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SHIN SAW PU (1453-1472 AD) : A FOUR-TIME QUEEN AND FINALLY A REIGNING MONARCH

 

  • Born as a princess about 600 years ago, Shin Saw Pu was widowed, became queen of four successive Bamar kings and ultimately rose to be a monarch of the Kingdom of the Mons (an ethnic group in Myanmar). She must have born under a rarest, luckiest star. 
  • Her father was Razadarit (1385-1425 AD), king of the Mons in Hanthawaddy (now called Bago) in Lower Myanmar. At the age of 20 she was married to her cousin who died after five years of marriage and left her with two daughters and a son.  
  • King Razadarit also passed away three years later and he was succeeded by his son, Byinnya Razar, the governor of Dagon (now Yangon) 
  • Shin Saw Pu went to live with one of her half-brothers, Byinnya Gyan, who had become the governor of Dagon. Adjacent to Dagon was a province called Than Lyin (formerly called Syriam) and was governed by her natural brother, Byinnya Yan.  
  • The two governors conspired to unseat their brother and the news of the unsettled situation in the King of Mons reached the Bamar king, Sinphushin Thihathu, which gave him an idea to grab the opportunity to conquer the Mon kingdom. He sent troops to Dagon and instructed them to lay a siege to the city.  
  • Bound by racial ties, the two Mon governors reunited to defend against the common enemy. The Mon king, Byinnya Dhamma Razar, however, transferred the governor of Than Lyin, Byinnya Yan, to the adjacent province Dagon and sent Governor Byinnya Gyan to Moatama (formerly Martaban).  
  • After conquering Pathein (formerly Bassein) and Dalah, a province on the other side of Yangon River, the Bamar troops attacked Dagon without avail. The Bamar troops therefore mounted a siege to the city by land and water. The city could no longer stand after a month of siege and Dagon Governor Byinnya Yan sought for a cease-fire. A peace deal was clinched and as a time-honoured sweetener, he sent his natural sister Shin Saw Pu and her royal entourage together with 30 court ladies to King Thihathu.  
  • The Bamar king was jubilant and he extended his most welcome hand to Shin Saw Pu as she stepped onto his royal barge and carried her upstream to Inwa (old name: Ava), his kingdom. Shin Saw Pu, a widow, must have been a very attractive bosom lady because she answered to the traditional definition of a Myanmar beauty: "Never ages, ever ageless," or "Bosomy and alluring."
  • For three years she was a queen of King Thihathu when he died. Minhla Nge succeeded him and crowned Shin Saw Pu a queen. A wicked, green-eyed queen poisoned King Minhla Nge and he left his kingdom forever after only three months of kingship.  
  • Kalay Taung Nyo ascended the throne, and Shin Saw Pu again became a queen. His reign, however, lasted only seven months. He died on his flight to Rakine (formerly Arakan) when King Mohnyin Mintara invaded Inwa.  
  • Although she had been a queen continuously for seven years she was unhappy. She had been away quite a long time and she was terribly homesick. 
  • How intensely she must be suffering was fully understood by her foster son whom she had ordained as a Buddhist monk who took the monachal name of Pitaka Dara. He worked out a plan with another Mon Buddhist monk to help his foster mother escape to Hanthawaddy.  
  • As arranged, Shin Saw Pu drank a concotion which gave her an attack of diarrhoea-like discharge. Her attendants informed the king, who fearing contagion of the disease, quarantined the queen's room.  
  • The queen pleaded with the king to let her listen to the sermons preached by the two Mon monks before she breathed her last. The king consented and the two monks were permitted to move freely in the place.  
  • At one dead of night they wrapped the queen in a blanket, put her in a large wooden box and carried it out of her room. At the palace gate the guards challenged them but they let them go unsearched when they explained that the box contained offerings to the monks.  
  • They rushed to the Ayeyawadi River, hid in the jungle by day and sailed down the river by night. King Mohnyin Mintara sent a fleet of war-boats to chase the runaway boat without success. The king then realized that Shin Saw Pu must have been very unhappy to live in Inwa and he left it at that.  
  • Shin Saw Pu arrived in Hanthawaddy which was then ruled by King Byinnya Yan, her natural brother. She was given an enthusiastic welcome and royal care.  
  • When King Byinnya Yan died after 17 years of rule, his nephew Byinnya Baru succeeded him. But Byinnya Baru had a short life as a king. He was a victim of assassination.  
  • It was the turn of Shin Saw Pu's half-brother, Byinnya Gyan, to occupy the throne but he too was destined to be short-lived. When he died, Shin Saw Pu's nephew Min Maw Daw took the kingdom over but too died after six months.
  • Now that there were no more contestants for the throne, Shin Saw Pu willy-nilly had to accept the Queenship of the Mon Kingdom. Her reign was peaceful, quiet and prosperous because the Bamar kings and pretenders were busy fighting against each other and they did not bother to come down to Hanthawaddy.  
  • Some years after her ascendency, she became tired of ruling the country and she discussed the succession question with her ministers. She was for the monk, Pitaka Dhamma, who helped her escape from Inwa but the ministers disagreed - he was not of the blood royal.  
  • To uphold her argument he Queen took a wooden beam of a bridge over which people had trodden every day and had it sculpt into the image of Lord Buddha which was then worshipped by the Buddhists.  
  • Thus she won her argument and she gave her daughter in marriage to Pitaka Dhara who had left the religious orders, and installed him as the heir apparent to the throne.
    According to Burmese legend, the queen was interested in Buddhism. She studied Tripitaka (Three Baskets of Buddhist Discipline) from two novices in Ava: Dhammaceti and Dhammapala. On completion of her studies she fled Ava and became the great queen of Hongsawady.
    Shin Saw Pu was loved and respected by her Mon subjects. She supported Buddhist construction including the famous Shwedagon (literally the golden pagoda of Dagon or Yangon [Rangoon]. Known as Takoeng in ancient Thai, Shwedagon was reconstructed during her reign. The sacred pagoda is believed to enshrine hair relics of the Lord Buddha and dates back more than 2,500 years. It is the prototype or the Shwezigon pagoda in Pagan. During the reign of King Binnayakyan (1450-1453), the pagoda was raised in height by 92 metres. Queen Shin Saw Pu also ordered additions to the precincts of the pagoda.
  • After ruling the country for seven years she relinquished the throne to Pitaka Dhara who had assumed the title of Dhamma Zedi Min. Ex-queen Shin Saw Pu did not go back to Hanthawaddy but stayed in Dagon. She went into retreat, refurbished Shwedagon Pagoda, built new pagodas and monasteries and devoted to rest of her life to religious activities.(click here for Shin Saw Pu's Buddha ). She died serenely at the ripe age of 79.

     

 

Research papers by :  Htin Gyi.

Reference: Myanmar Encyclopedia Vol.11

pp 352-358

Shin Saw Pu

by Nai Pan Hla.

Union of Myanmar, home to over 100 nationalities (Mon State)
The Union of Myanmar, home to over 100 nationalities, is a country blessed
with abundant natural resources.
 

Mon State

Mon State, bordering Bago Division in the south of Sittaung River mouth, Kayin State in the east, Thailand and Taninthayi Division in the south and Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Mottama in the west, has the area of nearly 4,748 square miles. As it is situated in the tropical climate zone, it has temperate weather.

National races such as Mon, Bamar, Kayin, Rakhine, Chin, and PaO are residing in Mon State. Mon people, the majority of Mon State, has their own literature, culture and language. Estimated population of Mon State is over 2.5 million. Two districts, Mawlamyine and Thaton, are formed with ten townships. Every year on 19 March, Mon State Day is celebrated.

Mon State, being located near the sea and having tropical climate with torrential rains, evergreen forests are thriving in the region. There are nearly three million acres of cultivated area. There also are silted-land cultivation as well as garden farms. Rubber, corn, groundnut, sunflower, beans and pulses, tapioca, sugarcane, coconut, oil palm, cocoa, condiments and cashew nut are the major products of Mon State. Durian, pomelo, mangosteen, rumbutan, pineapple, citrus fruits and avocado are famous produces of the gardens in Mon State.
Producing Agar-agar, salt, dried fish and fish sauce as well as coastal fishing are other important businesses of Mon State.

 In addition, antimony and granite are mined in Paung, Mudon, Muppalin  and Zingyaik. Ywalut wooden walking stick and wooden smoking pipe are wellknown products of Mon State. Sittaung Paper Mill, Bilin Sugar Mill, Muppun Plate Factory, Thanbyuzayat Rubber Factory, Thaton Tyre Factory, the coal-fired power station near Mawlamyine are manufacturing products for domestic consumption.

Kyaikhtiyoe Sanctuary and Kaylatha Sanctuary of Mon State are among the 32 nature-based eco-tourism sites of Myanmar. Kyaikhtiyoe Pagoda, situated on a rocky mountain 3615 feet above sea level, is a completely gilded pagoda built on the top of the sacred rock
presenting a beautiful scenery. A massive bell-like stone around 80 feet in diameter is precariously perched at an impossible angle to a rocky mountain tip. It offers about 7.5 miles of mountain trekking, criss-crossing forests and bamboo groves with accompanying animals and birds of the forests. Recently a motor road has been built reaching
right up to the foot of the pagoda.

There is rich cultural heritage in Thaton, an ancient town. The ancient Mon people settled in the vicinity of Bilin Township and Kaylatha Hill and established a royal city, which is also known as Rammanyadetha. According to researchers, Suvanabhumi was supposed to have been established in about 17th Century. Since Suvanabhumi was established with a good seaport, it became a centre for sea trade. Gold, ivory, perfumes, glazed pottery, marble, rhinoceros blood and diverse herbal medicines were produced at that period. It is a place where Theravada Buddhism first flourished in Myanmar.

 
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