This Burmese manuscript (Or 13681) from the British Library shows seven scenes of King Mindon’s donations at various places during the first four years of his reign (1853-57). The artist not only depicted the seven different historical merit-making ceremonies of King Mindon, but he also described the cost of the royal donations in detail. The mid-19th century parabaik (folding book) has red-tooled leather covers, the front cover bearing in gold letters the title “Depictions of King Mindon’s donations at various places beginning in the year 1215, first [volume I]”. (The Burmese Era [BE] calendar begins in 638 CE; 1215 BE thus is 1853.) The name Queen Tharasein (Tharasein Mihpaya) appears on the paper label stuck on the back 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 (Scene 1); the cost of the donations was 3,500 kyats. The king and queen made their second and third donations in 1854, at Amarapura, the first capital of Burma. They gave the Thudhamma rest house (Thudhamma za yat) and a brick Buddha image, offered daily meals to 70 monks in the month of wahso, and gave sets of monks’ robes (Wahso thin gan) and eight requisites of a monk (Payeithkaya shi pa) to the monks (Scenes 2 and 3). King Mindon made his fourth donation in 1855, offering numerous gifts to the Buddhist monks at Amarapura (Scene 4). The fifth donation of the royals was in 1856, in Amarapura. The donations included a Thein (ordination hall), two sardaik bhi dho (gilded manuscript chests), palm leaf manuscripts, beds decorated with glass mosaic, and gold-lace mosquito nets. Scene 5 depicts musicians and dancers as they are going to entertain the royals; court officials and their wives also received gifts. 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 image (Scene 6) the royals are being paid homage and are entertained by the orchestra. The monks also received eight requisites and other gifts. In 1853 the king offered two lakes (Zeya Nanda kan and Thiri Nanda kan) at the village of Nyaung gan. A year later, in 1854, the king also offered ponds at Hsinte siyinsu at Amarapura (Scene 7).
References: San San May, “Royal donations in 19th century Burma," Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG) Blog, May 7, 2013, http://southeastasianlibrarygroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/royal-donations-in-19th-century-burma/.
Note: British Library manuscript reference number: Or 13681
Place: Southeast Asia; Myanmar
Institution: The British Library
Physical description: Paper folding book with 36 folds ; 530 x 200 millimeters