U Ottama

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Sayadaw U Ottama
ဆရာတော် ဦးဥတ္တမ
Religion Buddhism
School Theravada
Nationality Arakanese
Born 28 December 1879
1st waning of Pyatho 1241 ME
Rupa Village, Sittwe District, Arakan Division, British Burma
Died 9 September 1939(1939-09-09) (aged 59)
11th waning of Wagaung 1301 ME
Yangon, Pegu Division, British Burma
Senior posting
Based in Shwezedi Monastery, Sittwe
Title Sayadaw

Sayadaw U Ottama (Burmese: ဆရာတော် ဦးဥတ္တမ [sʰəjàdɔ̀ ʔú ʔoʊʔdəma̰]; also U Uttama; 28 December 1879 – 9 September 1939) was a Burmese Theravada Buddhist monk, author and a leader of the Burmese independence movement during British colonial rule. The ethnic Rakhine (Arakanese) monk was imprisoned several times by the British colonial government for his anti-colonialist political activities.[1] He is considered one of the national heroes of modern Myanmar.


Early life[edit]

He was born Paw Tun Aung, son of U Mra and Daw Aung Kwa Pyu, in Rupa, Sittwe District,[2] in western Burma on 28 December 1879. Paw Tun Aung assumed the religious name Ottama when he entered the Buddhist monkhood.


Ashin Ottama studied in Calcutta for three years, until he passed the vernacular. He then travelled around India, and to France and Egypt.

In January, 1907 he went to Japan, where he taught Pali and Sanskrit at the Academy of Buddhist Science in Tokyo. He then travelled to Korea, Manchuria, Port Arthur, China, Annam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. In Saigon, he met with an exiled former Burmese prince, Myin Kun (who led a rebellion along with Prince Myin Khondaing in 1866, and assassinated the heir to the Burmese Crown, Crown Prince Kanaung).

Anti-colonial and political activities[edit]

Upon his return to British Burma, U Ottama started his political activities, toured the country, lecturing for YMBA (Young Men's Buddhist Association) and giving anti-colonial speeches. In 1921, he was arrested for his infamous "Craddock, Get Out!" speech against the Craddock Scheme by Sir Reginald Craddock, then Governor of British Burma. Repeatedly imprisoned on charges of sedition, he carried on. Ottama was one of the first monks to enter political arena and the first person in British Burma to be imprisoned as a result of making a political speech, followed by a long line of nationalists such as Aung San and U Nu. According to academics; between 1921 and 1927, U Ottama spent more time in prison than outside.

While Ashin Ottama did not hold any post in any organization, he encouraged and participated in many peaceful demonstrations and strikes against British rule. An admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, he did not advocate use of violence.

He represented the Indian National Congress at the funeral of Dr Sun Yat-Sen in June 1929. The only time he held a post was as leader of the All India Hindu Mahasabhas in 1935.


U Ottama died in Rangoon Hospital on 9 September 1939.


U Ottama is seen as both the first true martyr of Burmese nationalism and father of the modern Arakanese nationalist movement. U Ottama is seen as the first of Myanmar's long list of political monks, who had stood up for the Burmese people in times of strife, either under colonial, democratic, socialist or military rule. His monastery in Sittwe, the Shwe Zedi Kyaung, continues to be an important focal point in the Burmese political movement—the 2007 riots were sparked when monks at the Shwe Zedi monastery began to march to the Sittwe Prison demanding the release of an activist. [1]


  1. ^ Ba Yin, p. 116
  2. ^ Ba Yin, pp. 28–29


  • Ba Yin (2007). Sayadaw U Ottama: Sower of Seed of Independence Movement (in Burmese). Yangon.

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