Myanmar Prehistory 101: Bilus / Rakkhaiks and Myanmar ethnic groups

In Myanmar history, including Rakhine history, there is mention of Bilus / Rakkhaiks, the ogres, people who are dark skinned, ugly, flesh eating and feared. There is even mention of them in the Ramayana zat-taw (Rawana @ DhaThaGiri) which predates Buddha and also in the BuddhaWin / Buddhist legend. Their presence is an undeniable fact, although not proven to satisfaction yet.

Who are they? Where are their descendents now? It is unlikely that they are just myths. The “myths”: the Chinese “Shang dynasty” and the “King Arthur’s round table and his knights “ have now been proven to be historical facts as new archeological data are brought to light. The fact remains that these oral histories passed on from one generation to another and later written down have basic truths, even if not totally correct.

Are the Myanmar Bilus negritos? Or are they homo erectus that lived on the land prior to the arrival of the homo sapiens? Or were the homo erectus population that lived here Asatic Negroes?_with their descendants still living in the Andaman Islands (negritos) and in the Papua New Guinea and Australia (aborigines).

Or are they Austronesians? But it seems unlikely as their descendents, the Salons, are neither fierce, warlike nor ugly and there are many Austronesians across the islands of the Phillippines, Indonesia, Micronesia, Polynesia.

Thaton was called Rakhapura a city of Bilus and there is even a place still called Bilu-kyun (Burmese; the area was Mon territory until the time of Anawratha, 11th centuary AD).

There are many authors who wrote about our prehistory and I have the opportunity to read them and reproduce them here for you.

The earliest people who lived in Arakan were Negritos who are mentioned in the chronicles as Bilus (cannibals). They appear to have been the direct neolithic descendents of the Arakanese soil. Later, waves of peoples of different races came into this land from the north. Late comers were the Mros and Saks, followed by the Chins, Khamis, Daingnets and the Chaungthas.

In 3327 BC, savages (Rakkhaik) overtook Vesali and rendered it without a king.

The ASIATIC NEGROES probably had once lived in Myanmar. They are still living in the Andaman Islands on extreme South of Myanmar.

The earliest arrivals on Burma’s coast were Negretos, a fact remembered in Burmese folk tales , which tells of dark-skinned, short statured , fuzzy-haired , and human -flesh-eating ogres who dwell at the mouths of great rivers and on islands in the sea; a Buddhist legend describes how monks -missionaries sent from India saved the people of Thaton from ogres who lived on nearby islands and raided the city in quest of human flesh.

From about the second millennium B.C. Some groups of Mongolian and Austroloids appear on the scene. The Red River valley of Vietnam probably was the homeland of Austroloids. Later Austroloids were divided into two groups. Those who remained on the mainland of south east Asia are known as the Austroasiatics. Those who went into the islands are known as Autronesians.

The AUSTRONESIANS from about second millennium BC occupied Lower Myammar, especially the area around the Gulf of Martaban and strip of Tanintharyi probably. There was a great and prolong struggle between them and Austroasiatics for the possession of lower Myanmar. It was in the Years of Christian era that they were driven further south. One branch of race represented by the Salons are still living in the Myeik Archipelago.

The first immigrants were the ancestors of the Malayo-Polynesian races; they arrived so early that no historical record of their arrival exists. Their mode of transportation was the outrigger canoe; whether they invented this simple but very seaworthy vessel is uncertain, but they quickly became excellent sailors.

In the first millennium B.C., new races began to move into Southeast Asia from the north, displacing the original Negritos in the process.

AUSTROASIATICS came to settle around the Gulf of Martaban from about the beginning of the first century A.D. The Majority of them were the Mon. Palaungs , Was and Ri-angs also belong to this language group.

Mons made the Menam Valley their homeland and colonies around the Gulf of Martaban were their western outposts. Here they were engaged in the mass production of rice by transplantation. They developed such towns as Bago,Thahton and Martaban. Through contact with Hindu merchants, they began to worship Hindu gods. But from about the 7th century AD they became Buddhist . Another colon of Mons went up-country and settled in the Kyaukse area. They are started the irrigation works.

the first identifiable civilization is that of the Mon. The Mon probably began migrating into the area in about 3000 BC

Sometime in the first few centuries before Christ, a people called the Mons wound their way out of central Asia and down to the Thanlwin and Sittoung rivers. They spoke a dialect of the Mon-Khmer family of languages, and they were the first people known to inhabit what is now Myanmar. The Mons called the region the land of gold, practiced Buddhism, and traded with India’s great king Ashoka.

Similarly Palaung, Another branch of the Ausroasiatics started irrigation in the Minbu area.

The current geographical entity that is Myanmar was settled millennia ago by several tribal groups moving down the Irrawaddy River Valley from Central Asia and the plains of Tibet.

MONGOLIANS formed the next major race in Myanmat. It was divided into groups and one big group is named the Tibeto- Chinese langue family.

From that family there sprung a sub-family called the Tibeto-Burmans who were in Myanmar about the first millennium B.C.
This sub-family branched out into many more groups.

The earliest of them who came to settle in Myanmar were Chins, Pyu and Thet.

Chin lived along a river, which later came to be known as Chindwin river.

The Kadu probably drove them up the Chin Hills. Kadu occupied Tagaung or Thandwepyi of northern Myamamr.

Thet settle in Rakhine and some parts of central Myanmar.

The Bamar are of East Asian descent, having origins in present-day Tibet, who are thought to have originally migrated from the steppes of present-day Mongolia. They migrated 3,000 years ago to the lower valleys of the Ayeyarwady River

The Mons were not to be the only people in Mynamar for long. A few centuries later, the Pyu people arrived from Tibet, and they were followed by the Bamars who settled along the rich Irrawaddy river, which they controlled from Pagan.

Pyu lives in Ayeyarwady valley from Shwebo to Pyay. They built cities and grew into kingdom in 4 Century A.D.
Historical records said that before the establishment of Tagaung, there was a large village of the Pyu people called Pyu-gama (Pyu-gan) lying in the plains in the area. Later, the village was called Bagan (not the present-day Bagan in the central Myanmar); and Tagaung was also named the Bagan royal city.

Thin-dwe was founded 1,050 years before Siddhattha attained enlightenment or in about 1588 BC. Thus, we can say that the age of the city is over 3,590 years.

Beikthano Pyu City State. BC2000-??

Borrowing the south Indian scripts of the 4th centuryA. D. They made a system of their own to write their language. They became Buddhist. They were on the decline from about the 7th century and their last capital ( Hanlin in Shwebo district ) was destroy by the Nanchao Army of China.
Between the 1st century BC and the 9th century AD, speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages known as the Pyu were establishing city-kingdoms in Myanmar at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, and Halingyi.

Another group of Tibeto-Burman built a kingdom at Rakhine. They left inscriptions in Sanskrit dating back to the middle of the 6th century A.D. They had a closer relationship with northeastern India. Their capital was near Mrauk- U. A Candra dynasty ruled there from 4th century A.D.

by the fifth century AD, the Mon as well as the Pyu peoples had adopted the Indianized cultural life then widely practiced throughout mainland Southeast Asia which included elements of both Hinduism (Brahamanism) as well as aspects of Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism.

Kyins belonged to the Tibeto- Chinese family. They came into Myanmar from the north along the Salween rivers, passed the southern Shan state entered the plains of Myanmar by about the 7 th century .AD. The decline of Pyu due to them.

Myammar followed the route taken by the Kayins to enter Myanmar. They appeared only in the 9th century A.D. They preferred to live in the hot dry regions and so they took central Myanmar. Kyaukse area was their first home in Myanmar. Then they occupied the Minbu area. With center at Bagan, they consolidated their power in Central Myanmar and builts a king dom in the 11th century A.D.

the more recent Burmese migrations that occurred after the 8th century AD.

These incursions are thought to have weakened the Pyu State so that by the ninth
century the Burmese were able to move down into what had been Pyu territory

The current geographical entity that is Myanmar was settled millennia ago by several tribal groups moving down the Irrawaddy River Valley from Central Asia and the plains of Tibet. The Pyu, Anyathian, Thek, Mramma/Bamar, Kachin, Mon, Shan, Chin and Karen peoples all settled parts of the country. However, the Mramma people, now commonly known as the Burmans or Bamar, mixed with the Anyathian, Thek and Pyu peoples and came to be the dominant group in the country. Founding a Kingdom at Pagan (Bagan) along the banks of the Irrawaddy River in 849 AD, they succeeded in uniting the country as we know it today for the first time during the 11th century. After adopting Therevada Buddhism and developing a written script adopted from the Mon people, the Burmans succeeded in subjugating all the peoples of the region, even ruling parts of modern-day India, Thailand and Laos for a time also.

Shans were the Thai people of Tibeto Chinese. Their center before they entered Myanmar was located at the Maw valley. The Shan are in Myanmar before the fall of Bagan. But they came in force only after ad 1300. The Shans who cane into the west of Shan plateau were quickly converted into Buddhism.

Kachins were also Tibeto- Burmans and lived in Assem and entered Myanmar in about 16th century A.D. They lived in northern Myanmar.
Kayas were the same group of Kayin, lived in the lower east of Myanmar.



One Response to “Myanmar Prehistory 101: Bilus / Rakkhaiks and Myanmar ethnic groups”

  1. My writings / blogs are on google search results! « Nyiwin's Blog Says:

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