San San May, British Library
Another digitised Burmese manuscript (Or13681) from the British Library Collections shows seven scenes of King Mindon’s donations at various places during the first four years of his reign (1853-1857). The artist not only depicted the seven different historical merit making ceremonies of King Mindon, but also described the cost of the donations in detail. The mid 19th century parabaik has red tooled leather covers and the front cover bearing in gold letters, giving the title ‘Depictions of Royal donations at various places beginning in the year 1215, first [volume I]’. The name Queen Tharasein (Tharasein Mihpaya) appears on the paper label stuck on the cover of the manuscript.
In 1853, the king and queen donated a monastery (Waso kyaung) and a rest house (Za yat), including offering trees to the monks in Ratanatheinkha and the cost of the donations was 3500 kyats. (Scene 1)
At Amarapura in 1854, the king and queen donated the Thudhamma rest house (Thudhamma za yat) and a brick Buddha image, offered daily meals to 70 monks in the month of wahso, sets of monks’ robes (Wahso thin gan) and 8 requisites of a monk (Payeithkaya shi pa) to the monks.
King Mindon offered numerous gifts to the Buddhist monks in 1855 at Amarapura as his fourth donation. (Scene 4)
The artist depicted the fifth donation of the royals in Amarapura, the first capital of Burma, which took place in 1856. The donations included an ordination hall (Thein), two gilded manuscript chests (sardaik bhi dho), palm leaf manuscripts, beds decorated with glass mosaic and gold lace mosquito nets. Musicians and dancers are also in the scene as they are going to entertain the royals. Court officials and their wives also received gifts. (Scene 5)
King Mindon made his sixth donation in 1857, in Mandalay by offering a Mingala Bon San monastery and Dhamma Myitzu ordination hall to Pyay Sayadaw. In the scene the royals are being paid homage and are entertained by the orchestra. The monks also received 8 requisites and other gifts. (Scene 6)
In 1853, the king offered two lakes (Zeya Nanda kan and Thiri Nanda kan) at Nyaung gan village. A year later, in 1854 the king also offered ponds at Hsinte siyinsu at Amarapura. (Scene 7)
All seven scenes shown in this manuscript can be viewed online on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts Viewer .
Further reading: Patricia M. Herbert, 1998: ‘An illustrated record of royal donations’. In: P. Pichard & F. Robinne, eds.: Etudes birmanes en hommage à Denise Bernot (Paris: EFEO), p. 89-100.