Minkhaung I

Minkhaung I
Minkhaung I
ပထမ မင်းခေါင်
King of Ava
Reign c. July 1401 – February 1422 (21 years)
Predecessor Tarabya
Successor Thihathu
Consort Shin Mi-Nauk
Shin Bo-Me
Saw Pye Chantha
Full name
Min Swe
House Pinya
Father Swasawke
Mother Saw Teza
Born 1373
Tuesday born
Died February 1422 (aged 48)
Religion Theravada Buddhism

Minkhaung I of Ava (Burmese: ပထမ မင်းခေါင်, pronounced [pətʰəma̰ mɪ́ɴɡàuɴ]; 1373–1422) was the fourth king of Ava from 1401 to 1422. Minkhaung is best remembered in Burmese history for his epic struggles against King Razadarit of Hanthawaddy Pegu in the Forty Years' War (1385–1424), and for being the father of Crown Prince Minyekyawswa, who did most of the fighting.

Minkhaung succeeded the throne after his half-brother King Tarabya was assassinated in 1401. In the early years of his reign 1401–1406, Minkhaung faced not only a serious internal rebellion but also external raids from Shan States in the north and from Arakan in the west, and a full scale invasion by Razadarit of Pegu from the south. By 1406, Minkhaung had gained control of the situation, and was able to counter attack. In 1406, he defeated the Shan State of Mohnyin. Between 1404 and 1418, Ava and Hanthawaddy forces fought fiercely in Lower Burma, Upper Burma and Arakan. Ava's war efforts against Pegu were checked by the Shan raids from the north until 1413, when Minyekyawswa decisively defeated Theinni (Hsenwi), the most powerful Shan state, which had Chinese backing.[1] Minyekyawswa came close to conquering all of Lower Burma in 1417 but the fiery crown prince of Ava was severely wounded in battle and died. Though both sides fought on until 1418, the enthusiasm for the war had dissipated.[2]


Early life

Minkhaung was a son of King Swasawke by Saw Teza, a "village maiden" whom he had met during one of his military campaigns.[2][3] He was born in 1373 and his birth name was Min Swe (မင်းဆွေ, [mɪ́ɴ sʰwè]). He had a younger brother, Theiddat.[3] Min Swe was at least one-eighth Shan from his father's side; his mother was most likely Burman as her ethnic origin was not highlighted in the Chronicles. As his mother was a commoner, ranked lowest in status among Swasawke's five queens,[3] Min Swe or Theiddat was not considered for the throne. Swasawke had designated Prince Tarabya as crown prince. Min Swe was given Pyinsi in fief.[4] In their youth, the two princes lived as wandering minstrels and nat dancers, one of the older attendants playing a drum, another the horn, and so on. They strayed down to Taungdwingyi, and then crossing over to Minbu District and lived at Ngape and Padein.[5]

In 1386, a 14-year-old Lord of Pyinsi commanded an army battalion in his father's invasion of Hanthawaddy Kingdom.[3] In 1389, Min Swe was married to a Shan princess named Shin Mi-Nauk, daughter of Hsongamhpa, the saopha (chief) of Mohnyin (Mong Yang), during the time of rare friendly relations between Ava and Mohnyin. In 1391, Mi-Nauk gave birth to Minyekyawswa.[6] She later gave birth to a daughter, Saw Pye Chantha and another son, Thihathu.

Ascension to throne

In early December 1400 (Natdaw 762 ME), Swasawke died and Tarabya ascended to the throne. Seven months later, circa July 1401, Tarabya was assassinated by Nga Nauk Hsan, the governor of Tagaung who tried to seize the throne. But the ministers put the usurper to death, and gave the throne to Min Swe, who ascended the throne with the title Minkhaung. He was 28. His ascension was greeted by a major rebellion led by Maha Pyaut the lord of Yamethin. Maha Pyaut marched to Ava with a force of 10,000 men, 60 attack elephants and 800 horses.[4] Minkhaung's younger brother Theiddat led Ava's defenses, and defeated the stronger rebel force, killing Maha Pyaut.[6] In gratitude, Minkhaung gave Theiddat Sagaing to rule but stopped short of declaring him heir-apparent. The younger brother was never satisfied with the reward he received for his help, and held a lingering resentment that would rear its ugly head later.[4]


Though he had just overcome a serious challenge to his rule at home, Minkhaung like his Ava predecessors still faced external threats. He was eager to avoid a resumption of Shan raids, which had been dormant since 1393. With the help of his father's chief minister, Wunzin Minyaza, entered into an alliance with minor Shan states: Hsipaw (Thibaw) and Yawnghwe (Nyaungshwe) in the east, and Kale (Kalay) in the northwest.[6] But the threat from major Shan states of Mohnyin and Hsweni (Theinni) remained (although Minkhaung's chief queen, Shin Minauk, was a princess of Mohnyin.)

Other neighboring states decided to test the mettle of Minkhaung. In the west, the Arakanese began raiding Yaw and Laungshe (near Pakokku). A much more serious threat came from the south in the form of a massive invasion by the Kingdom of Hanthawaddy Pegu.

Resumption of Forty Years' War and temporary truce (1404–1406)

In 1404, Razadarit of Hanthawaddy Pegu formally broke the truce he had entered in 1391 with Swasawke of Ava. In November 1404 (Natdaw 756 ME), Razadarit invaded the upcountry with massive flotilla (4000 boats of every description) that also transported elephants and horses.[7] 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, and Razadarit retreated from Ava. At Prome, a counter-attack by Ava forces captured Razadarit's daughter, whom Minkhaung raised to be queen. In late 1405, an incensed Razadarit sailed up the river and attacked everything in sight, burning the granaries and boats along the river. Prome was laid siege again. In January 1406, 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.[4][7] Minkhaung sued for peace. Circa February 1406, 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. The boundary of their kingdoms was fixed a little to the south of Prome.[7]

Monhyin and Arakan (1406–1407)

After reaching a truce with Razadarit, Minkhaung turned to the north where two Shan states, Kale and Mohnyin, were at war. Minkhaung sided with his ally the saopha of Kale, and sent a force to attack Mohnyin. The joint Kale-Ava force sacked Mohnyin and killed its saopha. Mohnyin came under Ava's control for the rest of his reign. In late 1406, he sent an army led by 15-year-old Minyekyawswa to invade Arakan. The Ava forces occupied the capital Launggyet, and drove out its king, Min Saw Mon, who fled to Bengal. Minkhaung appointed Anawrahta as king of Arakan, and in 1407 sent his 13-year-old daughter Saw Pye Chantha to be Anawrahta's wife.[6] In 1410, Minkhaung appointed a 20-year-old Min Nansi (later King Mohnyin Thado), one of Minyekyawswa's best commanders and one of his former pages, as saopha of Monhnyin.[8]

Departure of Theiddat and resumption of war (1407–1409)

In 1407, Minkhaung named his eldest son Minyekyawswa as heir apparent. His brother Theiddat, who had loyally supported Minkhaung in time of his need, felt betrayed, and challenged Minkhaung to an elephant-to-elephant single combat. Minkhaung defeated his younger brother but allowed him to leave. Theiddat took refuge in Razadarit's service. Razadarit gave Theiddat his sister in marriage, knowing full well that it was a declaration of war.[2]

Razadarit broke the truce once again, and sent in an invasion force to Arakan. At the Araknese capital Launggyet, the Hanthawaddy army was victorious. Among the captured were Anawrahta, the newly appointed Avan governor of Arakan, and his wife, Saw Pye Chantha, Minkhaung's daughter, and Minyekyawswa's sister, along with 3000 Ava troops. Razadarit installed an Arakanese prince as king of Arakan.[7] Razadarit had Minkhaung's son-in-law executed, and took Minkhaung's daughter as queen. Incensed, Minkhaung invaded the Hanthawaddy country in May 1407, at the start of the rainy season, despite the advice of his ministers. The Ava forces got bogged down in the swamps of Lower Burma, and were soundly defeated.[1]

In 1408, Minkhaung had to defend against Shan raiders from Theinni. In 1409, Minkhaung invaded the south and reached the outskirts of Pegu. Razadarit tried to break the siege by sending special forces to assassinate Minkhaung. Minkhaung escaped death on the warning by his brother Theiddat who was with Pegu troops to ambush him. Theiddat was later executed by Razadarit for his warning. Razadarit again sent a team of commandos led by his top general Lagun Ein to infiltrate the enemy camp and kill Minkhaung. Lagun Ein got inside Minkhaung's tent but refused to kill a sleeping Minkhaung.[6] But the rainy season came and Minkhaung's communication lines and supply lines were cut. Razadarit came out and attacked Minkhaung. 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.[9] Razadarit also captured Minkhaung's chief queen Shin Mi-Nauk. Razadarit now had both the mother and the daughter in his harem.[6]

Minyekyawswa years (1410–1417)

After this disastrous defeat, a dejected Minkhaung handed over the military leadership to Minyekyawswa. Minyekyawswa was eager to defeat Razadarit as both his mother and his sister were prisoners in Razadarit's harem. In 1410, Minyekyawswa invaded the delta but was repulsed. In early 1412, Minyekyawswa invaded Arakan, and ousted the Hanthawaddy-installed puppet king.

Minyekyawswa left a garrison in Arakan but had to rush back as the Shans of Theinni were raiding Avan territory again at Razadarit's urging. In November 1412, Minyekyawswa invaded Theinni. In early 1413, Minyekyawswa killed the saopha of Theinni in single combat on his elephant at Wetwin (near today's Pyinoolwin (Maymyo)).[6] But he could not take the city of Theinni itself as Chinese reinforcements arrived.[2] While Ava forces were busy fighting the Theinni Shans, Razadarit's army invaded Arakan and removed the Ava-installed puppet king. Still in 1413, two Shan brothers, chiefs of Mawke and Mawdon in today's Shwebo District, attacked the frontier town of Myedu until Minyekyawswa drove them away.[6]

Having quelled the Shan raiders, Minyekyawswa invaded the delta in full force in January/February 1414 (Tabodwe 775 ME). 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. (While Minyekyawswa was in the delta, the two Shan saophas of Mawke and Mawdon, raided all the way to Ava's walls but could not break through.) In the wake of this onslaught, Razadarit fled to Martaban. Fortunately for Razadarit, Minyekyawswa was mortally wounded in battle at Dala, and was captured by Hanthawaddy troops in March 1417 (Tagu 778 ME).[6][10] (The Mon chronicles say Minyekyawswa died of his wounds but the Burmese chronicles say he was executed.[2] The Mon chronicles state that Razadarit ordered Minyekyawswa be buried with royal honors.[7])

The final years (1417–1422)

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. Minkhaung renewed the campaign, marching to Dala to exhume his sons' bones from where Razadarit had given them honorable burial. The remains were solemnly dropped into the waters near Twante.[6] Hanthawaddy marched north to Toungoo in 1417 and Ava marched south to Pegu in 1418, but the war machine had run out of steam.[9]

Heart-broken by his son's death, Minkhaung spent his remaining years in piety. Minhkaung died in early 1422 (783 ME), followed by Razadarit later that year. Their successors carried on the war for a few years but gradually a long period of peace descended over the south.


  1. ^ a b Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur P. Phayre (1883). History of Burma (1967 ed.). London: Susil Gupta. pp. 58–60. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Maung Htin Aung (1967). "Ava against Pegu; Shan against Mon". A History of Burma. New York and London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 90–93. 
  3. ^ a b c d Tun Aung Chain (2004). Selected Writings of Tun Aung Chain. Myanmar Historical Commission. pp. 67–72. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jon Fernquest (Spring 2006). "Rajadhirat’s Mask of Command: Military Leadership in Burma (c. 1348–1421)". SBBR 4 (1): 1–10. http://web.soas.ac.uk/burma/4.1files/4.1fernquest.pdf. 
  5. ^ GE Harvey (1925). "Shan Migration (Ava)". History of Burma (2000 ed.). Asian Educational Services. pp. 95–100. ISBN 8120613651, 9788120613652. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j GE Harvey (1925). "Shan Migration (Ava)". History of Burma (2000 ed.). Asian Educational Services. pp. 85–95. ISBN 8120613651, 9788120613652. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Major Gen. Sir Arthur Purves Phayre (1873). "The History of Pegu". Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal (Oxford University) 42: 47–55. 
  8. ^ Sai Kam Mong (2004). The history and development of the Shan scripts. Silkworm Books. p. 62. ISBN 9749575504, 9789749575505. 
  9. ^ a b Jon Fernquest (Spring 2006). "Rajadhirat’s Mask of Command: Military Leadership in Burma (c. 1348–1421)". SBBR 4 (1): 14–18. 
  10. ^ Jon Fernquest (Autumn 2006). "Crucible of War: Burma and the Ming in the Tai Frontier Zone (1382–1454)". SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 4 (2): 51–54. http://web.soas.ac.uk/burma/SBBR4.2/4.2Fernquest.pdf. 
Minkhaung I
Ava Kingdom
Born: c. 1373 Died: c. February 1422
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Ava
July 1401 – February 1422
Succeeded by

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