|Reign||9 May 1383 - c. 1421 (38 years)|
Binnya Ran I
|Died||1421 (aged 54)
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Razadarit or Rajadhirat (Burmese: ရာဇာဓိရာဇ်; 1367 - 1421) was the ninth king of Hanthawaddy dynasty from 1383 to 1421, and is considered one of the greatest kings in Burmese history. He successfully reunified all three Mon-speaking regions of southern Burma (Myanmar), and fended off major assaults by the Burmese-speaking northern Kingdom of Ava (Innwa) in the Forty Years War (1386-1425).
When Razadarit became the ruler of Hanthawaddy in 1383, the 16-year-old boy-king held just the Pegu (Bago) province while the other two major Mon-speaking regions of the Irrawaddy delta and Martaban (Mottama) were in open rebellion. By his sheer will and military leadership, he defeated Ava's first wave of invasions in the 1380s, and by 1390, was able to reunify all three Mon regions. During the second half of the Forty Years War, he met Minkhaung I of Ava and his son Minyekyawswa head-on in Lower Burma, Upper Burma, and Arakan.
The king died of injuries received in hunting a wild elephant in 1421 at age 54. He left a strong, independent kingdom for the Mon people that would prosper for another 118 years. Three of his offspring later became regents of Hanthawaddy. His daughter Shin Sawbu was the first and only female regent, and one of the most enlightened rulers in Burmese history.
Razadarit is remembered as a complex figure: a brave military commander, who defeated Minkhaung I in single combat, and kept the kingdom independent; an able administrator who organized the kingdom; and a ruthless paranoid figure, who drove his first love Talamidaw to commit suicide, and ordered the execution of their innocent son Bawlawkyantaw. The story of Razadarit's reign is recorded in a classic epic that exists in Mon, Burmese and Thai language forms. Razadarit's struggles against Minkhaung I and Minyekyawswa are retold as classic stories of legend in Burmese popular culture.
Razadarit was born Binnya Nwe to King Binnya U and his queen Mwe Thin in 1367. ("Binnya" was the highest title of royalty in Mon language.) His exact place of birth is unclear; it could have been Martaban, Donwun or perhaps even Pegu. (In the mid-1360s, Binnya U faced multiple rebellions that forced him out of Martaban some time between 1364 and 1369, and was camped out at Donwun, a town north of Martaban for a time. By 1369, he had relocated his capital to Pegu. Binnya Nwe's mother Mwe Thin was a wife of Prince Min Linka, who revolted against his brother the king. Binnya U defeated the rebellion, and conquered Mwe Thin who later gave birth to Razadarit.)
The young Binnya Nwe grew up in Binnya U's Pegu court. (Binnya U could not recover Martaban, which was ruled by the rebel chief Byattaba.) Although Binny Nwe was the eldest son, Binnya U chose his son by his chief queen. Moreover, others like Princess Mahadevi and Laukpya, Governor of Myaungmya, were also interested in succeeding Binnya U. Mahadevi was a powerful figure in her brother Binnya U's court, and was like a mother to Binnya Nwe. Her relationship with her nephew turned sour when her lover, Smim Maru, husband of Princess Talamithiri, wanted to be king.
In early 1383, Binnya Nwe, not yet 16, eloped with his half-sister Talamidaw and fled to Dagon (Yangon). The king, who was on his deathbed, pardoned both children of his. But the rival claimants to the throne the chief queen, Mahadevi/Smim Maru and Laukpya all wanted to get rid of Binnya Nwe, and sent three armies to Dagon. At Dagon, the young price, aided by a few loyal forces and Muslim mercenaries, had already fortified the town. Within a few days of siege, two arimes, led by Laukpya and Byattaba (the rebellious governor of Martaban), withdrew, and only the army led by Smim Maru remained. On 9 May 1383 (ME: 10th waxing of Nayon 745), Binnya Nwe's forces defeated Smim Maru's. Smim Maru was caught and executed.
The young prince now marched to Pegu. At Pegu, Binny U had already died, and he was at once proclaimed king by the palace officials. He ascended the throne with the reign name of Razadarit (Pali: Rajadhiraj; King of Kings). He was only 15 or 16. (He was still likely 15 as it was still early in the Burmese calendar year. Nayon is the third month in Burmese calendar.)
At his ascension, Razadarit controlled only the Pegu province out of three principal Mon regions in lower Burma. The Martaban region was ruled by Byattaba, and the Irrawaddy delta was under the rule of Laukpya of Myaungmya. Razadarit pardoned his aunt Mahadevi and gave her Dagon in fief but he could not buy his uncle Laukpya's loyalty. Laukpya, who had always ruled his fief like a king under his brother Binnya U, was not prepared to submit to his teenage nephew. In 1385, as Razadarit prepared to march to the delta, Laukpya sought assistance from King Swasawke of Ava with the promise of submission to Ava. Swasawke's acceptance of Laukpya's invitation resulted in the Forty Years' War between Ava and Pegu.
In 1386, Swasawke initiated the hostilities that would last for another 40 years between the northern Ava and southern Hanthawaddy kingdoms. Swasawke launched a two-pronged invasion of Hanthawaddy down the Irrawaddy and Sittaung rivers, and Laukpya sent in his army from the delta. The young king did not lose nerve, and successfully fended off the invasions. In 1387, Razadarit again stopped another invasion by Swasawke.
Despite this success, Razadarit realized that he needed to reunify all three regions of Lower Burma if he were to fight Ava on equal terms in the long run. In 1388/89, Razadarit and his top general Lagun Ein in a series of military campaigns did just that. They chose to attack Martaban, which had been independent since 1369, first as it was the weaker foe than Myaungmya in the delta. In 1388, the Peguan forces captured Martaban albeit with much difficulty. Now with his rear base secure, Razadarit quickly moved in on the delta, defeating Laukpya at Myaungmya. Laukpya was killed in battle, and his son and his two sons-in-law fled to Ava.
Having reconsolidated all three regions of Lower Burma, and now looked to extend his rule northwards. In 1390, he attacked and conquered Myanaung, the northernmost town in the delta still under the control of Ava. He then proceeded to lay siege to Prome (Pyay), farther up the Irrawaddy. But Swasawke now sent in a combined land and a naval force and thwarted Razadarit's advance. In 1391, Razadarit and Swasawke reached a truce that gave Hanthawaddy control of Myanaung. Hanthawaddy now controlled all of Lower Burma south of Prome. (The entire Tenasserim coast was under Siamese rule. Razadarit rule did not extend much beyond south of Mawlamyaing).
Razadarit now attended to beautifying Pegu and improved its defenses. He entered into friendly communication with Siam.
Razadarit grew tired of his first love Talamidaw, and cast her aside, taking away all the jewels bestowed upon her by their father Binnya U. Heartbroken, Talamidaw committed suicide. Hearing that their son Bawlawkyantaw, who must been about 8 years old, was practicing horsemanship and sharpening his elephant's tusks, Razadarit feared his eldest son of treason in the near future because Razadarit himself rebelled against his father at a young age. The king sent executioners to kill off his young son. According to Mon and Burmese chronicles, the young prince swore a dreadful oath in front of the executioners before taking the poison:
Razadarit was greatly disturbed when he heard of the terrible oath. In a superstitious world of Burmese politics, he was alarmed when the chief wife of Prince Minkhaung of Ava fetched to eat various foods from Lower Burma before she became pregnant. She gave birth to Minyekyawswa, who would later became Razadarit's nemesis, a year after Bawlawkyantaw's death.
In 1401, Swasawke of Ava died. After a 7-month-long succession crisis that felled two successive kings, the Ava throne was succeeded by Minkhaung I, who was quickly greeted by a major rebellion by the lord of Yamethin. Taking advantage of the confusion, Razadarit broke the truce, and invaded the upcountry with massive flotilla that also transported elephants and horses. Razadarit let his son-in-law to lay siege to Prome, and he led the siege of Ava. Minkhaung had no flotilla to meet Razadarit, and ordered his troops to defend behind the fortified walls of Ava and Prome. But the fortified cities proved impregnable to the Hanthawaddy forces. Governor of Prome, Letya Pyanchi, a son-in-law of Laukpya, broke the siege led by Razadarit's son-in-law, and captured Razadarit's daughter. At Ava too, Razadarit was not prepared for a long siege, and withdrew his forces after getting a face-saving sermon by a Buddhist monk of the wickedness of war. At near Prome, he executed his son-in-law who lost his daughter.
Minkhaung promptly raised Razadarit's daughter to be a queen. In late 1401, an incensed Razadarit again sailed up the river and attacked everything in sight, burning the granaries and boats along the river. Prome was laid siege again. In January 1402, Minkhaung's forces from upcountry relieved the siege of Prome. But Razadarit's flotilla continued to control the entire span of Irrawaddy river, and kept on using the scorched earth tactics along the river, greatly disrupting Minkhaung's supplies and resources.
In 1406, Minkhaung sued for peace. The two kings met at the Shwesandaw Pagoda in Prome. Minkhaung gave his sister to Razadarit in marriage, who in return gave custom duties at the port of Bassein. This shows that one of the reasons for the Forty Years War was Ava's need for access to a seaport. The arrangement in practice was doomed for failure as Bassein had to serve two masters.
The second truce did not last even a year as neither king trusted each other. Soon after the truce with Razadarit, Minkhaung sent in an army to occupy Arakan, which had been raiding his territory. To reduce the probability of an opportunistic attack by Razadarit from the south, Minkhaung also sent a letter of alliance to the king of Lan Na (Chiang Mai) asking the latter to threaten Hanthawaddy from the east. But the letter was intercepted by Razadarit's men. Moreover, Minkhaung appointed his eldest son Minyekyawswa as heir apparent. Minyekyawswa was widely believed by both sides to be the reincarnation of the wrongly executed Mon prince. So when Minkhaung's brother Theiddat, who felt he should have been the heir apparent, fled Ava and offered his services, Razadarit readily accepted the offer, and gave Theiddat his sister in marriage, knowing full well that it was a declaration of war.
Razadarit could not allow Arakan to be fallen to Ava, and sent his army to dislodge the Ava army now occupying Arakan. At the Araknese capital Launggyet, the Hanthawaddy army was victorious. Among the captured were Anawrahta, the newly appointed Burman governor of Arakan, and his wife, Sawpyechantha, Minkhaung's daughter. Razadarit had Minkhaung's son-in-law executed, and took Minkhaung's daughter as queen. Incensed, Minkhaung invaded the Hanthawaddy country in 1407 but was soundly defeated.
In 1408, Minkhaung had to defend against Shan invaders from the north and could not invade the south. In 1409, Minkhaung invaded the south again. The two kings took part in a great battle at Kyat Paw Taw, near Pegu. Razadarit charged his elephant directly at Minkhaung, which the latter tried to meet but could not withstand so that he had to turn away. About two-thirds of the invading Ava army including elephants and cavalry were captured.
After this disastrous defeat, Minyekyawswa took over his father’s role as leader of Ava’s military expeditions against the south. Minyekyawswa was eager to defeat Razadarit as his sister Sawpyechantha was a prisoner in Razadarit's harem. In 1410, Minyekyawswa invaded the delta but was repulsed. In 1412, Minyekyawswa invaded Arakan, and ousted the Hanthawaddy installed prince of Arakan. In the following year, while Minyekyawswa was fighting against the Shan raiders, the Hanthawaddy army overran Avan garrisons in Arakan.
The years 1414-1416 proved to be Razadarit's toughest years of his reign. Having defeated the Shans in the north, Minyekyawswa now invaded the delta in full force. By 1415, the fiery prince of Ava had conquered the entire delta in the west, and controlled up to the outskirts of Pegu in the east. In the wake of this onslaught, Razadarit fled to Martaban. Fortunately for Razadarit, Minyekyawswa was mortally wounded in battle near Dagon, and was captured by Hanthawaddy troops in 1416. (The Mon chronicles say Minyekyawswa died of his wounds but the Burmese chronicles say he was executed.)
Minyekyawswa’s death was the beginning of the end of the war that had dragged on for decades. Without a strong leader, Ava’s side became disorganized and withdrew to the north. Minhkaung quickly renewed the campaign, marching to Bassein and Myaungmya. Hanthawaddy marched north to Toungoo in 1417 and Ava marched south to Pegu in 1418, but the war machine had run out of steam. Minhkaung died followed by Razadarit in 1421. Their successors carried on the war for a few years but gradually a long period of peace descended over the south.
In 1421, Razadarit's nemesis Minkhaung died. When the news reached Razadarit, he reportedly lamented: My brother, my enemy, my rival, my companion, life is empty without you. Within a few months, Razadarit also died. The active king was fatally injured in hunting a wild elephant. His year of death was either 782 ME (1420/21 AD) or 783 ME (1421/22 AD). He was about 54.
By 1390, Razadarit had reunified all three main provinces (Pegu, Martaban and Bassein/Irrawaddy delta) under his leadership. According to the Mon chronicles, the king reportedly further organized the three provinces into 32 towns/districts ("myos"), though he was not the first to do so. Later research shows no evidence of Razadarit being the first to organize the provinces into 32 divisions.
The story of Razadarit's reign is recorded in a classic epic called Razadarit Ayedawpon that exists in both Mon and Burmese language forms. This epic was also translated into Thai by Phra Khlang during the reign of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (1782-1809), and is well-known in Thailand. Razadarit's epic struggles against Minkhaung I and Minyekyawswa of Ava are part of classic stories of legend in Burmese popular culture today.
Hanthawaddy DynastyBorn: 1367 Died: 1421
1383 - 1421