital Launggyet, the Hanthawaddy army was victorious. Among the captured were Anawrahta, the newly appointed Avan governor of Arakan, and his wife, Saw Pyei Chantha, Minkhaung's daughter, and Minye Kyawswa's sister, along with 3000 Ava troops. Razadarit installed an Arakanese prince as king of Arakan. Razadarit had Minkhaung's son-in-law executed, and took Minkhaung's daughter as queen. Incensed, Minkhaung invaded the Hanthawaddy country in May 1407, at the start of the rainy season, against the advice of his ministers. The Ava forces got bogged down in the swamps of Lower Burma, and were soundly defeated.
In 1408, Minkhaung had to defend against Shan invaders from the north and could not invade the south. In 1409, Minkhaung invaded the south again, and advanced to outskirts of Pegu. Minkhaung's army was stockaded near Pankyaw. Razadarit tried to break the siege by sending special forces to assassinate Minkhaung. With the aid of Theiddat, Hanthawaddy units nearly ambushed Minkhaung and his bodyguards. But at a critical moment Theiddat gave a warning to his brother, and Minkhaung and his team escaped. Razadarit executed Theiddat. Razadarit again sent a small force led by his top general Lagun Ein to infiltrate the enemy camp and kill Minkhaung. Lagun Ein got into Minhkaung's tent, but in an act of chivalry he refused to kill the enemy king who was asleep. With the onset of the rainy season, Minkhaung's communication lines and supply lines were cut. Razadarit came out of Pegu and attacked Minkhaung. The two kings took part in a great battle at Kyat Paw Taw near Pegu. Razadarit charged his elephant directly at Minkhaung, which the latter tried to meet but could not withstand so that he had to turn away. About two-thirds of the invading Ava army including elephants and cavalry were captured. Razadarit also captured Minkhaung's chief queen Shin Mi-Nauk. Razadarit now had both the wife and the daughter in his harem.
Minye Kyawswa years (1410–1415)
After this disastrous defeat, Minye Kyawswa took over his father’s role as leader of Ava’s military expeditions against the south. Minye Kyawswa was eager to defeat Razadarit as both his mother and his sister were prisoners in Razadarit's harem. In 1410, Minye Kyawswa invaded the delta but was repulsed. In early 1412, Minye Kyawswa invaded Arakan, and ousted the Hanthawaddy-installed puppet king. In December 1412, while Minye Kyawswa was fighting against the Shan state of Theinni in the north, Razadarit led his flotilla up the Irrawaddy. But he immediately withdrew when Martaban came under attack by Siamese forces. But he did send a force to Arakan and removed the Ava-installed puppet king in 1413.
The years 1414–1415 proved to be Razadarit's toughest years of his reign. Having defeated the Shan state of Theinni in the north, Minye Kyawswa now invaded the delta in full force in November 1414. By 1416, the fiery prince of Ava had conquered the entire delta in the west, and controlled up to the outskirts of Pegu in the east. In the wake of this onslaught, Razadarit fled to Martaban. The king was supposed to have clasped his knees in despair, saying:
- "Why, when I was a lad of sixteen with only two score men at my back, I had won half my kingdom. Minhkaung had a real son but you sons of mine are useless."
Fortunately for Razadarit, Minye Kyawswa was mortally wounded in battle at Dala, and was captured by Hanthawaddy troops in March 1415. (The Mon chronicles say Minye Kyawswa died of his wounds but the Burmese chronicles say he was executed. The Mon chronicles state that Razadarit ordered Minye Kyawswa be buried with royal honors.)
The final years (1415–1421)
Minye Kyawswa’s death was the beginning of the end of the war that had dragged on for decades. Without a strong leader, Ava’s forces became disorganized and were forced to withdraw to the north to meet renewed Shan threats. Minhkaung renewed the campaign, marching to Bassein and Myaungmya. Hanthawaddy marched north to Toungoo in 1417 and Ava marched south to Pegu in 1418, but struggle between Ava and Pegu was over for the time being.
Minhkaung died in early 1422.[note 2] According to the Burmese chronicles, when the news reached Razadarit, he reportedly lamented: My brother, my enemy, my rival, my companion, life is empty without you. Still, according to the Burmese chronicles, Razadarit himself was fatally injured in hunting a wild elephant near Pegu Yoma Hills, north of Pegu, soon after, c. February/March 1422. The account given in the Mon records is different. The Mon account also says Razadarit died of a hunting accident but he died circa February 1421.[note 3] He was buried near Kamathameinpaik, north of Pegu. The war dragged on between the successors of Razadarit and Minhkaung for a few more years but this eventually gave way to a long period of peace in the south.
By 1390, Razadarit had reunified all three main provinces (Pegu, Martaban and Bassein/Irrawaddy delta) under his leadership. According to the Mon chronicles, the king reportedly further organized the three provinces into 32 towns/districts ("myos"), though he was not the first to do so. Later research shows no evidence of Razadarit being the first to organize the provinces into 32 divisions.
Razadarit in popular culture
The story of Razadarit's reign is recorded in a classic epic called Razadarit Ayedawbon that exists in both Mon and Burmese language forms. This epic was also translated into Thai by Phra Khlang during the reign of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (1782–1809), and is well known in Thailand. Nowadays, Minye Kyawswa and Razadarit duels are featured in Burmese textbooks. Razadarit's epic struggles against Minkhaung I and Minye Kyawswa of Ava are part of classic stories of legend in Burmese popular culture today.
- (Pan Hla 2005: 156) says Binnya Nwe began his march on Thursday, 12th waning of Pyatho 745 ME, which translates to Sunday, 20 December 1383. The date was more likely 2nd waning (not 12th waning) of Pyatho which gives Thursday, 10 December 1383.
- The two standard chronicles Maha Yazawin and Hmannan Yazawin do not agree on Minkhaung's date of death or age at death. (Maha Yazawin Vol. 2 2006: 55–56) says Minkhaung died in 784 ME (1422/1423 CE) at age 49 (50th year) but (Hmannan Vol. 2 2003: 52–53) says 783 ME (1421/1422 CE) at age 48 (49th year). Both chronicles do agree he had completed 21 years of reign but a third chronicle Zatadawbon Yazawin gives 22 years of reign. (See the table of regnal dates given in major chronicles in (Maha Yazawin Vol. 2 2006: 353).)
Since he came to power on 25 November 1400, which is inscriptionally verified per (Than Tun 1959: 128), Hmannan's date fits with 21 years of reign. Maha Yazawin's date could be true only if the reign was 22 years as reported in Zatadawbon Yazawin. Historians are split. Colonial period historians (Phayre 1883/1967: 75) and (Harvey 1925: 95) follow Hmannan's date (1422). But later historians (Kyaw Thet 1962: 139) and the Universities Historical Research Center of Myanmar (Maha Yazawin Vol. 2: 55) give 1423, presumably following Maha Yazawin's year of death along with Zatadawbon's period of reign.
- (Pan Hla 2005: 356) says Razadarit died in 782 ME (1420/1421) at the age of 53 (in his 54th year). Since the king was born on 28 January 1368 (8th waxing of Tabodwe 729 ME), he must have died between mid-January to mid-March 1421 (late Tabodwe (2nd half of January 1421), Tabaung of 782 ME (2 February to 3 March 1421), or early Tagu before the Burmese new year's day (1st half of March 1421)).
- Pan Hla 2005: 356
- Fernquest 2006: 4–6
- Pan Hla 2005: 47
- Harvey 1925: 111–116
- Pan Hla 2005: 156
- Htin Aung 1967: 88–93
- Phayre 1967: 70–75
- Fernquest 2006: 7–11
- Phayre 1873: 47–55
- Fernquest 2006: 14–18
- Shorto 1963: 572–591
- Jon Fernquest (Spring 2006). "Rajadhirat's Mask of Command: Military Leadership in Burma (c. 1384–1421)" (PDF). SBBR. 4 (1).
- Harvey, G. E. (1925). History of Burma: From the Earliest Times to 10 March 1824. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
- Htin Aung, Maung (1967). A History of Burma. New York and London: Cambridge University Press.
- Pan Hla, Nai (1968). Razadarit Ayedawbon (in Burmese) (8th printing, 2005 ed.). Yangon: Armanthit Sarpay.
- Phayre, Major Gen. Sir Arthur P. (1873). "The History of Pegu". Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal. Oxford University. 42.
- 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.
- Shorto, H.L. (1963). "The 32 "Myos" in the Medieval Mon Kingdom". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Cambridge University Press. 26 (3). doi:10.1017/s0041977x00070336. JSTOR 611567.
RazadaritBorn: 28 January 1368 Died: c. February 1421
|King of Hanthawaddy