John Nisbet.

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

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earth resounded with admiration at the renunciation of his
children and his wife, the fame of these great gifts had
spread even to the realms of spirit-land. He further
extolled the good deeds performed by the body, the lips,
and the mind in obtaining the merit of charity, the most
excellent conveyance along the road to perfection, and
declared that charity was now perfected for the Paya-
laung. Then he restored Madi to her husband, saying
that they were in all respects worthy of each other, their
minds uniting indistinguishably, as the waters of the
Ganges and the Jumna are indistinguishable below where
they join. Before departing to his throne in the land of
spirits, the Thagyd manifested himself in his proper
form to the Paydlaung, his spirit's body shining re-
splendent as the sun. Offering to grant eight boons,
he asked the Prince to name his wishes. The eight
things desired were that his banishment should cease and
restoration to his former princely state take place ; that
he might never be disposed to order the execution of any
malefactor ; that all people should look to him for help
and support ; that he might never desire the love of any
woman save his own wife ; that he, and his wife, and their
children might be granted health, happiness, and long
life ; that all food and other necessaries of life should be
provided each day at dawn ; that he might have
abundant riches to bestow freely in alms and other
charitable gifts ; and that finally, after having passed from
the present state of existence into the fourth heaven of
the land of spirits, he might be born again in this world
of men and then obtain supreme omniscience {Neikban :
Nirvana). Hereupon the Thagya intimated that before
long King Thainsi would desire to see his son, and
would recall him and restore all his former dignities in
Saduttaya, while the other seven wishes would also be



duly fulfilhid in course of time. Then, disappearing
from view and returning to his reahn in Tavvadeingtha,
the Thagya left Wethandayd and Madi happy in each
other's company in their lonely abode in the forest.

Part V. — The Recall from Exile.

In making their long journey with Zuzaga the two
poor children had much to endure. Each evening at
sundown the old Brahmin tied them up among the
bushes, while he himself climbed up into the fork of a
tree to be out of the reach of wild beasts. But whenever
he fell asleep two spirits would arrive in the shape of
their father and mother, who unbound the cords of twigs
with which the children's hands and feet were tied,
washed and dressed them, and gave them food. Then,
preparing a soft couch, they would watch over the
sleepers till the morning dawned. Just before vanishing,
they would tie up the two children again as the old
Brahmin had done the night before. Thus protected,
Zali and Gahnazaing got safely through their long

At the same time these two guardian spirits misled
Zuzaga, so that at the end of fifteen days in place of
arriving at his own village of Donniwita in Kalaingka,
he reached Saduttaya. Now, it happened that on the
morning of their arrival there, King Thainsi had a
remarkable dream. He dreamt that, while seated on
his throne in open court, he was approached by a dark-
visaged man who presented for his acceptance two
blossoms of the lotus-lily. Placing one of these in each
ear as an ornament, the stamens fell from the flowers on
to his breast. As soon as he awoke, the King com-
manded his soothsayers to interpret the dream, and was
told it was of happy augury, meaning that he should
soon see beloved relatives from whom he had been long
separated. Rejoicing at this prospect, the King arose
betimes and washed his head, this being the day of the
month for performing that ceremony. Then he pro-
ceeded to the Hall of Justice and seated himself on the
throne, surrounded by his nobles.

Just at this time Zuzaga, led by the guardian spirits,



passed along the road in front of the open court. Perceiv-
ing the two children, the King remarked their beauty, and
said they reminded him of his two dear grandchildren,
Zali and Gahnazaing. Commanding the Brahmin and
the two children to be brought before him, the King
asked whence they had come and whither they were
going. Impelled by some strange power, the Brahmin,
instead of lying as was habitual to him, replied truth-
fully that he had obtained a gift of them a fortnight ago
from Prince Wethandaya, renowned for his charity.
But the King refused to believe so incredible a story
as that any one could thus give away his own children
into slavery. And all the nobles likewise murmured
amono- themselves against this inhuman act of Wethan-
daya. Then Zali, divining their evil thoughts, related
how their father's heart had been hot with sorrow when
be gave them away to this ogre, who failed to observe
the law as any true Brahmin would ; but as he had
neither gold nor silver, nor other possessions left to
bestow in charity, the Prince could only give what he
had, — his children.

Then the King's heart burned with grief at seeing his
grandchildren bound as slaves of the Brahmin. Asking
what value their father had put upon them when giving
them away, he commanded that all the great ransom
should be paid even as Zali detailed what the Payalaung
had said. All the requisite moneys, elephants, horses,
bullocks, and slaves having been paid over in redemption
of his two grandchildren, the King added further gifts to
the Brahmin and provided him with a palace surmounted
with a seven-roofed spire. Thus Zuzaga became pos-
sessed of greater wealth than he had ever seen or con-
ceived of, and was filled with happiness. Here the
guardian spirits now abandoned him, and he soon over-ate
himself so much that he died of indigestion. His body
was honourably cremated by order of the King, and it
was proclaimed by beat of gong that his heirs might
obtain the possessions he had left behind. But none
came forward to make any claim, so all the ransom
came back again to the King as ultimate heir.

Having regained his grandchildren, King Thainsi made



servants wash their heads, perfume their bodies, and
dress them in splendid clothes. Then he took Zali on
his knee, while Gahnazaing sat on the lap of her grand-
mother. Queen Pothadi ; and thus he made inquiries
about their parents and the life they led in the forest.
The King's heart bled when he heard of the privations
they all had to suffer, and especially the tender, gently
nurtured Madi, whose body and limbs were so thin, wasted,
and dust-stained from the labour of finding food for all,
that she had become faded like a brown lily withered by
the scorching rays of the sun. Her beautiful hair had
been mostly torn out by the thorns of the bushes among
which she crept, while her only garment was the skin of
a black leopard, and her only couch the bare ground.
On ending this painful recital, Zali naively asked why
his grandfather had not cared for his son and daughter-
in-law as other men care for their children. Then the
King's heart waxed exceedingly sorrowful within him, and
there rose up before him the grievous wrong he had
done in consenting to the banishment of the innocent
Prince, which had brought great trouble upon both of
them. So he bade Zali return to the Winga forest
and recall his father from exile ; but the boy replied that
his father could not be expected to return unless the
King himself went to invite him and reinstate him in
power, even as a faded drought-stricken tree is restored
to vigour by refreshing rainfall.

Summoning his chief nobles, and telling them of his
intention to go to the Winga hills and recall his son
from exile, King Thainsi ordered all his elephants, horses,
and chariots, and all his men-at-arms and his Brahmins
to be collected, and the road to the hills to be put in
order for his great progress. Fourteen thousand war
elephants, fourteen thousand cavalry, four thousand
chariots each bearing a flag of victory, and the sixty
thousand nobles, formerly companions of the Prince and
born at the same time as he, accompanied the King
in his march into the Winga hills. All the uneven places
were levelled along the road, and it was cleared of trees
and shrubs to a width of 400 yards. All along the route
to be traversed royal lattice- work screens were erected



on either side and ornamented with plantain stems and
white banners, while the roadway was strewn with sweet-
scented flowers. At the grates of each town or villao^e
on the way stores of food and of toddy- palm wine were
placed, and amusements of all kinds were provided for
those who took part in the procession, which numbered
more than any army that had ever existed on this earth.
The trumpeting of the elephants, the neighing of the
horses, and the sounds of the chariots and the beasts of
burden re-echoed everywhere, while the sky was obscured
by the clouds of dust which arose from the earth. But
the glory of this immense procession was the great
white elephant Pissaya, which had been returned to
Saduttaya by the King of Kalaingka after abundant rain
had fallen in due season on its arrival in that country.
This marvellous sacred creature rejoiced exceedingly on
the march to the Winga hills, trumpeting like a crane
with delight at the prospect of soon again seeing its
beloved master.

Surrounded by his troops, King Thainsi entered the
groves of the Himawunta forest and at last came near
the Winofa hills where the Prince's hut was. The whole
forest resounded with the mighty clamour arising from
the host ; and Wethandayd heard the noise from afar off,
and wondered greatly thereat. Fearful of impending
misfortune, he called Madi ; and they both ran to the top
of a hill. From here they saw the assembled army, and
the Prince's heart became filled with fear. But Madi
comforted him, reminding him of the eight desires
granted to him by the Thagyd before his return to
spirit-land. In particular she reminded him that the
first wish expressed and granted was that they should
be recalled from exile ; and she uttered the hope that
this might be the meaning of the great tumult they now
saw. On hearing these comforting words Wethandaya
descended from the hill with Madi ; and they both sat
peacefully at the doors of their huts, confident that no
one would molest such simple, harmless recluses as they

Now King Thainsi feared that if all of them went
forward at once, the Prince and Princess might receive



too great a surprise. So he proposed that he should
advance first of all, and be gradually followed by Queen
Pothadi, then by Zali, and last of all by Gahnazaing.
Riding on Pissaya, the miraculous white elephant, and
accompanied by the Prince's sixty thousand noble com-
panions, he approached the huts of the exiles. Dis-
mounting and going nearer alone, he was met by the
Prince and Princess, who came forward making respectful
obeisance. Unable to restrain his joy he clasped them
to his heart, kissing their foreheads and rubbing their
shoulders with his smooth, soft hands. Making the three
customary inquiries as to their health, food-supplies, and
freedom from annoyance by insects and wild animals, he
bade them relate what had been their life in the forest.
Thus he learned that though jungle roots and fruits had
provided but scanty food, and though life in the forest
had been hard and sorrowful, yet it was not till their
children had been parted from them that they had been
consumed with ever-increasing grief which had wasted
their bodies and made them thin by pining. Relating
how the two children had been given to an old Brahmin,
the Payalaung implored the King to say if he had heard
anything about them, and was greatly relieved on learn-
ing of their ransom. Then the Prince inquired after
his mother, his friends the nobles, and the people of
Saduttaya, and was pleased to learn of their health and

While father and son were thus conversing. Queen
Pothadi came near, walking barefoot and accompanied
only by her female attendants. Rising to welcome her,
and preparing a seat for her, Wethandaya and Madi
made obeisance reverently before her. Whilst they were
thus employed Zali appeared, surrounded by a great
retinue of young nobles, and Gahnazaing came attended
by a large train of maidens and handmaids. Then Madi
their mother, trembling as she gazed upon her loved
ones, became filled with great fear and joy combined,
while both children ran towards her like young calves
parted from their dam. Overcome with the suddenness
of their return, Madi fainted and fell to the ground,
while both children swooned and dropped senseless beside



her. Seeing his wife and children thus prostrate and
helpless, the heart of the Payalaung- likewise became
melted as water, so that he also swooned and fell to
the ground. And the same happened to King Thainsi,
Queen Pothadi, and all the nobles, maidens, and hand-
maidens who accompanied them, so that all fell to the
ground as a grove of young pole-trees is laid prone
by the fury of a strong wind. Then once again the
earth turned round like a potter's wheel and was
violently shaken, while the rocks resounded, the great
waters of the deep were mightily agitated, Mount
Myinmo again bent towards the Winga hills, and a
rushinof sound was heard throughout the six realms of
spirit-land. Thus for the seventh time the earth shook
in paying homage to the excellence of Prince Wethan-
daya. Then the Thagya, beholding the bodies all lying
senseless on the orround so that none could arise and
sprinkle water to restore the others, caused a gentle ram
to descend, which fell on their faces like the pattering
of raindrops on lotus-leaves floating on a pond ; but the
rain fell only on those who did not object to being wet.
On beholding this marvellous rain, and on hearing the
quaking of the earth, the people who were awakened
thereby marvelled greatly, and clamoured pitifully to the
King that he should take back the Prince and Princess
to Saduttaya and restore them to their former high posi-
tion and prosperous estate.

On hearing the outcry of the people, King Thainsi
begged the Payalaung to forgive the decree of banish-
ment and to cast aside his recluse garb and return to
resume his former princely position as a ruler among
his own people in the land of Thiwa. Then the Paya-
laung, inwardly filled with great joy but deeming it
prudent to refrain from exhibiting delight, forgave his
father, acknowledged himself satisfied, and promised to
return again to his own country. Thereupon his sixty
thousand noble companions begged him to bathe and
wash the dust from his body. Retiring into his hut,
he doffed the hermit's garb and put on a robe of pure
white. Coming out thus arrayed, he walked three
times round the hut in which he had so long practised

VOL. II. 353 ^^'^


the austere duties of a celibate recluse, and prostrated
himself before the place where he had accomplished
the supreme charity of giving away his beloved children
and his peerless wife.

When he had bathed and his beard had been shaved
off, he was arrayed in princely garments and adorned
with rich jewels, so that in glory he was like unto the
Thagya himself. Then he was invested with the white
umbrella and the other signs of royalty, and water of
consecration was poured over him, while the nobles
raised a great shout and wished glory and happiness
to the royal family.

Madi also cast aside her recluse dress, and donned
queenly robes after bathing. When she appeared in
royal raiment a great shout went up, and the people
cried with one voice that she might be happy in the
love of her husband and children till the end of her
life. Thus Wethandaya rejoiced that his trials of seven
years' duration had ended by his regaining his princely
state ; while Madi, though also rejoicing greatly at this,
had the additional happiness of enjoying the company
of her beloved children, and of telling them that hence-
forth their parents' affection should protect them as an
umbrella keeps off sun and rain.

At last Wethandaya mounted his white elephant, and
Madi rode beside him on a smaller elephant. And as
they went through the forest all the birds and the beasts
thereof mourned their departure, saying that while the
Payalaung had lived among them they had known
nothing but peace and concord, whereas now that he
was leaving the great peaceful influence would also

For a whole month festivities and great rejoicings
were held in the forest. Then King Thainsi caused
the gongs to be beaten for an assembly of all his soldiers
and followers. Marching one Yiizand (12 miles) each
day, the great cavalcade reached Saduttaya in two
months' time ; and in honour of the auspicious return
of his son the King ordered all prisoners to be released
from confinement, and general rejoicings and festivals
to be held everywhere throughout the land.



No sooner had the Paydlaung returned to his former
abode than he bethought himself, on the very evening
of the day of his arrival, as to what gifts he should be
able to bestow upon any mendicants who might demand
alms of him. Just then the throne of the Thagya in
spirit - land became hard and uncomfortable, as was
always the case when something in the world of men
required his personal attention. So, looking down earth-
wards, he saw the Prince's dilemma and caused the seven
precious things to rain down so heavily at dawn next
morning that all the King's palace was waist deep with
jewels, while they lay knee-deep throughout the whole of
the other parts of the city. The Payalaung allowed the
citizens to collect for themselves whatever had fallen
within the fences enclosing their houses ; but all the rest
were gathered together and stored in the royal treasury.
Thus the people of Saduttaya were greatly enriched,
while Wethandaya was able to the very end of his life
to make great gifts daily at six places of offering within
and around the city. And when at length his life ebbed
away he ascended to abide with the spirits in Tawadeing-
tha, the dwelling-place of those who perform acts of
illustrious virtue.

4^ ^ 4f^ Tf ^

Having thus concluded his narrative, Gaudama further
announced to his hearers that he who had then been
Prince Wethandaya, the Payalaung, had now become
the Buddh, who had attained intuitive knowledge of, and
perfect acquaintance with, the five great laws and principles
of life, the summit of omniscience attainable only by a
Buddh ; that he who was then his father. King Thainsi,
had again become his father, Suddawdana ; that she who
was then his mother, Queen Pothadi, had likewise, in
accordance with her prayer made ninety-one cycles of
years ago at the feet of the Buddh Wipathi, again
became his mother, Maya ; that Madi, who was then
his consort, was now again his wife, Yasawdara, while
Zali was their son Prince Rahulo, and Gahnazaing had
become the daughter of Upalawun, his most excellent


Chapter XIV


AS might be expected among so intensely superstitious
and credulous a people, there is a wealth of Folk-
lore, though no systematic attempt has yet been made to
collect it for permanent record and arrangement. In
addition to its Thamaing, or " historic record," every
pagoda of any importance has also one or more legends
attached to it. AH the lakes, mountains, and streams
have stories of some sort connected with them ; while
local natural phenomena are similarly explained. It will
be a matter of extreme regret if these legendary tales
fail to be soon incorporated in the new literature that
has sprung up in Burma.

Some of the short minor folk-tales told in explanation
of physical phenomena are extremely quaint. A typical
specimen may be given in the legend of the Indawgyi, or
"great lake," to the south-west of Mogaung in the
Myitkyina district, within the wild Kachin country
forming the northern portion of the province. There
are numerous floating islets on the lake which drift about
according to the state of the wind. One bears a tiny
pagoda. Trees formerly grew on some of them, but
now they consist only of weeds and grasses, like the
islets which appear from time to time on Derwentwater,
in Cumberland.

The legend of the Indawgyi relates that the guardian
spirit of the Nantein river, which helps to feed the lake,
every year renders obeisance to the spirit of the lake
and makes an offering of timber and wood, while the
latter recognizes this act of homage by sending a present
of fish. A pretty little story is thus woven out of natural



circumstances. The Nantein river runs into the Indawgyi
river about eigfht miles below the exit of the latter from
the north end of the lake. As it makes its entry into
the main stream at an obtuse angle, and as the Indawgyi
river is very sluggish and nearly level, it happens that
when the Nantein is in flood its muddy, whitish waters
spread over the top of the water in the main stream and
flow itp-stream into the lake, bearing on their surface the
tribute of drift logs and jungle refuse. There can be no
doubt that this is so ; because the black waters of the
Indawgyi river, fresh from the lake, flow below the
whitish waters of the Nantein, and come up to the
surface again after the mouth of the Nantein is passed.
But the limy waters of the Nantein poison the fish in
the lake ; and when the floods subside myriads of dead
fish float down past the mouth of the Nantein, and are
carried away on to the Mogaung river. Thus, each time
the Nantein offers its tribute of timber, the lake responds
with its present of fish.

Of legends connected with place-names Moulmein
furnishes a good example. The modern Burmese name,
Maw-la-myaing, is a corruption of the Mon Mok-mwa-
Iwn, meaning " one eye destroyed." The story goes that
in ancient time the king ruling there had a third eye, placed
in the centre of his forehead, which enabled him to see
what was going on in other countries. The King of
Siam, who was at war with this king, found his plans
always thwarted ; so he suspected treachery in the camp,
and called a council of war. In the discussion which
ensued the King of Siam was told of his enemy's super-
human gift, and was advised to give his daughter in
marriage to his rival. Acting on this advice, the King
of Siam sent his daughter, who soon gained the con-
fidence of the Mon King, which she abused by destroy-
ing the sight of the third eye in the forehead. Hence
the name of the city.

Of the longer legends the five now about to be given
may be taken as fairly typical samples. The first is
abbreviated from an Arakanese legend, the second is
from the lower Irrawaddy, and the third from the upper
Irrawaddy, while the fourth is the very popular myth



relating to King Thado Naganaing, one of the legendary
rulers of Tagaung in the sixth or seventh century B.C.,
and the fifth is the legend connected with the " spirit
festival" annually held at Taungbyon, a little to the north
of Mandalay. The second and third legends are both
incorporated in the Royal Chronicle.

The Tree-Snake Prince.

After living a thousand lives in the spirit-land of
Tawadeingtha, a Nat called Sakaru had once more to be
born as a man. As the omniscient Thagyd Min, King
of spirit-land, knew that Sakaru was not yet free from
the influence of past evil deeds, he arranged, with the
aid of another spirit, that Sakaru should for the period
of three months become a guardian spirit dwelling in a
wild fig-tree. Near where Sakaru was thus temporarily
incarnated as a tree- snake there dwelt a fisherman and
his wife, who had two daughters called Shwe Kyin and
Dwe Pyu.

One day the mother and her daughters went to wash
clothes at the place where the wild fig-tree overhung a
stream. When her work was fiinished, the mother, looking
up into the tree, saw some ripe fruit and also the snake.
Jestingly she said, " Oh ! guardian spirit of the tree,
throw me down three or four figs and I will give you
my daughter Dwe Pyu if you want her ! " Hereupon
the snake shook its tail and about forty or fifty ripe figs
fell to the ground.

"Oho," said the woman, "just see how pleased the
snake is and how fond he must be of Dwe Pyu ! I only
asked for four or five fiofs, and he has knocked down
ten times that number. As the sun is setting, let us

Online LibraryJohn NisbetBurma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) → online text (page 32 of 41)