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Mindon Min

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King Mindon Mindon Min, born Maung Lwin, was the penultimate king of Burma (Myanmar) from 1853 to 1878. He was one of the most popular and revered kings of Burma. Under his half brother King Pagan, the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 ended with the annexation of Lower Burma by the British Empire. Mindon and his younger brother Kanaung overthrew their half brother King Pagan. He spent most of his reign trying to defend the upper part of his country from British encroachments, and to modernize his kingdom.

Table of contents
  1. Early life
  2. Taking the throne
  3. Early reign
  4. Achievements
  5. Religious stance
  6. Palace rebellion
  7. Succession crisis
  8. See also

Early life

Mindon was born Maung Lwin in 1808, a son of Tharrawaddy Min and Chandra Mata Mahay, Queen of the south Royal Chamber. He studied at the Maha Zawtika monastic college in Amarapura until the age of 23, and he held deep respect for religion and religious scholarship throughout his entire life.

Mindon grew up in the shadow of British control - by 1853, the year of his coronation, Burma had gone through radical changes. The British annexations of Arakan, the Himalayan kingdoms of the north of India, and the Irrawaddy Delta and their blockade of Burma caused a tightening of the food supply, the loss of trade through ports, an erosion of Burma as an imperial power, and the incorporation of Burma into the world market as a result. There was an atmosphere of reform due to translated works and better knowledge about the outside world. At the same time, migrations of people from the national core to Lower Burma, controlled by the British, were sapping Burma of its labor and taxes.

Taking the throne

See also: Coronation of Mindon Min

Mindon took the throne following a bloody conflict of succession with his half-brother, Pagan Min. Under Pagan, Mindon was the president of the Council of State, and was presiding as the Second Anglo-Burmese War began. He was against the continuation of the war and favored an unpopular program of appeasement. Mindon's most loyal ally at this time was his brother Kanaung Mintha.

In a November 1852 plot to implicate Mindon and Kanaung in a series of robberies by the Myowun of Amarapura, Mindon, Kanaung, and their immediate family and retainers fled to Shwebo, the seat of their ancestor, King Alaungpaya. The war with the British had thus become a two-front war, and the court of Pagan quickly collapsed, with the Myozas of Kyaukmaw and Yenangyaung allowing Mindon and Kanaung to walk into the capital, Ava, unopposed. Mindon thus ascended the throne with the regnal name of Thiri Thudhamma Tilawka Pawara Maha Dhamma Razadiraza on 18 February 1853.

Early reign

The early reign of Mindon was characterized by joint rule with Kanaung, who was allowed a large court and was designated Mindon's heir, as well as given control over matters of technology, modernization, and the arts. Behind Mindon's throne too was his chief queen and his four chief advisors - the myozas of Magwe, Thalun, Myedaung, and Pahkangyi, the latter being Mindon's former tutor who was given the position as Mindon ascended to the throne. This new government was given oaths of allegiance by the Shan princes, as well as gifts from the Chinese.

Immediately following his taking of the throne, Mindon went into a ceasefire with the British, coming into effect on 30 June 1853. Although hostilities with the British had ended, Mindon still faced considerable military difficulties, namely a revolt at Kanpyin and an attack from the neighboring Kingdom of Siam. In late 1853, Mindon won a pyrrhic victory against the Siamese, but when they returned again, he sent 3,000 cavalry supported by artillery, which finally stopped the Siamese encroachment upon Burmese land.


King Mindon founded the last royal capital of Burma, Mandalay, in 1857. His younger brother Kanaung proved to be a great administrator and modernizer. During Mindon's reign, scholars were sent to France, Italy, the United States, and Great Britain, in order to learn about the tremendous progress achieved by the Industrial Revolution.

During Mindon's reign, the following reforms were undertaken: centralization of the kingdom's internal administration, introduction of a salary system for the bureaucracy (to dampen the authority and income of bureaucrats), fixed judicial fees, comprehensive penal laws, reorganization of the financial system, removal of trade barriers including custom duties, reform of the thathameda taxes (to increase direct taxation), and modernization of the kingdom's army and introduction of new police forces.

A Burmese manuscript (Or 13681) held by the British Library depicts "seven scenes of King Mindon's donations at various places during the first four years of his reign (1853-57)", including a monastery, rest houses, and gifts for monks.

Mindon introduced the first machine-struck coins to Burma, and in 1871 also held the Fifth Buddhist council in Mandalay. He had already created the world's largest book in 1868, the Tipitaka, 729 pages of the Buddhist Pali Canon inscribed in marble and each stone slab housed in a small stupa at the Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

In 1871 Mindon also donated a new hti ('umbrella' or crown gilded and encrusted with precious diamonds and other gems) to the 105-metre-tall (344 ft) Shwedagon Pagoda, which is located in then British held Yangon, although he was not allowed to visit this most famous and venerated pagoda in the country.

On 15 August 1873, Mindon also enacted the Seventeen Articles, one of Southeast Asia's first indigenous press freedom laws.

In 1875, during a royal consecration ceremony, Mindon took on the title Siripavaravijayanantayasa Pandita Tribhavanadityadhipati Mahadhammarajadhiraja.

With the opening of the Suez Canal, Mindon assembled a flotilla of steamers to facilitate trade with the British.

His brother Kanaung is still remembered by the Burmese as an avid modernizer, who would go to the factories early on cold winter mornings with a blanket wrapped around, just to talk to the mechanics about how the machines ran. He was in charge of the Royal Army, as was customarily required of Burmese crown princes, and he imported and manufactured guns, cannons and shells.

Religious stance

Mindon was known for his Buddhist devotion and religious tolerance. He helped build monasteries and missionary schools for Buddhism. The first non-Sangha-run schools in Burma was run by Christians, and Mindon himself sent his son, Thibaw Min, to study in a missionary school.

Mindon also fulfilled his responsibility as a pious Buddhist. He reasserted the king's role of being the protector of Buddha Sasana, convened the Fifth Buddhist Council in 1871, and supported the work of scholar-monks and their returning to Lower Burma to teach.

Palace rebellion

In 1866 two of Mindon's sons, Prince Myingun and Prince Myingundaing attempted a palace coup. Myingun claimed that the Crown Prince Kanaung was oppressive, and Kanaung was murdered during the revolt. Mindon escaped alive and the coup was crushed when Myingun fled in a steamer to British Burma. Rumours of British involvement are unsubstantiated, and no evidence exists showing their support for the revolt.

While Mindon was escaping the palace, he ran into a would-be assassin, Maung Paik Gyi, who lost his nerve and grovelled in front of the king. Mindon commanded him to carry him from the palace, which he promptly did.

Succession crisis

The rebellion caused Mindon great reluctance in naming a successor to Kanaung for fear of civil war.

One of his queens, Hsinbyumashin, dominated the last days of King Mindon. It was an edict by Hsinbyumashin that ordered almost all possible heirs to the throne be killed, so that her daughter Supayalat and son-in-law Thibaw would become queen and king. Close royals of all ages and both genders were mercilessly executed, after being tricked that the dying king wanted to bid them farewell.

Thibaw, Mindon's son from a lesser queen, succeeded him after his death in 1878. King Thibaw was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Burmese War in November 1885 resulting in total annexation of Burma.

See also

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