John Nisbet.

Burma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) online

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600,000 offerings might daily be made in charity.
Amazed at such a request, Thainsi asked the astrologers
for an explanation, and was informed that his princess had
conceived a son whose delight would be in acts of charity
and whose desire of making religious offerings would
prove unlimited. Rejoicing thereat, Thainsi fulfilled
his consort's request ; and from that day Thainsi's
revenues increased greatly, while gifts from other um-
brella-bearing sovereigns poured in upon him.

When about to become a mother, Pothadi desired to



go forth and see the city ; so Thainsi ordered it to be
decked for a royal procession, and accompanied her in
state. Before the perambulation of the city was com-
pleted, the time of maternity arrived for Pothadi, and
she bore a son, open-eyed and free from all blemish, in a
building hastily erected by the way. As this was in the
trading quarter of the city, the child was at once named
W^thandaya (derived from zvd "to buy," and than "to
trade "). Stretching forth his tiny hands the new-born
child said, " Mother, I would make an offering. Have
you any money ? " Placing a packet of a thousand pieces
near his hand she bade him do as he wished.

As a birth-present a young elephant, white as silver
and perfect in shape, was borne through the air to him
from the Himawunta forest (Himalaya). Its name was
Pissayd, because it was destined to be of assistance in
bringing future greatness and prosperity to Wethandaya.

For the nursing and tending of the young prince two
hundred and forty nurses were selected, free from any
physical blemish or taint, and every twenty-four minutes
throughout the day and night four of these took charge
of him. By one he was bathed or washed, the second
dressed him, while the third fanned him, and the fourth
carried and nursed him.

Receiving a necklace worth one hundred thousand
pieces from his father at the age of about four years, he
gave it to his nurses. Fearing to refuse it, yet still more
fearing the King if they accepted it, they first received it
and then tried to get the prince to take it back again ;
but he would not. Then they told the King of the
matter, who bade them keep the child's gift. Nine times
were such costly ornaments presented to Wethandaya,
and each time he at once gave them to his nurses.

At the age of eight years he one day, while reclining
on a golden couch within the palace, meditated on the
greater joy which would thrill his heart if he could make
gifts of an inner, personal, subjective nature rather than
of a merely external, impersonal, and objective description.
" Were any one to ask for my heart's Hesh," he thought,
" I would cleave open my breast and give it ; or were my
eyes sought, them too would I give ; or if the flesh of my



body were asked, I would cut it off with a knife ; or if I
were demanded as a slave, I would give my body up to
slavery." ^

As he formed this virtuous resolution the world
trembled with a noise like the roar of a wild elephant,
and the Myinmo Mount (Meru) bowed its head like a
green cane roasted before a fire. The heavens resounded
with the noise of the earthquake, flashes of lightning
broke from the clouds, and rain fell heavily, though it
was not the rainy season. The ocean broke its bounds,
the Thagya clapped his arms in joy, the array of Brahma
in the celestial abodes applauded, and the sound of a
great noise was heard throughout all the universe.

At sixteen years of age the Paydlaung was master of
the eighteen branches of knowledge, and his father took
counsel with his chief Queen, Pothadi, with regard to
giving him a palace and an umbrella, and thus establish-
ing him in life. A suitable consort for him was found in
Madi, daughter of the Queen's brother, Madda. Pre-
liminaries having been arranged, Madi was brought with
much rejoicing and married to W^thandayd, who was
made Prince of the province of Saduttaya. Madi was
appointed his chief Princess, and given a retinue of sixteen
thousand attendants. From the day of his nomination
as Prince, W6thandaya each day gave away six hundred
thousand pieces of money as offerings. Six times in each
month, mounted on the white elephant, Pissayd, he
visited the six shrines at which these charitable gifts
were offered.

Madi in due time bore a son, who was called Zali, and
a daughter to whom the name of Gahnazaing was given.

Part II. — The Decree of Banishment.

About this time a severe famine was raging in the
neighbouring kingdom of Kalaingka, owing to a long
drought. So great was the scarcity that the people
devoured each other, and the whole country became a
scene of rapine. Calling upon their King in their dis-

^ Slaves formed one of the four degraded classes among the Burmese,
(see page 234).



tress, he quieted them by saying that rain would soon
fall; and he fasted for seven days praying for rain. But
no rain came, so he assembled his nobles and sooth-
sayers, who told him that Wethandaya owned a white
elephant, and advised the King to ask it for a gift as
W^thandayd delighted so much in making charitable
offerings that he would give not only his priceless white
elephant, his white umbrella, his palace, and his wealth,
but also his eyes or his heart to any one who asked for

Selecting eight clever Brahmins, the King provided
them with plentiful supplies and sent them forth to obtain
the white elephant from W^thandayd.

Their arrival fell upon the day of the full moon.
Early in the morning W^thandayd had ridden forth upon
Pissaya, having left the palace by the eastern gate
accompanied by a large retinue. As the throng of nobles
and people was great, the Brahmins saw they had little
chance of obtaining speech of the Prince, so they hastened
to the southern gate and stood upon a mound awaiting
his arrival.

On his coming, after having visited the shrines of offer-
ing near the eastern gate, they stretched forth their
hands and cried aloud, " Hail, Prince, victory be with
thee ! " Perceiving from their words of praise that they
sought alms, Wethandaya asked what it was they desired.
Hereupon the Brahmins related how the land of
Kalaingka was famishing for want of rain and overrun
by robbers ; and they asked for a gift of the sacred white
elephant in order to put a stop to this distress.

Meditating upon his resolution to give even his head
or his eyes if necessary, he at once gave his peerless
elephant to the Brahmins, saying, " I give you this
elephant without any reluctance, though no one upon
earth is worthy to ride it but myself, and though it is
mine only through my excellence." Dismounting, he
examined the animal and its caparison ; then, placing
the end of its trunk in the hands of the Brahmins and
pouring perfumed water upon it from a golden vase, he
made over the precious gift to their keeping, together
with a large number of attendants to minister to its



wants. Then again, as once before, the earth now trem-
bled greatly and made a mighty noise, so that the
whole country was astonished, and the people raised a
great shout.

Seeing the Brahmins riding on the sacred white
elephant and taking it away towards the land of
Kalaingka, the crowd which gathered round about them
to hinder their progress reviled them, and asked by
whose authority they rode the peerless Pissay^. Scorn-
ing such opposition the Brahmins replied that the Payd-
laung had bestowed it upon them as a gift ; and they
forthwith pushed onwards along the road leading back to

Restrained by the influence of the Nat abiding in the
land of spirits, the people allowed the Brahmins to take
away the sacred elephant ; but they went to the palace of
King Thainsi and clamoured before him, asking why
his son W^thandaya had bestowed in alms upon mendi-
cant Brahmins from a far country the peerless white
elephant unmatched for beauty, strength, or courage.

While not demanding of the King the imprisonment,
beating, or execution of his son, the populace insisted that
W6thandayd had acted foolishly and wrongly in giving
away the sacred white elephant which had brought
highest repute to the King and vast prosperity and
security to the country ; and they demanded that
Wdthandayd should be deposed from his princedom and
banished to the Winga hills (the Siwaliks and the Terai).

Deserted by all save Pothadi, his Queen, the King
found himself unable to resist the demands of the people,
and begged that at any rate Wethandayd might be
allowed to remain in his palace for one night longer ; for
he hoped that the savage mood of the people might
perhaps change before the morning dawned. But at the
same time King Thainsi sent a trusty noble to his son's
palace to inform him that the whole nation had arisen
in anger against him, clamouring for his banishment, and
that when the next day dawned they would assemble and
drive him forth from the land.

Meanwhile W^thandayd had come back on foot to his
palace, after bestowing his noble gift upon the Brahmins



from Kalaingka, and was seated under the royal white
umbrella surrounded by his sixty thousand nobles.

Here the messenger of evil sent by the King broke
down, on arrival, at the sight of the Prince's beatitude.
Tears welled to his eyes as, kneeling in obeisance, he
prayed for pity and asked that his life might be spared
though the news he brought were full of evil and fore-

Hearing of the fury and the clamour of the people
because he had given away the white elephant, Wethan-
dayd exclaimed, " Seeing that I am willing to give even
my head, my arm, my eye, or my heart, why should
I hesitate to make offerings of such articles as silver, gold,
jewels, horses, elephants, land, or men ? About no
offering do I hesitate, and my heart delighteth in giving.
If I am to be exiled for having made an offering, let
the people of Thiwa banish me ; if they wish to kill me,
or if they would hack me in pieces, let them do so ; but
from offering gifts I will not refrain."

Then the messenger of his father spoke, saying that
the people demanded his banishment to the Arinsara hill,
near the Kuntimara river, the place to which exiled
Princes were usually sent. Wethandaya replied that
Princes were only sent there when they had broken the
law, whereas he was innocent of any crime ; nevertheless
he would go there if the people wished this.

But before he went, he desired to make the great offer-
ing of the "seven hundreds," and therefore bade his royal
father's messenger beg from the people the delay of one
day for this purpose.

Part III. — The Great Offering.

Summoning one of his nobles, W^thandayd ordered
the necessary preparations to be made for the great offer-
ing on the following morning. Seven hundred elephants,
seven hundred horses, seven hundred carriages, seven
hundred fair maidens, seven hundred milch cows, seven
hundred male slaves, and seven hundred female slaves
were ordered to be collected, together with all sorts of
meats ; and even intoxicating drinks were to be provided



too, in case any should ask for such, — for the Prince feared
lest anything- asked for mi^ht not be obtainable on the
solemn occasion of this, his last great princely offering.

Then the Paydlaung wended his way to the palace of
the Princess Madi to break to her the news of his banish-
ment, and to advise her to conceal the riches which
King Madda, her father, had bestowed upon her.

Having throughout innumerable past existences been
closely associated with many Paydlaung and holy men
of saintly lives, from the time of the Buddh Dipinkard
downwards, the Princess Madi was incapable of feeling
greed or avarice. Marvelling greatly at his warning her
to conceal her treasures, she asked her husband where
she should place them for security. In reply he said
that though she hid them in a treasure-house or in the
earth where the five enemies^ could not harm them, yet
treasure could only be safely guarded for ever in the
great storehouse of religious merit and of charity untainted
by avarice. So she acted on her husband's advice.

Continuing, the Payalaung exhorted his wife to love
and cherish their two children even more in the future
than in the past, and to respect his parents. He also
told her they must now part, and conjured her to be, as
she had ever been to him, a faithful consort to any other
Prince who might demand her in marriage, so that she
might not be distressed or feel she had no one to pro-
tect her.

Surprised at hearing such words Madi asked their
meaning, and was informed of the banishment impending
over her husband. At once she declared her intention
of accompanying him along with their children to the
Himawunta forest. Though she had never been there,
yet she described in glowing language the delights and
the beautiful scenery and flowers they would enjoy in the
forests, trying thus to comfort him.

Just then Pothadi, the Prince's mother, having heard
of the conspiracy, came to the palace and broke out into
pitiful lamentation. Loud were her praises of her son,
and heartrending her lamentations over his fate. Return-
ing to her own palace she upbraided King Thainsi and
^ Fire, water, rulers, thieves, and ill-wishers (see page 156).



exhorted him not to acquiesce in the demands of the
populace by sanctioning W^thandayd's banishment.

Louder still grew the lamentations of poor Queen
Pothadi over the fate of her son, and she declared that
if he were banished she would soon die of grief. All her
handmaidens joined in setting up a great wailing, to
which Madi's 16,000 attendants added their voices, while
all the other inmates of both the palaces joined in the
chorus of lamentation. And thus passed the night.

When day dawned Wethandayd, after bathing and
robing himself, went to the place of offering accompanied
by 60,000 noble attendants. All day long the great
offering of the " seven hundreds " went on, clothes, food
and drink being given to all those who asked for them.
All the Brahmin mendicants, rolling in the dust, cried
aloud that if the Prince were banished they would no
longer have any refuge or protector. All his relations,
nobles, and friends also lamented, saying how unjust it
was that the Prince should be banished for giving away
what was his own property.

As regarded the seven hundred fair maidens, the spirits
beneficently sent the rulers throughout Zampudeik to
ask for them in marriage, so that each received one to
wife together with eight handmaidens given as atten-

When making this great offering Wethandaya lifted
up his hands and formed the pious wish that he might
attain the universal knowledge, the Buddhahood, by
means thereof. And as he did this, for the third time
the earth quaked with a mighty noise and turned round
like a potter's wheel, while the great Mount Myinmo
again bent down its head towards Saduttaya.

All day long the Prince remained at the place of offer-
ing ; but at sundown, accompanied by Madi, he went to
his father's palace to have a last interview with his parents.
They bade him an affectionate farewell and expressed the
wish that his pious desires might be fulfilled by his becom-
ing a monk, though they endeavoured to dissuade Madi
from accompanying him, as a wife would interfere with
progress towards saintship. But Wethandaya said he
had no longer any authority over any one, so Madi must



decide for herself about "■oingwith him or staying behind.
She went, having no desire for happiness or comfort
apart from her husband, and not being terrified by the
dangers of the forest.

Unable to oppose her resolution, the King asked that
his two grandchildren might be left with him, but was told
in reply that they were dear as life to their mother and
would be her consolation and comfort in trials. In vain he
pleaded throughout the night for their retention in com-
fort and luxury. When day dawned the Prince's chariot
appeared at the gate drawn by four swift horses. Taking
leave of the King and Queen, and of her attendants and
friends, Madi seated herself and her two children in the
chariot. Lingering but a moment to make obeisance to
his parents, the Prince stepped in beside her and drove
towards the Winga hills accompanied by his 60,000
noble companions ; while the people thronged the streets
to witness his departure and receive his farewell blessings,
in which he wished them health, prosperity, happiness,
and freedom from danger, together with power of making
offerings and of practising virtue. Meeting mendicants
on the road, he made eighteen gifts of the jewels he

Being seized with the desire to see his home once
again after he had left it some distance behind, the great
earth paid tribute to his merit by becoming cleft where
the chariot stood and turning round like a potter's wheel,
so that the city and the palace of his parents were brought
before his eyes. Then for the fourth time the earth
quaked with a loud noise, and the great Mount Myinmo
bent its head like a drooping flower. Here, weeping,
the Prince bade farewell to his 60,000 companions, and
resumed his onward journey, accompanied only by his
wife and children.

Not long after this four mendicant Brahmins, who had
missed being present at the offering of the " seven hun-
dreds," were seen pursuing the Prince, who halted his
chariot and waited for them. They begged for the four
horses that drew the chariot, and at once received one
each, with which they departed. But this act of merit
proved no bar to the Prince's progress, as four spirits



immediately took the form of wild bulls, submitted their
necks to the yoke, and drew the chariot. Soon, how-
ever, another mendicant came along who asked for the
chariot and received it. Then the four bulls vanished,
and the travellers had to proceed on foot, the Prince
carrying Zali and Madi bearing the younger child, Gah-
nazaing. As they walked along the road, fruit trees bent
down their branches so that the ripe fruit might be plucked,
although no breeze was blowing ; while the spirits short-
ened the road lest the children should be over-fatigued.
Thus, at the end of the first day they reached Madda,
the chief city of the Zeta country, ruled over by the
Prince's uncle, having travelled thirty Yuzand (360 miles)
in one day. Instead of entering the city the Prince
stayed, like any ordinary traveller, at a rest-house at one
of the gates. After having, like a dutiful wife, wiped
the dust from his feet and massaged them, Madi went
outside the rest-house in order that she might be seen
of the people passing in and out of the gate. Recogniz-
ing her, they went straightway to the King and told him
that their Princess, his daughter, who had always been
borne in a golden litter, had now to tread the ground
with naked feet. Sixty thousand of her relatives came
forth to meet her, weeping bitterly, beating their breasts,
and bursting into a torrent of questions.

The Prince related to them the details of his gift of
the priceless sacred white elephant and of his banishment,
and asked the way to the Winga hills. The Zeta princes
justified him in his blameless conduct, but begged him to
reside among them while they endeavoured to obtain his
recall into his own country with becoming state. Point-
ing out to them the uselessness of such endeavour, he
consented to stay one night among them. Then they tried
to persuade him to remain among them and become their
king, but in vain. Despite entreaties, he proceeded on
his journey next morning after performing his ablutions
and partaking of food, being accompanied by his 60,000
relatives to the edge of the great forest lying at the foot
of the mighty Himawunta, a distance of fifteen Yilzand
(180 miles) from Madda. Here, weeping, they took
leave of him after detailing the landmarks showing the



way to the Winga hills, still distant other fifteen Ytizand,
and telling him where he could best reside and erect a
hut near a pleasant lake surrounded by fruit trees. So
the Prince and his loved ones journeyed forward under the
guidance of a man skilled in woodcraft. Two days later
he bade his guide return, after bestowing upon him the
gift of a golden hairpin. Following the windings of the
gorges and precipices, and feeding themselves with wild
fruits, and buds, and lily sprouts, they travelled onwards
through the dark, dense forest, following the courses of
the streams, till at length they reached the end of their
weary pilgrimage, a pond covered with water-lilies.

Looking earthwards at this time and seeing Wethan-
daya entering the Himawunta, the Thagya sent down a
young spirit to construct a suitable dwelling for the good
Prince. To the north-east of that small lake two huts
were prepared and each was provided with the necessaries
for a recluse, while flowers and fruit trees were raised
round about them, and all demons, evil spirits, and
birds or beasts of prey were driven away from the

Following a tortuous path from the north-east corner
of the little lake, the Payalaung came upon these two
hermitages and knew they must have been prepared for
recluses. Leaving his wife and children at the entrance
of one, he entered and found an inscription setting forth
that it had been prepared for him by the Thagya.
Changing his garments for a monastic robe placed ready
for him, and grasping a bamboo staff, he became suffused
with great joy and burst forth into a song of praise at
the joy and happiness of becoming a recluse. So uplifted
did he become, and so changed in appearance, that Madi
failed to recognize him at first. Then she burst into tears
and prostrated herself at his feet. Going into the hut
prepared for her, she soon re-appeared also in the dress
of a recluse, and the two children were made to follow
their parents' example. Imploring Payalaung to allow
her to collect the fruits of the forest for food, Maya
was informed that as they had now both become celibate
recluses it was necessary to bear this fact constantly in
mind in order to guard against anything incompatible



with their new position. Accepting this hard condition,
they entered upon their new hfe in the forest.

For a distance of five Yiizand (sixty miles) around
their hermitage all the wild creatures of the forest lived
in peace and happiness, so great was the Paydlaung's
virtuous influence. Each day at dawn Madi brought
water, placed in readiness the tooth-stick and the water
for the Payalaung's ablutions, swept out his hut, and
then, leaving the children with him, went forth into the
forest to collect the roots and fruits for the evening meal.
In the cool of the evening, after the children had been
bathed, the four partook of their simple repast. Then
they retired to rest, the Payalaung going to his hut and
Madi and the two children to their separate abode.
Thus they dwelt in the peaceful solitude of the Winga
hills throughout a period of seven years, the loving hus-
band and wife leading celibate lives, though happy in
their daily intercourse, in the society of their children,
and in the practice of virtue.

Part IV. — After Seven Years of Exile in the


After about seven years had thus passed a mendicant
Brahmin, named Zuzaga, was living in the village of
Donniwita in Kalaingka. Though he had amassed
one hundred pieces of silver by begging, yet his avarice
was not yet satisfied. Handing over this hoard to
another Brahmin for safe keeping, he set forth on a
begging expedition, but on returning found his friend
had meanwhile spent all the money. So the latter gave
Zuzaga his daughter, Ameitta, to wife. Though thus
given in marriage without affection, Ameitta proved so
dutiful a wife that all the other Brahmins quoted her as
an example to their own wives. This roused dislike to
poor, dutiful Ameitta, whose life the village women
now tried to make a burden to her.

One day, when she had gone to draw water at the
river, a torrent of abuse and reproach was poured on her
for having mated with a man so much older than herself.
Returning home in tears, saying she could never again



g"o to the riverside for water, Zuzaga tried to console
her and said he would henceforth draw the water and do
all the outdoor work himself. To this she objected as
improper, and threatened to leave him unless he should

Online LibraryJohn NisbetBurma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 41)