The Chakma in the light of history of Myanmar

Chapter II

Origin: “….. and all citizens were divided into three parties, who afterwards became three different nations, the Pyu, the Kanran, and the Thet”1  “In Burmese history Chuijang-Kyatha it is mentioned that Burma was divided into three parts, one of which was under Chakma King”2  and “The Chakmas had a long history – they were originally residents of Upper Burma and had their own king”3 The first and the second quotations mentioned above support each other.

Regarding the ancient history of Burma [Myanmar] Shwe Lu Maung citing the book Maharazawin [Great History by U Kala] writes, “The Tibeto-Burma group is believed to have consisted of three tribes: The Pyu, The Kanyan, and the Thet [Chakma]”4 He further writes regarding Tagaung Era and dynasty,“Very legendary and ancient. Bhama historians claim the origin of Bhama in this kingdom. A total of fifty kings are listed to have ruled. The capital Tagaung is situated in northern Burma. There were two dynasties. The first was founded by King Abi Raza and the second by King DazaRaza, both of whom came from India and belonged to the Thet – kya – gii or Tha – gii – win Royal Dynasty”5

From the above description it is clear that the Burmese [Myanma] term Thet [Chakma] is an abbreviation of Thet-kya meaning Sakya. Therefore it is most possible that the Chakmas are the descents of the early Sakyas.

“The Chakma are locally known in Myanmar as ethnic Thet, a Rakhaine sub ethnicity also recognized as an indigenous tribe in Bangladesh”6From this quotation it is ascertained that the Chakma are known as Thet in Myanmar.

During the one thousand birth anniversary celebration of the Buddhist saint Atisha Dipankar Sreejnan at Rangamati Ananda Vihara on 2.3.1983, the Nepalese delegate Mr. Lokadarshan at a seminar opined that the Chakmas were descendants of the early Sakyas.

Dr. Anug Tun Thet of Myanmar, a high official of UNICEF visited Rangamati probably in the year 1999; I had the opportunity of meeting him in my office [while I was serving as Director, TCI Rangamati] and during our discussion he said, “You are known as Thets in Myanmar and in fact are our long lost brethren”.

Aung San Suu Kyi writes, “The Burmese, who today from the largest racial group in the country, believe that their early Tibeto-Burmese ancestors were the Pyus, the Kanyan and the Thets”7

Map of Champanago

Map of Sanbannago

S.W. Cocks writes, “Prehistoric Period, like many other ancient chronicles the Burmese Maha-raza-win, or Chronicles of the Kings, opens with an account of the creation. This finished, it proceeds to describe the foundation by kings from India of a monarchy at Tagaung in Upper Burma, the aboriginal tribes then in the land were called Kanran, Pru or Pyu and Sak or Thet. They afterwards took the name Bhrahma or Mramma, by which the people is still called. This name was never applied to the Arakanese, who claim to be older branch of the race. The Arakanese pronunciation is certainly an older form than the Burmese and their claim is probably well founded. The Burmese language is closely allied with Tibetan and Nepalese, and a common origin certain. The early migration from Eastern Tibet has already been referred to in the introduction.

Early Tradition: In very early times a king, Abhi-raza, from Kapilavastu in Oude, the home of Buddha, was forced by dissensions with neibouring chiefs to leave his country, and came with an army into Burma. There he established a kingdom and built Tagaung on the Upper Irawadi for his capital. At his death his two sons, Kan-raza-gyi and Kan-raza-nge, both claimed the throne……….

Fall of Tagaung: Kan-raza-nge and thirty one of his descendants ruled in Tagaung. The Maha-raza-win states that the last of these kings, Benaka or Bhinaka by name, was overthrown about the year 700 B.C by an invasion of Chinese, called in the chronicle Tarok and Taret. The invasion probably took place six centuries later, and the invaders were Shans from the hill country east of the Irawadi, driven downwards by the pressure of the great rebellion in China in the first century B.C., the king fled south to Male on the Irawadi and died there……………….

[Regarding fall of Taugaung mentioned above, it may here also be added that the 33rd descendant of the Sakya line of princess of old Pagan or Tagaung was Binnaka Raja…………… captured Tagaung, destroyed it and compelled the Raja to quit the country. The Raja and his family with other followers, entered the Mali stream and took refuge at Mali on the right bank of the Irrawaddy almost opposite the present ruins of Sabenago (Champanagor)]

Old Pagan: The Shan invaders did not stay long in the kingdom of Tagaung but were driven out by Indians from the north-west. A King named Daza-raza entered Burma and settled in Mauriya, which some place in Chindarin Valley, others east of the Irawadi. From there he went to Male, married Queen Naga-hsein, and built a new capital at Old Pagan close to Tagaung, which he shortly afterwards occupied……………

Burma during the period of Prome Kingdom: Of the history of Prome or Tharekhettara nothing is really known……………Upper Burma was probably occupied chiefly by Shans, who are said to have established a powerful kingdom called Pong, about which nothing is really known. In the south, the kingdom of Thaton was flourishing under kings from India ………….. The Chinese annual show that such a movement took place about the beginning of the first century BC. And it is likely that the fall of the Pagan or Tagaung kingdom was due to this movement. All that can be said of the early history is that the tribes which called themselves Pyu, Kanran, and Thet were ruled by kings from India, who gave them some degree of civilization and taught them agriculture and the simple arts………….The kings of Upper Burma crossed from India by land through Bengal and Manipur. Those who colonized Thaton came by sea from the Madras coast. Communication with Indians by sea gradually increased while land routes were less used.

End of the Prome kingdom: Civil war brought the kingdom of Prome to an end ………… after wandering for many years Thamokdarit and his followers settled at New Pagan and founded the capital of the great Pagan monarchy. From this name onward the name of the whole people becomes Mramma, and the tribal names, Pyu, Kanran and Thet, drop out of use, though the Chinese history continues to use the name Pyu for another 900 years”8

We came to learn from the above detailed description of the fall of Prome Kingdom of Burma [Myanmar] and it has so far been discussed that there can be no doubt about establishing kingdoms in Burma [Myanmar] and then in Arakan by the Sakya Kings from India. The said movement of the Sakyas is a historical fact which is very similar with the legends of the Chakmas.

Anthropologically the Chakmas are a Mongoloid race closely resemble the Burmese [Myanma], Thai, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese of South-east Asia. They are called Sak or Thek or Thet by the Burmese.

Scholars opine that the Sakyas clan also belongs to Mongoloid race. Vincent Smith says, “I think, it highly probable that Gautama Buddha, the sage of the Sakyas, and the founder of historical Buddhism was a Mongolian by birth, that is to say, a hillman like a Gurkha with Mongolian features and akin to the Tibetan, similar views were expressed long ago by Beal and Fergusson, who used the term Seythic or Turanian in the sense in which I used Mongolian”9

Suniti Kumar Chatterji also opines similar views. He writes, “…………. If this view is correct than the Buddha would be racially like the Gorkhas of Nepal”10

From the above descriptions it is clear that the Sakyas are of Mongoloid origin, not of Aryan. They are presently found only in Nepal. They resemble Mongoloid people and are Buddhist by religion. Outside Nepal their existence is hardly known.

In the light of the above discussions, conclusion about the origin of the Chakma may be drawn that King Bijoygiri was a Sakya descent who came into Burma from a place situated in the foot hills of the Himalayas of ancient India in a very remote time. He established a kingdom at Champanagor or Champaknagar situated on the eastern bank of Irawaddy in the Tagaung country of Upper Burma [Myanmar] which subsequently came to be known as Chakma kingdom after Sakya or Thet-Kya-gii Royal dynasty, the same line of Burmese dynasties.

Therefore the Chakmas are a mongoloid people of South-east Asia and one of the ancient races of Burma and ancestors of the Burmese.

A considerable number of Chakma [Thet] remained in Burma [Myanmar] but in course of time the majority of them were assimilated into Burmese or Burmans. At present the Chakma are found living in different places of Mandalay region in Upper Burma and Arakan [Rakhine State] and Chin Hills too.

It may be mentioned here that according to history not only Burma but also other ancient kingdoms of South-east Asia were once ruled by Indians. “The empire of South-east Asia was influenced to such an extent by India for over a thousand years and years that these early kingdoms are generally referred to by historians as “Indianized States”. In some cases, Indians actually ruled after marriage with local families.”11


V. C. Scott O’Connor, Mandalay and other cities of the past in Burma, Bangkok, 1987, P, 215.
Chittagong Hill Tracts District Gazetteer, Dacca, 1971,
Bangladesh District Gazetteers: Chittagong, Dacca 1970, P. 115.
Shwe Lu Maung, Burma, Dhaka, 1989, P.2
Ibid, P. 3.
Rakhine Protesters Demand UN Protect Buddhist Chakma in Bangladesh [Topics: Arakan State, Crime, Ethnic Issues, Foreign Relations, Human Rights]
Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear, London, 1991, P. 45.
S. W. Cocks, A Short History of Burma, 2nd Edition, London, 1919 Ps. 9-13.
Vincent Smith, History of India, 3rd Edition, Calcutta, 1961, Ps. 58-59.
Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Kirata-Jana-Krti, Calcutta, 1951, Ps. 58-59.
Eugene Foder, Robert C. Fisher, South-East Asia, New York, 1975, P.86.

Read More: On the way to Champanagor [Champaknagar] in Myanmar (CHAPTER-I)

Writter: Supriya Talukder

Source: Inquest of  Champaknagar: The lost kingdom of the Chakma

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