Sacred Burmese texts on what happened to Buddha’s relics

LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA. 85

He said to himself: “If at this time, when there are
only seven days since Buddha entered Neibban, there are
to be found people holding such a language, what will

happen hereafter ? These persons will soon have followers
who will embrace the profession of Eahans, and then
the true religion shall be totally subverted : the excellent
law shall be in the hands of such persons like a heap of
unstrung flowers that are scattered by the wind. The
only remedy to such an impending misfortune is to as-

semble a council composed of all the true disciples, who,
by their decisions, shall insure stability to religion, and
fix the meaning of every portion of the law, contained in
the Wini, the Thoots, and the Abidama. I am, as it were,
bound to watch over the religion of Buddha because of
the peculiar predilection he has ever shown to me. On
one occasion I walked with Buddha the distance of three
gawots ; during that time he preached to me, and at the
end of the instruction we made an exchange of our
tsiwarans, and I put on his own. He said : ‘ Kathaba is
like the moon : three times he has obtained the inherit-
ance of the law. His affection to my person, his zeal
for my religion, have never been equalled. After my de-
mise, it will behove him to stem the current of evil, to
humble the wicked, and condemn their false teachings as
subversive of the genuine doctrine. With such energetic
means, my religion shall remain pure and undefiled, and its
tenets shall not be lost and drowned in the midst of the
raging waves of errors/ Therefore,” said the great disciple,
” I will hold an assembly of all the disciples, for the pro-
motion and exaltation of the holy religion.” This design
Kathaba kept perfectly secret, and made known to no one.
At that time, four of the ablest Malla princes, having
washed their heads, and each put on a fine new dress,
tried to set fire to the funeral pile, made of sandal and
other odoriferous woods, and one hundred and twenty
cubits high. Their efforts proving useless, all the other
princes joined them, in the hope that, by their united
exertions, they would be able to set fire to the pile. Fans,
made of palm-leaves were vigorously agitated over the
heap of coals ; bellows made of leather blew in the same
direction; but all the efforts were of no avail. The
princes, surprised and disheartened, consulted Anoorouda
as to the cause of such a disappointment. Anoorouda
said to them, that the Nats did not approve of their pro-
ceedings; they wished that the great Kathaba should
arrive and venerate the corpse, ere it be consumed by fire.

88 LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA.

No fire could be lighted before the great Bahan had made
his appearance.

The people, hearing the answer of Anoorouda, won-
dered at the transcendent merit of the great Kathaba, and
anxiously waited for his arrival. They said to each other,
” Who is this distinguished Eahan ? Is he white or black,
short or tall ? ” They took perfumes, flowers, and flags,
and went out to meet him and honour him in a becoming
manner.

When the great Kathaba arrived in the city of Koo-
theinaron, he without delay repaired to the place where
the funeral pile was erected. He adjusted his clothes in
the most becoming manner, and, with his hands joined to
the forehead, three times turned round the pile, saying at
each turn, “This is the place of the head; that is the
place of the feet.” Standing then on the spot opposite to
the feet, he entered into the fourth state of dzan for a
while. His mind having emerged therefrom, he made the
following prayer: “I wish to see the feet of Buddha,
whereupon are imprinted the marks that formerly prog-
nosticated his future glorious destiny. May the cloth and
cotton they are wrapped with be unloosened, and the coffin,
as well as the pile, be laid open, and the sacred feet appear
out and extend so far as to lie on my head.” He had
scarcely uttered his prayer, when the whole was suddenly
opened, and there came out the beautiful feet, like the
full moon emerging from the bosom of a dark cloud. The
whole assembly burst into loud applauses and continued
cheers on seeing this matchless prodigy. Kathaba, stretch-
ing his two hands, that resembled two lilies just blooming,
held both feet firmly by the heels, placed them on his
head, and worshipped. All his disciples followed his
example, and worshipped. Perfumes and flowers were
profusely offered by the crowd. When this was done, the
feet slowly withdrew into their place, the pile and coffin
resumed their natural position. As the sun and the moon
disappeared below the horizon, so the feet of Buddha

LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA. 89

disappeared, buried as it were, in the folds of cloth and
cotton. The people, at this moment, wept and loudly
wailed: their affection for Buddha was evinced on this
occasion more forcibly than when he entered the state of
Neibban.

The feet had hardly been concealed from the sight of
the people, when, without the interference of any one, fire
caught the pile, and soon set it in a blaze of flames. The
skin, the flesh, the muscles, the entrails, and liver of the
body were all consumed, without leaving any trace of
ashes and charcoal ; as butter or oil, poured on a great fire,
burn and are consumed without anything remaining. Of
the body all had disappeared except the relics. All the
pieces of cloth that served to wrap up the body, except
the outermost and innermost, were also consumed. The
relics of former Buddhas, whose lives were very long,
resembled a lump of gold. Our Buddha, whose life had
been comparatively of a short duration, had said whilst
yet alive: “During my lifetime, religion has not been
sufficiently diffused ; those, therefore, who, after my Neib-
ban, shall obtain of my relics a small portion, be it but of
the size of a mustard-seed, and build a dzedi to place them
in, and worship and make offerings to them, shall obtain
a place of happiness in one of the seats of Nats.” Among
the relics were the four canine teeth, the two bones that
connect the shoulders with the neck-bone, and the frontal
bone. These are the seven great relics. They were in a
state of perfect preservation, not at all damaged by fire,
and are called Athambinana. Besides these relics there
were some others of a smaller dimension, in sufficient
quantity to fill up seven tsarouts. Here is the size and
shape of those sacred remains : the smallest were of the
size of a mustard-seed, and resembled the bud of the Hing-
kow; the middle ones equalled the size of a rice-grain,
divided into two parts, and looked like pearls ; the largest
were of the size of a pea, and appeared like gold.

When the pile was consumed by fire, water came down

90 LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA.

from the sky, as thick as the arm, which soon extinguished
the fire. The Malla princes poured also upon it an im-
mense quantity of scented water. During all the while
the pile was burning, streams of flames issued from the
leaves and branches of the trees, shining forth with un-
common brightness, without burning the trees ; insects of
every description were seen flying in swarms on those
trees, without receiving the least injury.

In the place where the corpse had been exposed during
seven days, the relics were deposited during the same
length of time, and offerings of perfumes and flowers were
incessantly made. Above them, a canopy bespangled
with gold and silver stars was raised, and bouquets of
flowers and perfumes were hanging therefrom. From that
place to the one where the ornaments were deposited, the
road was lined on both sides with fine cloth; the road
itself was covered with the finest mats. Above the road
was spread a splendid canopy bespangled with golden
stars and flowers. The interior of the building was richly
decorated ; perfumes and flowers were seen hanging from
the canopy. Around the building, masts were planted,
and adorned with the five sorts of flags. Plantain-trees
were planted on both sides of the road, and jars of cool
water were laid down at a very short distance one from
the other. From posts of well-polished wood were sus-
pended lamps to be lighted day and night. The box,
containing the relics, was placed on the back of a richly-
caparisoned elephant, and the precious remains were
honoured in every possible way by offerings of flowers and
perfumes; by dancing, singing, music, rejoicings, and loud
acclamations. The Malla princes, to insure the safety of
the relics, had a line of elephants drawn round the place,
then a second line of horses, then a third of chariots, then
a fourth of warriors. Such precautions were taken both
for insuring the safety of the relics, and allowing time to
everybody to come and do honour to them.

intelligence of his demise, for fear of causing in him too
great an affliction. They took every possible precaution,
and devised various means for preparing the king’s mind
to bear with composure the loss he had sustained. As
soon as the monarch understood what the courtiers in-
tended to say, he fainted three times in succession. Each
time steam baths and an abundant pouring of water over
the head restored him to consciousness. When he became
sensible, he wailed and lamented for a long time. Becov-
ering from the shock of his deep affliction, he desired to
assuage the grief caused by Buddha’s death by procuring
some of his relics. For that purpose a messenger was
despatched to the Malla princes with the following re-
quest: ” You are the descendants of the great Thamadat;
I too, who rule over the Magatha country, boast of the
same noble origin. For this reason, I put forward my
claim for obtaining the possession of some of Buddha’s
relics, which are now his representatives. I will give
directions for the erection of a beautiful and tall dzedi
wherein they shall be deposited. I and my people shall
have thus an object of worship.” The princes of Wethalie
and of the neighbouring states sent a similar request.
Those of Kapilawot and Alekapa followed their example.
The kings of Kama and Pawa, the pounhas of Withadipa
also sent in their reclamations, with a threat of having

recourse to the force of arms, if their demands should be
disregarded. They soon followed their messengers at the
head of their troops.

The Malla princes, on receiving those messages, con-
sulted among themselves as to what was to be done. They
agreed that, the relics of Buddha being the most valuable
possessions in the world, they would not part with them.
Many angry words were exchanged among contending
parties. They were almost ready to draw the sword when
a celebrated pounha, named Dauna, made his appearance.
He stood on an elevated spot, and making a sign with his
hand, began to speak in a language calculated to soothe
the irritation of the parties. Great was his influence over
all, since there was scarcely a man in the island of Dzam-
poudipa who did not acknowledge Dauna as his teacher.
” kings and princes,” said he, ” hear one word that I
have to say to you. Our most excellent Buddha always
extolled the virtue of forbearance ; but you are ready to
fight for the possession of his relics. This is not good.
Let all of you be now of one mind, with cheerful disposi-
tions. I will divide the relics into eight equal portions.
Let every one be ever solicitous to multiply in all direc-
tions dzedis in honour of him, who was possessed of the
five visions, that many may feel affection for the most
excellent one.” Dauna went on explaining more fully the
two stanzas he had recited, saying : ” kings and princes,
our most excellent Buddha, previous to his obtaining the
Buddhaship, whilst he was even an animal, still more a
man and a Nat, practised the virtue of patience; he
always recommended it in all his subsequent preachings.
How could you have recourse to open violence, to warlike
weapons, for his relics ? You are kings of eight countries ;
come to a quiet and peaceable arrangement on this sub-
ject : speak to each other words of peace and good- will.
I will have the relics divided into eight equal parts. You
are all equally worthy to receive your share.”

The kings, on hearing the words of Dauna, came to the

94 LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA.

place where he stood, and entreated him to make eight
equal portions of the relics. Dauna assented to their
request. They went with him to the place of the relics.
The golden coffin that contained them was opened, and
there appeared to their regards all the relics beautiful like
gold. The princes seeing them said : ” We have seen the
most excellent Buddha gifted with the six glories, and all
the bodily qualifications of the most accomplished person :
who could believe that these are the only things that
remain of him ? ” They all wept and lamented. Whilst
they were overwhelmed with grief, Dauna abstracted one
of the canine teeth and concealed it in the folds of his
turban. All the relics were duly apportioned to all the
kings. A Thagia, who had seen the doing of Dauna, took
adroitly the tooth, and without being perceived carried it
into the Nats’ seats, and placed it in the Dzoolamani dzedi.
When the partition was over, Dauna was surprised not to
find the tooth he had stolen : he did not, however, dare to
complain, as his pious fraud would have been discovered.
To console himself for such a loss, he asked for the posses-
sion of the golden vessel wherein the relics had been kept.
His demand was favourably received, and the golden vessel
was given to him.

The Maurya princes, who ruled over the country of
Pipilawana, hearing what had been done by Adzatathat
and other kings, went also with a great retinue to the city
of Kootheinaron. The Malla princes informed them that
the relics had already been divided, and that there re-
mained nothing but the coals of the funeral pile. They
took them away, built a large pagoda over them, and
worshipped. The places where the relics were deposited
are Eadzagio, Kootheinaron, Wethalie, Kapilawot, Allaka-
pata, Eama, Pawa, and Witadipakka.

King Adzatathat ordered a beautiful and well-levelled
road, eight oothabas broad, to be made from the city of
Kootheinaron to that of Eadzagio. The distance is twenty-
five youdzanas. He wished to adorn it, in all its length;

LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA. 95

in the same manner as the Malla princes had done the
road leading from the place where the cremation of the
corpse had taken place to that where the relics had been
deposited. At fixed and proper distances houses were
built for resting and spending the night. The king,
attended by a countless crowd of people, went to take
the relics and carry them into his country. During the
journey, singing, dancing, and playing of musical instru-
ments were uninterrupted. Offerings of perfumes and
flowers were incessantly made by the people. At certain
intervals they stopped during seven days, when fresh
honours were paid to the relics in the midst of the greatest
rejoicings. In this manner seven months and seven days
were employed in going over the distance between the two
countries. At Eadzagio the relics were deposited in a
place prepared for that purpose, and a dzedi was erected
over them. The seven other kings built also dzedis over
the relics they had obtained. Dauna built one, too, over
the golden vessel, and the Maurya princes erected likewise
one religious monument over the coals. Thus there were
at that time ten dzedis, situated respectively in Eadzagio,
Kootheinaron, Wethalie, Kapilawot, Allakapata, Witadipa-
ka, Eama, Pawa, the Dauna village, and Papilawana. The
partition of the relics happened on the fifth of the waxing
moon of Nayon (June). There were altogether eight tsarouts
of relics ; that is to say, a basketful. Each prince had one
tsarout ; that is to say, two pyis. The upper right canine
tooth was taken to the Nats’ seats; the lower right tooth was
carried to the Gandala country ; the upper left tooth was
removed to Kalingga, and the lower left tooth to the Naga
seat. The other teeth and hairs of the head and body were
distributed by the Nats in a great number of other worlds.
When the funeral ceremonies were completed, and the
distribution of the relics effected in a manner satisfactory
to all parties, Kathaba, who was the acknowledged head
of the assembly, advised King Adzatathat to do away
with the Eetzana era, and establish a new one, that would

96 LEGEXD OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA.

be called the era of religion, beginning with the year of
Buddha’s Neibban, that is to say, on the year 148 of the
Eetzana era. The king joyfully assented to the pious
request of the Buddhist patriarch, and was exceedingly
rejoiced to have this opportunity of affording a fresh token
of the great esteem he had for Buddha’s person.

Many years afterwards, the great Kathaba entertained
some fear in his mind respecting the safety of the relics,
distributed over eight distinct places, viz., Kootheinaron,
Eadzagio, Kappila, Allakabat, Watadipaka, Kama, Pawa,
and Wethalie. 5 He wished to have them all put together
in a safe and secure place, where they could be preserved
until better circumstances would afford an opportunity to
bring them forth, and expose them to the respect and
veneration of the true believers all over the Dzampoudipa

LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA. 97

island. For this purpose, in the year of religion 20, he
went to King Adzatathat and said to him that precautions
were to be taken for securing the preservation of the
relics. The king asked him by what means all the relics
could be had from those who now possessed them. Ka-
thaba replied that he would know how to manage such a
delicate affair. He went to the seven kings, who gave to
him all the principal relics, keeping beside themselves only
what was strictly necessary to be deemed an object of
worship and goodwill towards Buddha’s person. One
exception was made in favour of the relics deposited in
the village of Eama, because they were in future times to
be carried to Ceylon and placed in the great wihara or
pagoda. All the relics having been brought to Eadzagio,
Kathaba took with him those pious articles, and went out
of the city. He directed his steps in a south-eastern direc-
tion, loaded with this precious burden, which he carried
all the way. Having reached a certain spot, he made the
following prayer : ” May all the rocks and stones of this
place disappear, and there be, in place thereof, a fine sandy
soil ; may water never issue from this spot,” Adzatathat
ordered the soil to be dug very deep. With the earth
bricks were made, and eight dzedis were built. This was
done for the express purpose of preventing people suspect-
ing the real object that both Kathaba and the king had
in view. The depth of the hole was eighty cubits. Its
bottom was lined with iron bars. To that bottom was
lowered a chapel monastery made of brass, similar in shape
and proportions to the great wihara of Ceylon. Six gold
boxes containing the precious relics were placed in this
chapel monastery. Each box was enclosed in one of
silver, the latter in one adorned with precious stones, and
so on, until eight boxes were placed one within the other.
There were also arranged 550 statues, representing Bud-
dha in 5 50 preceding existences described in the sacred
writings, the statues of the eighty great disciples, with
those of Thoodaudana and Maia. There also were ar-

VOL. II. G

98 LEGEND OF THE BURMESE BUDDHA.

ranged 500 lamps of gold and 500 lamps of silver, filled
with the most fragrant oil, with wicks made of the richest
cloth. The great Kathaba, taking a leaf of gold, wrote
upon it the following words: “In aftertimes a young
man, named Piadatha, shall ascend the throne, and become
a <reat and renowned monarch under the name of Athoka.
Through him the relics shall be spread all over the island
of Dzampoodipa.” King Adzatathat made new offerings
of flowers and perfumes. All the doors of the monastery
were shut, and fastened with an iron bolt, Near the last
door he placed a large ruby, upon which the following
words were written : ” Let the poor king who shall find
this ruby present it to the relics.” A Thagia ordered a
Nat to watch over the precious deposit. The Nat dis-
posed around it the most hideous and terrifying figures,
armed with swords. The whole was encompassed by six
walls made of stone and brick; a large slab of stone
covered the upper part, and upon it he built a small
dzedi.

Five years afterwards, that is to say, in the twenty-fifth
year of the religious era, 6 King Adzatathat died.

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