John Nisbet.

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

. (page 33 of 41)
Online LibraryJohn NisbetBurma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pick up the figs and go home." Then, as they were
about to start, she mocked the spirit saying, " Well,
Mr. Snake, if you want Dwe Pyu you will just have to
follow her home."

On the way back they rested for a moment near a
broken tree-stump standing where the path divided into
two tracks, and Dwe Pyu said, " Mother, it will be
terrible if the snake really does follow us." Then the
mother also began to get afraid, and said to the stump,



" If a big snake comes and asks which way we have

gone, please say you have not seen us. Here's a fig for


Soon after, on reaching another fork of the path, the
mother again gave a fig and similar instructions to an
ant-hill standing close by.

But the tree- snake had at once fallen in love with
Dwe Pyu the moment he saw her. Descending from
the tree, he followed the mother and her daughters.
On coming to the stump he asked which path they had
taken, but the stump said it did not know. Becoming
angry the snake hissed out, "If you dare to lie to me
while you hold my own fig I'll split you into four." So
the stump showed the way Dwe Pyu had gone.

And when the snake came to the ant-hill this also first
denied all knowledge, but was soon frig^htened into
pointing out the way that the mother and her daughters
had taken.

It was night when the snake reached the washerman's
house, so Sakaru entered the pot in which the cleaned
rice was kept, and curled himself up in it.

Early next morning the mother went to get rice for
the morninof meal, but as soon as she thrust her hand
into the pot the snake seized hold of it firmly m its

At first the woman shrieked, but her hand remained
held tightly as in a vice. Then she knew that it must
be the tree-snake, and she said, " O great Snake, I
promise you Dwe Pyu if you will only let me go." So
the coils were loosened from around her arm, and she
went and implored her daughter to live with the snake
else the whole household would be killed.

But Dwe Pyu wept, and refused to live with the brute
beast till her mother, who was in great fear of losing
her life, coaxed her to do so. So Dwe Pyu lived with
the tree-snake.

Shortly after this the Thagya Min held a council in
spirit- land. As Sakaru's presence was necessary at this
council, he slipped quietly out of his skin and went to
Tawadeingtha, leaving his snake's skin behind. But



when clay dawned the council was not yet ended, so
Sakaru could not return and resume his snake-form

When Dwe Pyu awoke she found nothing but the
empty skin that had been sloughed off. Weeping, she
told her mother and sister that her husband was dead,
and wanted to have proper obsequies performed over all
that remained of him. From this, however, she was
dissuaded, as the mother said it would be far better
simply to burn the skin quietly, and thus avoid scandal
and talking among the neighbours. So Dwe Pyu agreed
to this, and they burned the skin.

When the skin was being burned, Sakaru, feeling
unbearable heat, appeared in person by the fire. Not
knowing him, Dwe Pyu asked who he was, and on being
told how Sakaru felt intense heat, she recognized her
husband and rejoiced greatly. But her sister, Shwe
Kyin, at once fell in love with him, and became very
jealous of her younger sister, saying to herself, " But for
Dwe Pyu I should be able to get him for my husband."

After the darkness came on they all went to bed. At
midnight the Samadeva spirit, sent by the Thagya Min,
came to Sakaru, and said, " Here is a magic wand so
powerful that on striking anything with it you will at
once obtain whatever you desire." Then the Samadeva
went on to tell Sakaru that Dwe Pyu was about to bear
a child to him, and warned him that if he let a drop of
snake's blood touch him after the birth of this child, he
would again turn into a snake as formerly. Before dis-
appearing the Samadeva finally told him that now he
had received the magic wand he could only return here
after wandering in other countries.

Early next morning Sakaru told Dwe Pyu what the
Samadeva had said. In spite of all she could say,
Sakaru felt the Thagya Min's order strong upon him.
So he went and smote the sea with his magic wand. At
once a ship appeared, fully rigged and manned. Going
on board this he had to leave Dwe Pyu behind, she
being heavy with child and therefore unable to cross
the sea.

W^hen Sakaru was gone, Shwe Kyin thought within



herself that if she could only get rid of Dwe Pyu she
would obtain Sakaru as her husband. Coaxing her
down to the bank of a stream, she told Dwe Pyu she
meant to push her in and drown her. Dwe Pyu besought
her not to do this, as this would destroy the two lives
now within her, and said she would give up her husband
to her sister on his return. But Shwe Kyin, knowino
Sakaru would never be hers while Dwe Pyu lived,
pushed her sister into the river and returned home.

As Dwe Pyu floated on the top of the stream and was
borne seawards, a fish-eagle swooped down and carried
her off to its nest in a lofty tree. When Dwe Pyu told
the bird all that had happened to her, it tended her in
its nest, and here she bore her son.

Whenever the child cried, Dwe Pyu soothed it by
saying, " Sakaru, Sakaru." This made the eagle so
angry that it threatened to peck the child to death. But
when she said " Papa Eagle" to quiet the boy, it also
grew angry, thinking this was meant as mockery.

One day when Dwe Pyu and the eagle were quarrel-
ling over this, Sakaru's ship passed near the nesting
tree, and he heard a voice like his wife's. So he called
out, " Is that you, Dwe Pyu ? " to which she answered,
" Yes." Then he landed and climbed up to the nest.

When Sakaru wanted to take away his wife she said,
" Don't you think it will be best to thank the eagle, and
give him a present, and ask if I may leave ?" So Sakaru
said, " O eagle, you and I are brothers. I am very grate-
ful to my elder brother, and will pile up fish for you from
the ground right up to the highest branch of this tree if
you will let me take away my wife and child." Agreeing
to this, Sakaru smote the sea with his wand, and fish
came out of the water and piled themselves up till the
heap reached the top of the tree.

As Sakaru and Dwe Pyu were returning to their home
she told him what Shwe Kyin had said and done, and
he replied, •' I will put her to shame if you and the child
get into this box and hide there for a little." To this
Dwe Pyu consented.

When Sakaru's ship arrived, Shwe Kyin dressed her-
self nicely and went to him pretending she was her sister.



But Sakaru said, " Dvve Pyu, you are not like what you
used to be : you are so thin." " Alas ! dear husband,"
she replied, " I am worn with yearning after you, and I
have had a miscarriage in consequence." So he gave
her the box, saying it contained beautiful clothes ; and
they went home. On arriving there he handed her the
key, and told her to open the box and put on some of
the pretty things it contained. On opening it she saw
Dwe Pyu and her child, so was greatly ashamed, and
ran away to the back of the house, while Sakaru and
Dwe Pyu went and lived happily in their own room.

Now Shwe Kyin thought that as Dwe Pyu had been
very happy with a tree-snake, she too might also thus be
made happy. So she asked her father to catch one for
her. He told her that the snake Dwe Pyu had lived
with was a spirit-snake, the incarnation of a human being,
and an embryo man. And he said that if he went and
caught a tree-snake it would only be a common one,
which would kill her. But she insisted on having a
snake-husband. So her father went and caught a big
tree-python measuring two spans in circumference, and
brought it to Shwe Kyin, who took it to bed and slept
beside it.

Early in the morning the snake, feeling hungry, began
to gorge itself with Shwe Kyin. Beginning with her
feet he sucked her down into his gullet as far as the
knees, when she began to be greatly afraid. At first
she merely cried out, but as her fear grew she shrieked
for help.

Hearing her cries Dwe Pyu told Sakaru he must go
and help her, but he said, " Remember that if one drop
of snake's blood touch me I must become a snake again.
Your father can easily kill the snake. Are you tired of
me that you should ask me to run this awful risk ? "
But Dwe Pyu said, " You don't run any risk of that now,
and it is wrong to let my sister die like that." So Sakaru
smote the python with his sword and killed it. But as
he cut it in two a drop ot the blood spurted out upon
him, and he became a snake as before. And having also
only a snake's mind, he went off into the jungle, no longer
caring to live in a house.



Weeping, Dwe Pyu slowly followed him, asking him
to come back, but in vain. Sometimes he could think
like a man, and would then speak to his wife and child ;
but whenever the snake's mind came back he would hiss
at them, and try to bite them. Then he told his wife
that he would have to live away in the jungle far from
human beings, else he would bite and kill them when in
a snake's mood.

Dwe Pyu took back her child and left it with her
parents, but she followed her snake-husband into the
depths of the forest. In one of his human moments he
told her that he was not as before, but could recognize
nobody when filled with his snake's mind, and could
only strike at them ; and he asked her to go home and
take care of their child, while he went and lived in the
darkest jungle. Dwe Pyu could only ask him to return
with her, saying she would care for and feed him, as she
could not live away from him. So she continued to
follow him.

Coming near an ants' hill, the snake-mind came into
him, and he was about to bite her. But restraining him-
self he entered into the ant-hill instead, while Dwe Pyu
remained weeping and calling sadly to her husband.

Thus things went on for a long time. Whenever
Sakaru felt himself becoming possessed by a snake's
mind, he had to hide himself away in trees or in holes
in the ground ; and it was only when his mind became
human again that he could come to where Dwe Pyu
waited for him.

But at last the merit he thus earned enabled him to
become once more entirely human, with the aid of the
Thagyd Min, when he went back with his wife to where
their child was. And they all lived happily together,
doing works of great merit.

The Three-Eyed King.

During the fifth year of his Buddhahood Gaudama was

presented by two brothers, Mahapunna and Chulapunna,

with a sandal-wood monastery at Vanijagama in Suna-

paranta,^ and accepted the gift, occupying it for seven

^ Lbgaing, in the Minbu district : still a famous place of pilgrimage.



days. At the end of this time he returned, walking
along the hills to the west of the Irrawaddy. At the
Pawudaung, hill near Prome, a mole paid him homage by
offering some of its burrowings, whereupon Gaudama
smiled and said to his favourite disciple, Ananda, that
after his attainment of Neikban and after his religion had
flourished for loi years the sea would dry up, the king-
dom of T hare Kettara (Prome) would be founded, and the
mole would be incarnated as Duttabaung, founder of that
kingdom, from the date of whose reign Buddhism would
flourish in Burma.

Now the mole had been asked by its wife to wake her
up when Gaudama was approaching their nest, so that
she might have some share in the merit of making an
offering to him. But as the Buddha came very early in the
morning, the mole thought it best not to disturb his wife's
slumbers. When she awoke later and found that Gau-
dama had passed after receiving an offering of burrowings,
she was very angry. Following the Buddha she en-
treated him to stop and receive an offering from her.
He did so, and accepted the burrowings she made.

With the merit acquired by this act of homage, she
desired, in revenge on her husband for his neglect of her
spiritual welfare, that after her next birth she might be
capable of inflicting some great injury on him in his next

In due course of time the mole was incarnated in the
womb of Bedayi, the Queen of Maha Thambawa, and be-
came King Duttabaung of Thare Kettara (442-372 B.C.) ;
while the she-mole asfain became his wife after beinof in-
carnated as the beautiful and clever princess Peikthanaw
in the neighbouring country of Pandwa (Taungdwingyi).

Duttabaung was a wise and powerful ruler, whose
influence was felt far beyond the boundaries of Burma,
and even in spirit-land, where the Thagya Min, lord of
the thirty-three great ruling spirits in Tawadeingtha, had
to assist him in the attainment of his desires. When Thare
Kettara was founded both the Thagyd Min and the
dragons helped in building it ; and Duttabaung was led
to the throne by the Thagyd Min, who presented him
with two wonderful celestial weapons. One of these was



a spear, which carried royal messages immediately to the
king's tributaries ; while the other was a drum, the beat
of which, telling that the time for paying tribute had
come, could be heard at the ends of the empire.

The secret of the king's wisdom and power lay in the
fact of his having three eyes. Two of these were in the
usual places, while the third was between the two, but
higher up in the forehead.

Duttabaung ruled wisely and well, being beloved by his
people and feared by his tributaries. He would have
been perfectly happy but for one thing, and this was that
his wife had no affection whatever for him, although he was
extremely fond of her. She seemed to delight in thwart-
ing him in every way, and to veil intense hatred under
feigned obedience and respect. But her malevolent
designs were of no avail so long as Duttabaung observed
Gaudama's precepts, fed the monks, and supported the
Buddhist religion ; for the Nat in spirit-land were guard-
ing him.

One day, however, w'ithout making proper investiga-
tion into all the circumstances connected with the case,
King Duttabaung gave orders for the confiscation of
about an acre of land which a widowed sweetmeat-seller
had presented to a monk.

Owing to this sin against religion, Duttabaung's power
waned. His tributaries revolted and withheld tribute,
while the miraculous spear and drum lost their wonderful

Noting her opportunity, Queen Peikthanaw wove an
unclean towel out of a skirt of hers, which she had first
of all worn and then washed, and out of some rags picked
up in a cemetery. Unsuspecting, Duttabaung used this
unclean towel, and, being thus defiled, at once lost the
sight of his middle eye. With its loss all his super-
natural gifts w^ere gone ; even the celestial spear and
drum disappeared.

Unable to believe that he had lost all his former
prestige and power, Duttabaung set out on a progress
through his dominions in order to replace his authority
on its former basis. But while near Cape Negrais (lit.
Nagarit, " dragon coil ") he excited the wTath of the



dragons {Nagd) by spitting into the sea, so they dragged
him and his boat down into their abode within the earth.
Thus perished Duttabaung, the powerful three-eyed
Kini^, according to the desire expressed by Peikthanaw,
his Queen, while they were both in a previous state of
existence as moles.

The Two Blind Princes.

When King Thado Naganaing ascended the throne of
Tagaung in very ancient days, he was without issue. So
he nominated as " lord of the eastern house," or heir-
apparent, Prince Labaduha, brother of his Queen Kenari-

One day news was brought that a huge wild boar,
eighteen feet high, was laying waste the land, and the
heir- apparent was sent to stop the ravage. He marched
out at the head of an armed force, and the boar fled
south-east into the Shan country at a place which is even
to this day called Wetwin (lit. " boar's entry," a village
about fifty miles east of Mandalay).

Routing it out of its lair, the prince continued the
chase. The boar crossed the Irrawaddy at Wetmasut
("boar not wet"), but was killed at Wettogyun ("boar
thrust island"), near Prome. In a lake to the south of
this the prince cleansed his hunting-spear at a place
called Wetthwese In ("boar's blood cleansing lake"),
now a part of the town of Prome and corrupted into
Wetche In ("boar's feet pond ").

As the chase had lasted long and brought him far from
home, Labaduha thought that if a son had meanwhile
been born to King Thado Naganaing, his return to
Tagaung might be undesirable, and might give rise to
intrigues and plots ; and, being old, he wished to end his
days in peace rather than in a prison. So he preferred
to remain near Prome and lead the austere religious life
of a hermit in the jungle.

One day his meditations were disturbed by the cries
of a child, and on going to see what caused them he was
astonished to find a doe which had just given birth to a
female child. Frightened, the doe ran away ; so the



hermit took the infant to his lonely hut. Here he fed it
with milk which miraculously flowed in abundance from
the tips of his two forefingers. The child grew up into
a beautiful damsel, and was named Bedayi. To keep
her away from his hut, where her presence might have
interrupted his religious duties, the hermit sent Bedayi
daily to fetch water, ordering her not to return home till
after sunset.

Now, it happened that Queen Kendridevi gave birth
to twin boys, who were born blind, during the year in
which Prince Labaduha went forth to chase the wild boar
that was laying waste the land.

Ashamed of having two blind children. King Thado
Naganaing ordered them to be made away with. But
the Queen hid them and saved their lives. When they
had grown up to be nineteen years old, however, the
King found out that his order had not been obeyed, and
insisted that it should now be put into effect. Desirous
of appearing to obey him, and yet anxious to save her
children's lives, the Queen had a raft made and stored
with food. Upon this her two sons were set afloat on
the waters of the Irrawaddy, the good spirits being
invoked by her to watch over and protect her offspring.

Floating down the Irrawaddy the raft caught in the
branch of a Sit tree [Albizzia procera), where the town of
Sagaing now stands (i.e. Sitkaing, "the branch of a Sit
tree"). In this a guardian spirit dwelt, named Sanda-
mokki. Unseen by the blind children, Sandamokki daily
provided them with food, till one day they caught hold
of her and asked whose hand it was they held.

Just as they were about to kill her with their swords,
she said that if they spared her life they should see how
grateful she would be. On being asked how she would
show this, she replied that she would undertake to cure
their blindness. So her life was spared, and the raft,
loosened from the branch of the Sit tree, floated down
the river.

Sandamokki was as good as her word. Where Sagu
(lit. •' begin cure ") now stands, the cure for blindness was
begun, and before they had reached Prome complete
vision had been given to them. On receiving sight their



first wonder was to find that the earth was surrounded
by the sky, and they exclaimed " the sky above, the
earth below."

Still drifting down the river, the raft was not moored
till it reached the mouth of the Paga stream (now silted
up) below Prome. Here they saw Bedayi drawing
water. To keep her employed all the day, the hermit
Labaduha had only made a tiny hole in the joint of the
bamboo to let in water. Seeing the delay this caused,
the princes enlarged the aperture, thus enabling Bedayi
to fill her bamboos quickly with water and return home
much earlier than usual.

The hermit was angry, and asked why she had
returned so soon. Bedayi told him about the two
princes, and brought them to him. On hearing their
story he knew they were his nephews, so he gave
Bedayi in marriage to Maha Thambawa, the elder of the

At that time the land in which the hermit dwelt was
ruled by a Queen, from whom he obtained the grant of
as much land as a hide could stretch over. Cutting a
large hide into very thin strips the hermit encircled a
huge tract upon which the city of Thare Kettara (lit.
" fields obtained by the hide") was afterwards built.

When Maha Thambawa founded the kingdom of
Thare Kettara (483 b.c.) he nominated his twin brother
Sula Thambawa as heir apparent, and was succeeded by
him six years later (477 B.C.). Sula Thambawa married
Bedayi, his brother's widow, and reigned for thirty-five
years, when he died at the age of sixty-one.

The Dull Boy who became a King.

In ancient days the sons of all the chief men in
Sambadipa were sent to Tetkatho (in North-Western
India) for their education. Among them was a lad
named Maung Pauk Kyaing, whenever seemed to learn
much. He hated study, but he was strong and active :
so his teachers thought he would be better fitted for a
rough outdoor life than for any indoor occupation.

Before sending him away from school, his teacher



taught him the following three maxims, and bade him
apply them whenever required : —

Keep going on, and you will travel far.

Ask about things, and you will gain much knowledge.

A watchful, wakeful man has a long life.

After reaching home Maung Pauk Kyaing grew tired
of having nothing much to do, so he set out to another
country to try and better things for himself.

Applying the first of his maxims, he went far through
strange countries ; and applying the second, he gained
much information by asking questions of the people he
met. And so at last he came to Tagaung, the capital of
the King of Burma, where he soon found out all that
was going on.

The King having been dead for some time, the
Queen, much against the wish of the people, had taken
unto herself a huge dragon as a sweetheart. Her
ministers and subjects wished a human being to rule
over them, and the Queen had no objection to their
electing one : but whenever any human being was thus
appointed, he was killed by the dragon during the first
night passed in the palace.

In spite of these rumours, Maung Pauk Kyaing went
to the ministers and told them he wished to aspire
to the hand of the Queen. Being ushered into the
palace, he found the Queen very silent and depressed, so
he tried to be jovial and to cheer her.

When night came on they went to bed. But as
Maung Pauk Kyaing knew from the many questions he
had asked that former aspirants to the throne had
always been killed by the dragon, her sweetheart, he
thought he would now apply the third maxim he had
been taught. So he only pretended to fall asleep, and
snored loudly.

When he found that the Queen had really fallen
asleep, he got out of bed and put the stem of a plaintain
tree where he had lain. Covering this up with his blanket,
he hid behind a curtain to see what would happen.

Before he had been waiting long, a great dragon came,

VOL. II. 369 B B


breathino^ fire, and made a bite at where the plantain
stem lay covered.

While the drao^on's teeth were fixed in this, Maung
Pauk Kyaing rushed out and cut the monster in two
with a sword.

Soon after this Maung Pauk Kyaing was crowned
King amid the rejoicings of the people. But the Queen
remained sullen and dejected.

When his parents heard the news, they were full of
joy and went to see him. Before reaching Tagaung
they rested under a tree, among the branches of which
two crows were sitting. One bird said, " We shall have
a rare feast to-morrow, for the King will be executed."
" How is that.'*" asked the other. "Oh," said the first,
"the King and the Queen have made a wager about a
certain riddle. If he cannot read the riddle, he is to
lose his life ; and if he can explain it, the Queen is to
die." " And what is the riddle ? " asked the second
crow. "It is this," said the first: —

" ' A thousand were given
For it to be riven,
While a full hundred more
Were then sent to the sewer :
And now the bones so dearly loved
Into raven-black locks are shoved.'"

" Oho ! " said the other, " that riddle is easily enough
to read. It all refers, of course, to the Queen's sweet-
heart, the dragon Didiit. She paid a thousand coins for
having its skin taken off, and another hundred for having
this sewn into pillows and cushions ; and aren't the hair-
pins she now wears all made of the dragon's bones ? "

Maung Pauk Kyaing's parents hastened on as fast as

Online LibraryJohn NisbetBurma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 41)