More about Bilus / Rakkhites / Ogres

Bilus / Rakkhites / Ogres are a recurring theme in Myanmar history, Indian folklore and the Buddhawin and it is not without cause that it is being handed down as oral history to be recorded later in written form.

The much celebrated epic Ramayana mentioned the ogre RaWaNa / DhaThaGiri and the land of the Bilus. This predated Buddha by many centuries and Rama / YarMa is considered as one of the Hindu gods.

In Greek geographer Ptolemy’s accounts, he found cannibals in the gulf of Muttama. There is a big island known as island of the demons-Bilu in Myanmar  and Semang in Mon. Two stone inscriptions in the old Mon of 11th century A.D. mentioned that the city was named demony city, Rakasapura in the ancient times.

Thaton was once called Yakkhapura: a country which is disturbed by goblins or ogres. The word Yakkha or Pisaca in the Mahavamsa is likely used with reference to those tribes such as Selungs,  sometimes called sea gypsies.

A great island situated near Muttama, on the mouth of the river Thanlwin, is called Bilookyun: the Island of Ogres.

A passage in the Kalyani inscription engraved in 1476 A.D., which is related to the driving of the monsters away from Suvannabumi mentioned: This city was close to the seashore; a rakkhasi (female ogre), who lived in the sea, was in the habit of seizing and devouring every child that was born in the king’s palace. On the very night the two theros (Venerable Sona and Uttara) arrived (in the palace), the chief queen of the king gave birth to a child. The rakkhasi, knowing that a child has been born in the king’s palace, went, in order to devour the infant, towards the town; she was surrounded by 500 attendants. When the inhabitants saw them they were greatly alarmed. Then the two theros, seeing the ogress (with her attendants) had assumed the surpassingly frightful appearance of lions, of which each had  one head and two bodies, created (by their magical power) monsters of the same frightful appearance, but twice the number of those accompanying the ogress, and closed upon them, obstructing their further progress. When the Pisacas saw themselves confronted by double their own number of like monsters created by the theros they cried out ‘Now we shall be their prey’ (we shall become food to them), and they fled frightened towards the sea. In order to prevent the return of the ogress, the theros placed guards about the palace and then preached to the assembled inhabitants the Brahmajalasutta.

E.M.Forchhammer, they late archeologist of British Burma, recorded the deep-rooted tradition in his book ‘Notes on the Early History and Geography of British Burma’: to shield all new born infants from the danger of the ogress, bracelets or palm-leaves, on which were traced the supernatural appearances created by the theros, were placed on their heads. The stone, on which the same appearances were sculptured, was placed on the top of the hill upon which stood the north-eastern portion of the town: this stone may be seen to this day. Buddhism flourished for a long time in Ramannadesa from the day of its introduction.

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One Response to “More about Bilus / Rakkhites / Ogres”

  1. Joe Tun Says:

    U Nyi Win
    Your’s is an excellent article. And I see Bob Hudson’s letter. Can you tell me how I may contact you? My secretary Daw Khin Wutyi or my assistant U Han Tun (retd. Vice Principle, Taunggyi TTC) stationed in Yangon can contact you in person. Right now, I am going over Dr. Htin Aung’s Folk Elements, a second time. The first time was in 2008. Now armed with new knowlege, Sanskrit written in Devanagari, and having turned Romabama from a transliteration to transcription, I am going over Dr. Htin Aung’s book.
    Joe Tun aka U Kyaw Tun
    retd. Assoc. Prof. and Hd. of Chemistry Dept., Taunggyi College
    I maintain two websites: http://www.tuninst.net , and http://www.softguide.net.mm, and a blog http://www.romabama.blogspot.com
    Yangon research group: tunzinni@gmail.com
    Ph: 01-527388, 09-5113477

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