The founder of the Bagan Empire was King
Anawrahta (A.D. 1044-1077). He broadened his domain from a small
area in Central Myanmar until it spread beyond the present-day
boundaries. It was he who introduced pure Theravada Buddhism to
Upper Myanmar with the help of Shin Arahan, a learned monk from
Suvanna Bhumi or Thaton in Lower Myanmar.
Urged by his spiritual adviser Shin Arahan, the king requested
the Mon monarch Manuha of Suvannabhumi to kindly send him a set
of the Pali Buddhist scriptures. Unfortunately the request was
rudely turned down and Anawrahta waged a fierce war against the
Mon king. He conquered Suvanna Bhumi chiefly to acquire Buddhist
scriptures known as the three Pitakas or Baskets of Learning.
Some thirty huge sets of the Pali Buddhist scriptures were
carried along with prisoners including the Royal family. Fitting
honor was extended to the scriptures which were housed with all
solemnity at Bagan in a library specially built for the purpose.
After Anawrahta had brought over the Pali scriptures to Bagan,
the study of the scripts coupled with the pressure put forth by
Shin Arahan, encouraged the king to make Theravada Buddhism the
religion of the state. His enthusiasm ushered an era of
religious reform. Pagodas rose, a new programme of education was
adopted, and the cause of culture was strongly encouraged and
advocated. After the death of Anawrahta, Kyanzittha (1084-1113)
followed the programme of reform.
According to the Shwesandaw inscription of the year 1093
Kyanzittha sent a mission to India to restore the temple at
Buddhagaya, where Gautama had attained Enlightenment, an act
which became the first official attempt on the part of a Myanmar
king at establishing cultural contacts with India. Shin Arahan
continued to be spiritual adviser of the king, and it was to him
more than to anybody else that Myanmar owes the establishment of
Theravada Buddhism, and the era of pagoda building which he
inaugurated was the most creative age in Burmese religious and