Arrival of Buddha Sasana in Myanmar


Buddhism arrived in Myanmar five times at five different periods, by land and by sea. The legend of Shwe Dagon pagoda in Yangon tells the story of the first arrival. In Maha Sakarit years (Buddhist era 103), on the full moon day of Kason (May), Gotama Buddha (prince Siddhartha), became enlightened under the shade of the Bodhi tree in Uruvela forest near the Neranjara river. Two merchant brothers Taphusa and Balika from Ramanna desa (Thaton), in lower Myanmar were in India selling paddy and other crops they brought by ship. They visited Gotama Buddha and offered him honey cakes.

The Buddha preached them the Dhamma. When they requested the Buddha his representation to take home, the Buddha offered them eight strands of hair from his head.

According to Shwedagon Pagoda inscription, the Lord Buddha stroked his head with his right hand and got 8 hairs and gave them to the merchants.

He told them to enshrine the sacred hair relics in the old stupa in which three relics of the previous Buddha’s were interned the bathing robe, the staff and water strainer of Kaukusanda Buddha, Gonagamana Buddha and Kassapa Buddha respectively. On reaching their homeland, the brothers gave the sacred relics to king Ukkalapa who enshrined them in the stupa discovered on the summit of Singuttara hill. A new stupa was built encasing the old one.

The meaning of encased stupa is the inner stupa was enclosed by an outer one. According to Shwedagon Pagoda legend, a golden pagoda enclosed in a silver one which in turn was enclosed by a series of tin, copper, lead, marble and iron pagodas, finally a brick pagoda was built to encase the whole series of smaller pagodas.

Encased stupas can be seen either due to earthquake or human destruction. This encased stupa also called Pawdawmu Pagoda. There are 52 encased stupas in Bagan ancient city. The unique Shwezigon pagoda is one of them.

Today this edifice is well known, as Shwe Dagon Pagoda. Thus Myanmar received two gems the Buddha and the Dhamma in Buddhist era 103. Sangha the holy order was not formed yet till Gotama Buddha preached his sermons to five ascetics.

These 5 ascetics were also called 5 Pyinsawaggi. According to this legend that 5 Pyinsawaggi did not appeared at that time.

Thus these 2 brothers Taphusa & Balika were the first to perform Five Foremost Actions.

The First Five Foremost Actions (ဦး ၅ ဦး)

  1. The foremost to pay homage to the Buddha, (ဘုရားဖူးဦး)
  2. The foremost to offer the first meal to the Buddha, (ဆွမ်းလှူဦး)
  3. The foremost to take refuge in the two sacred Gems (Dvevāsika Saranagamana) (‌ဒွေဝါစိက သရဏဂုံတည်ကြသူ။ သရဏဂုံဦး)
  4. The foremost to be given the sacred hairs, and (ဆံတော်ဓာတ်တော်ဦး)
  5. The foremost to build the shrines and pagoda (cetiya) (စေတီဦး၊ ဘုရားဦး)

Mahā Era 68 (624 BC) The Bodhisatta was born on Friday, the full moon day of Kason (about May).

Mahā Era 103 (589 BC) – Attained Buddhahood at the age of 35.

Mahā Era 148 (544 BC) – Demise of Buddha at the age of 80. (Mahā-parinibbāna)( on Tuesday, the full moon day of Kason

After the First Great Buddhist Council (The First Synod), Mahā Era 148 was written off (သက္ကရာဇ်ဖြို). So Sāsanā Sakarit (or) Year of  Religion  (or) Anno Buddahe (AB) was established counting that year as 1.

The second arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Maha Sakarit year 111, in the 8th Vasa ordained year of Gotama Buddha, Maha Thera Gavampati entreated the Buddha to visit his native land Suvannabhumi for Dhamma teaching. The Buddha came with his 500 disciples and preached for days. The king and his people after hearing the Dhamma embraced Buddhism. Six sacred hair relics were offered, one each to six hermits who were among the Dhamma audience. They enshrined them six stupas built on the summits of the hills in Mon state. 37 years after this visit, unburnt teeth of Gotama Buddha’s remains were brought to Suvanabhumi. The king enshrined each in one stupa.

Above the 37 years after of this visit means at the time of  Mahā-parinibbāna of Buddha. (111+37= 148 Maha Sakarit). So these unburnt teeth called relics of Buddha or Buddha’s Swedaw.

In Kalyāṇi stone inscription, it was inscribed that Suvanna Bhumi was situated in the south west of Mt. Kelāsa pagoda in Yamana Province. It is Bilin, Thaton district, Mon State.

The third arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Maha Sakarit year 123, in the 20th Vasa of Gotama Buddha, while he was residing at Jetavana Vihara, Maha thera Punua invited the Buddha for his Dhamma duta mission to his native land Vaniccagama in Sunaparanta country.

သုနပရန္တတိုင်း (Today Minbu Township, Magwe Region)

The Buddha with his 500 disciples came by land and resided in a sandal wood monastery. (စန္ဒကူးကျောင်းတော်) After preaching Dhamma for a week, the people became Buddhist. To commemorate his visit there, the Buddha left two foot prints one at the foot and the other on the summit of the Minbu hill range. These two foot prints were housed in two Pada zedis (well known as foot print pagodas) and on the site of the Sandal wood monastery a zedi was built. Today it is known as Kyaung Taw Ya pagoda at Leikaing. Maha thera Punna spread Buddhism.

Consecration of the Buddha image: Recited in the ritual consecration of images of the Buddha. Burmese called အနေကဇာတင်) aneka jāti saṁsāraṁ အနေကဇာတိသံသာရံ

Five types of Zedi in Myanmar

  1. Datu Zedi :          zedi enshrining  relics of the Buddha or Arhats
  2. Dhamma Zedi :    zedi enshrining sacred texts and manuscripts, along with jewels and precious metals
  3. Paribawga Zedi: zedi enshrining garments and other items (alms bowls, robes, etc.) that belonged to the Buddha or sacred personages
  4. Odisa Zedi: zedi built from motives of piety, containing statues of the Buddha, models of sacred images
  5. Pada Zedi: zedi Enshrining the Foot Print of Lord

The Foot Prints of Lord Buddha can be found at the pagodas and temples of Myanmar since the Bagan period (11th – 13th Century). Usually it is depicted at the vault of the entrance of the temples. You can see this foot print at the two feet of Chauk-htat-gyi Buddhist Temple (ခြောက်ထပ်ကြီးဘုရား) in Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar. It is one of the colosal reclining Buddha images in the country.

The fourth arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Buddhist era 236, empire Asoka of Pataliputtara held the third Buddhist synod Maha Thera Moggaliputta Tisa, the chairman of the synod advised Asoka to send out Buddhist mission to nine places and nine countries to propagate Buddhism. Asoka’s monk son Maha Thera Maheinda and monk daughter Sanghamita were sent to Lanka Dipa (Srilanka). Maha theras Sona and Uttara, accompanied by Maha Anurudha, Tissapupa and Soneyya were sent to Suvanna Bhumi. Buddha Sasana that arrived there before had declined. After hearing the Dhamma preached by Sona and Uttara, King Siri Ma and his people embraced Buddha Dhamma, 60,000 became Arahat, 3,500 men and 1,500 women entered monkhood.

The fifth arrival of Buddha Sasana

In the Buddhist year 450, Buddhist king of Srilanka Vadagamani concerned the fourth Buddhist synod. Maha Thera Dhamma Rukkhita presided the synod and 500 arahats participated in it Tipitaka were translated into Magadha (Pali) and Atthakatha (commentaries) were rendered into Srilankan language. All works were inscribed on palm leaf. The first recording in writing of Tipitaka and commentaries.

In the Buddhist year 930 (386 AD). Maha Thera Buddhaghosa (a native of Ghosa village in Rajagaha kingdom) was invited by his Guru Monk Maha Thera Revata to reside at Maha Vihara monastery in Srilanka for his further study of Buddhist texts. During his residence at this Vihara for over a decade, Buddhaghosa translated into Magadha (Pali) commentaries in Srilankan language. Later he brought to king Dhammapaja of Suvana Bhumi his translated works. That is the story of the fifth arrival of Buddha Sasana to Myanmar in the form of written texts.


  1. The stone inscription by king Dhammazedi (1472-1492 AD), on the platform of Shwe Dagon Pagoda.
  2. Charles Forchammer, Shwe Dagon Legend.
  3. Arthur Phayre, History of Burma, 1883.
  4. Khin Maung Nyunt (Dr.), Pilgrim’s Guide to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Bago,1991.
  5. Dhammazedi’s Mon inscriptions.
  6. Shwe Dagon zedi stone inscription.
  7. Kelasa hill stone inscription
  8. Sasana Lankura Sadan
  9. Vamsadipani
  10. Uparipansa Athakatha
  11. Punnava Suta
  12. Rakhine Chronicle
  13. The glass palace chronicle


Suggested Books

  1. Khin Maung Nyunt (Dr.), Pilgrim’s Guide to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Bago,
  2. Pe Maung Tin, U, The Shwe Dagon Pagoda Part1, 2, 3, Journal of Burma Research Society (JBRS), Vol 24, Part 1, 1934. (The stone inscriptions were engraved by order of the Mon King Dhammaceti in the year of Burmese era (BE) 847 (AD 1485).
  3. The glass palace chronicle
  4. (URLs:,

The height of Shwedagon pagoda is 112 metres / 367 feet now.

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