Reign of the Ava King Thihathura Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The reign of Thihathura marked a period of peace for the Burmese kingdom of Ava, an increase in the creation of literature and the arts, and a strengthened devotion to Theravāda Buddhism.

Summary of Event

The Kingdom of Ava (1364-1527) was part of an area now occupied by Myanmar, which lies between modern India to the west, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and China, Laos, and Thailand to the northeast and east. The successor of the Kingdom of Pagan (849-1364), Ava was plagued by war about land. The rise of Ava as the new capital of Burma is attributed largely to its control of Kyaukse, a vital rice-growing area, and, therefore, its legitimacy was often contested by various provinces of Burma. Some sought to become the capital, such as Pegu and Toungoo, while others sought independence, such as Prome and Arakan. Ava Burma;under Thihathura[Thihathura] Thihathura Sithukyawhtin Narapati Minhkaung Narapati Minhkaung Sithukyawhtin Thihathura

In addition to fighting neighboring Burmese provinces, Ava fought the Mongols and, later, the Chinese. China wanted to assert authority over the Burmese provinces to secure its own borders and trade routes, force allegiance to China, and demand tributes from Burma. Despite the atmosphere of conflict surrounding the history of Ava, Thihathura’s reign had been relatively unchallenged and peaceful, with most of the conflict occurring at the beginning of his reign.

Narapati, Thihathura’s father, disapproved of a love affair between his grandson Minhkaung and Minhkaung’s cousin. As a result of this disapproval, Minhkaung stabbed his grandfather in 1468, although the wound was not lethal. The attack forced Narapati to flee to Prome, where he died the following year. Thihathura ascended the throne in 1469 amidst this scandal, and allowed Minhkaung and his cousin to marry. This infuriated the queen dowager (possibly Queen Shinsawbu of Pegu or the queen of Ava), so she convinced Toungoo Toungoo Dynasty to revolt.

Eventually, the Mon kingdom Mons of Pegu joined Toungoo. Thihathura suppressed the revolt and turned his attention to Prome, where the ruler, Thihathura’s brother, refused to recognize the supremacy of the Ava king. After taking Prome, Thihathura pardoned his brother.

Growing in power, Thihathura demanded in 1472 that China China;Burma and give him control of Mohnyin Mohnyin , a province bordering China that was ethnically Burmese. China was militarily expended because of border skirmishes. Relinquishing Mohnyin to Ava would have allowed an unobstructed trade route from Yunnan to Burma; China considered the idea. Mohnyin’s chief, however, had given China’s frontier eunuch gifts, including a jeweled girdle, which swayed China’s decision in favor of Mohnyin.

In 1475, Thihathura raided Yawnghwe (a Shan state in Burma) with Hsipaw (another Shan state), securing its submission to his rule. Thihathura followed this success by raiding Pegu in 1476, yielding its area of Kawliya to Toungoo governor Sithukyawhtin as reward for his loyalty. Some viewed this as a sign of impending revolt by Toungoo, and to quell those doubts, Thihathura commanded Sithukyawhtin to have himself dragged by his hair to the court of Ava. Sithukyawhtin submitted to express his loyalty.

While Thihathura’s reign seems wrought with conflict, Ava nevertheless enjoyed a relative peace. China was busy trying to keep its trade routes open and stable while also facing a rising concern of rebellion in its province that was rich in rubies. In addition, Narapati mistakenly had signaled recognition of Chinese authority when he handed over the body of a Chinese enemy who had committed suicide. Because of this mistake, China turned its attention from Ava. The neighboring provinces of Burma also offered little resistance. Thihathura’s brother was the biggest dissident, refusing to acknowledge his inferiority to the king of Ava as the governor of Prome.

This peace allowed Thihathura to improve and strengthen relations with Sri Lanka, then the center of Theravāda Buddhism Buddhism;Burma . Religion;Burma Thihathura is considered to be a major figure in the rise of Theravāda Buddhism. His connection with Sri Lanka was so strong that it is possible the Theravāda “capital” had sent relics to temples in Ava. In 1474, Thihathura and his queen had sent a broom made from their hair with a jewel studded handle to the Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka. This gift was meant to signify Thihathura’s devotion to Theravāda Buddhism, and the broom was meant to sweep the floor of the temple. Thihathura also strengthened ties with the king of Sri Lanka, sending gifts of Chinese silk.

One documented commemoration tells of a bridge of gilded boats created to connect Ava to the land across the river to celebrate the enshrining of relics received from Sri Lanka. While there is no date for this event, it is believed to have occurred during the late Ava period. It most likely occurred during Thihathura’s reign, as Narapati did not reconnect with Sri Lanka until later in his reign, and Minhkaung was constantly at war and had little time for religion.

Thihathura was able to focus his attention on being a Buddhist-Burmese king, taking care of his people and fostering the influence of religion in Burmese life. A Buddhist-Burmese kingship guaranteed an economy where subjects had leisure time to meditate, practice the arts, and take care of the monks. Theravāda monks rely on alms for their food, and keeping the monks well-fed was a sign of the religious dedication of a country and its ruler. Not being able to provide food for the monks because of poor economic conditions reflected poorly on their dedication. Thihathura provided for his people, and because of this, religion and the arts flourished. The genre of Burmese poetry Poetry;Burma is believed to have been created during this period, and it is still thriving in the twenty-first century.

By the end of his reign, Thihathura had strengthened Ava religiously and culturally, and for a period Ava had a strong military. Ava was the center of political and economic power and Burmese art and literature. Art patronage;Burma Before his death in 1481, Thihathura had sent instructions to his loyal subject Sithukyawhtin. Upon his death, the king’s bones were dropped in a river, and per his instructions, Sithukyawhtin aided his son Minhkaung as he ascended the throne.

Significance

Ava was situated between two great Burmese empires. As it has been considered more of a transitory kingdom than important in its own right, its kings, for the most part, have been forgotten. The fall of Ava is directly connected to the rise of Toungoo, an empire known for its military strength and considered the Second Burmese Empire. By the time Thihathura ascended the throne, Ava was weakening in power, Toungoo was still weak, and China was perched to annex most of Burma. However, because Thihathura was able to keep peace with the Chinese and the various provinces of Burma, Toungoo was able to gain power. Had China or another Burmese province persisted in attacking Ava, it is likely that Thihathura would have fallen, and Toungoo would not have succeeded Ava as the next Burmese empire. Furthermore, had China decided to go to war with Ava over the demand of Mohnyin, or for any other reason, Burma would have fallen to China and Toungoo might not have taken Kyaukse, the major reason for its succession as the next empire. If this had happened, Myanmar would be a distinctly different country in the twenty-first century, or, possibly, a part of China.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Aung-Thwin, Michael A. Myth and History in the Historiography of Early Burma: Paradigms, Primary Sources, and Prejudices. Monographs in International Studies 102, Southeast Asia Series. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998. Discusses the historic basis of various myths of the three kingdoms of Pagan, Ava, and Toungoo.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lieberman, Victor. Integration in the Mainland: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 1800. Volume 1 in Strange Parallels. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Examines the reasons for the demise of Pagan and Ava, and Ava’s instability.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Phayre, Arthur P. History of Burma Including Burma Proper, Pegu, Taungu, Tenasserim, and Arakan: From the Earliest Time to the End of the First War with British India. 1883. Reprint. Bangkok, Thailand: Orchid Press, 1998. A comprehensive history of Burma, with some discussion of conflict between China and the Burmese states.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sankisyanz, Manuel. Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution. The Hague, The Netherlands: M. Nijhoff, 1965. This book examines the role of Buddhist-Burmese kings and how certain activities during a given reign reflected the king’s rule.

1450’s-1529: Thai Wars

1454: China Subdues Burma

c. 1488-1594: Khmer-Thai Wars

1527-1599: Burmese Civil Wars

1548-1600: Siamese-Burmese Wars

1558-1593: Burmese-Laotian Wars

1578: First Dalai Lama Becomes Buddhist Spiritual Leader

c. 1580-c. 1600: Siamese-Cambodian Wars

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