Suvannabhumi

Thuwunnabhumi /  Suvannabhumi is well known to Myanmars as part of our history and is considered to be Thaton, but its precise location has been attested among historians and scholars, both local and foreign. Thailand and Cambodia claim to be the region where the Theras Sona and Uttara came and preached Buddha’s teachings. Thailand even has its newest airport named Suvannabhumi International Airport and Myanmar has a satellite town on the outskirts of Yangon named Thuwunna during the 60s.

Suvarnabhumi (Sanskrit) or Suvannabhumi (Pali) meaning the “Golden Land” or “Land of Gold”, is a term coined by the ancient Indians which refers broadly to Lower Burma, Lower Thailand, Lower Malay Peninsula, the Sumatra, but more generally accepted to refer more specifically to Lower Burma.[1] Another term which was used by the ancient Indians is Suvarnadvipa which means the “Golden Peninsula/Island”. Suvarnabhumi may have been used primarily as a vague general designation of an extensive region in Southeast Asia, but, over time, different parts of it came to be designated by the additional epithets of island, peninsula or city.[2] In contrast the ancient name for the Indian subcontinent is Jambudvipa.

Nomenclature and Etymology

Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnadvipa (Sanskrit). The word Suvarnabhumi may be parsed into Suvarna, meaning “having a beautiful colour”, “glittering”, “golden” and bhumi holding the semantic field: “earth”, “soil”,”territory”,”country”,”land”. Hence, the term “Suvarnabhumi” may be rendered into English as “Golden Land”. For the word Suvarnadvipa, dvipa mean a “land having water on two of its sides”, which can mean “Peninsula” or “Island“. Hence, the term Suvarnadvipa may be rendered into English as “Golden Peninsula” or “Golden Island“.

Origin

The reference to Suvarnabhumi appear in various ancient Indian, Sri Lankan, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Chinese writings. [3]. The name appear in the Ramayana text (3rd century BC) in the form of Suvarnadvipa (the Golden Peninsula/Island) or Suvarnabhumi (the Golden Land), which can be assigned with certainty to Southeast Asia.[4] Ancient Indian texts Arthasashtra of Kautilya (c. 300 BC), mentioned that the Brahmin Sanka sailed from Varanasi to Suvarnabhumi.[5] Other ancient texts, such as the Kathakosa tells the story of Nagadutta who went to Suvarnabhumi with five hundred ships to conduct a profitable trade.[6] The first latin geographer who made a reference to a location in Southeast Asia is Pomponius Mela, who refer to the island of gold (Chryse) in his ‘De Chorographia’ (c. 45AD).[7]

The Greek mathematician and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy, who worked in Alexandria in the 2nd century A.D. used the name Chryse Chersonesos (Golden Peninsula/Island) to refer to an area which scholar have identified as the Malay Peninsula[8] and Sumatra.[9]

While the term Suvarnadvipa (Golden Island) is usually identified with the island of Sumatra, numerous Arab writer have identified the whole Malay archipelago as the location of Suvarnabhumi.[10]

In an illustrated ancient Nepalese manuscript, a picture is entitled “Suvarnnapure Sri-Vijaya-pure Lokanatha” or (the image of) Lokanatha (AvalokiteSvara) in Sri Vijaya-pura in Suvarnnapura, which refer to the powerful Sri Vijaya kingdom located in Southeast Asia.[11]

Even as late as the 16th century A.D., it have been recorded that Budhagupta, a Buddhist monk, visited two islands called Suvarnadvipa located in the eastern sea of India. [12]

In 1478, King Dhammazedi from the Mon kingdom of Ramannadesa, erected ten stone inscriptions written with Mon and Pali language. The inscriptions stated that his kingdom is also known as Suvannabhumi.[13][14] The stone inscription is known among scholars as the “Kalyani Sima” or “Kalyani Inscription“. The inscription deal mainly with the the reform undertaken by the king to purify Theravada Buddhism in his kingdom.

According to Tibetan source Dharmapala (7th cent. A. D.) and Dipankara Atisa (11th Century A. D.) have visited Suvarnadvipa.

Suvannabhumi and Buddhism

Suvannabhumi has been mentioned in various Theravada Buddhist text such as Milindapanha, Mahaniddesa and Jatakas. In the Sri Lanka chronicle Mahavamsa (4th Century AD), it stated that after the conclusion of the Third Buddhist Council, two monk Sona and Uttara were sent to Suvannabhumi for missionary activities. [15].

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