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Small kingdoms


After the fall of Pagan, the Mongols left in the searing Irrawaddy valley but the Pagan Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms. By the early 15th century, the country became organized along four major power centers: Upper Burma, Lower Burma, Shan States and Arakan. Many of the power centers were themselves made up of (often loosely held) minor kingdoms or princely states.


After the fall of Pagan, the Mongols left in the searing Irrawaddy valley but the Pagan Kingdom was irreparably broken up into several small kingdoms. By the early 15th century, the country became organized along four major power centers: Upper Burma, Lower Burma, Shan States and Arakan. Many of the power centers were themselves made up of (often loosely held) minor kingdoms or princely states. This era was marked by a series of wars and switching alliances. Smaller kingdoms played a precarious game of paying allegiance to more powerful states, sometimes simultaneously.

 SE Asia circa 1340Ava (1364?1555)

Founded in 1364, Ava (Inwa) was the successor state to earlier, even smaller kingdoms based in central Burma: Myinsaing (1298?1312), Pinya (1312?1364), and Sagaing (1315?1364). In its first years of existence, Ava, which viewed itself as the rightful successor to the Pagan Empire, tried to reassemble the former empire. While it was able to pull Toungoo and peripheral Shan states (Kale, Mohnyin, Mogaung, Thibaw) into its fold at the peak of its power, it failed to reconquer the rest. The Forty Years' War (1385?1424) with Hanthawaddy left Ava exhausted, and its power plateaued. Its kings regularly faced rebellions in its vassal regions but were able to put them down until the 1480s. In the late 15th century, Prome and its Shan states successfully broke away, and in the early 16th century, Ava itself came under attacks from its former vassals. In 1510, Toungoo also broke away. In 1527, the Confederation of Shan States led by Mohnyin captured Ava. The Confederation's rule of Upper Burma, though lasted until 1555, was marred by internal fighting between Mohnyin and Hsipaw houses. The kingdom was toppled by Toungoo forces in 1555.

The Burmese language and culture came into its own during the Ava period.

Hanthawaddy Pegu (1287?1539)

The Mon-speaking kingdom was founded as Ramannadesa right after Pagan's collapse in 1287. In the beginning, the Lower-Burma-based kingdom was a loose federation of regional power centers in Martaban (Mottama), Pegu (Bago) and the Irrawaddy delta. The energetic reign of Razadarit (1384?1422) cemented the kingdom's existence. Razadarit firmly unified the three Mon-speaking regions together, and successfully held off Ava in the Forty Years' War (1385?1424). After the war, Hanthawaddy entered its golden age whereas its rival Ava gradually went into decline. From the 1420s to the 1530s, Hanthawaddy was the most powerful and prosperous kingdom of all post-Pagan kingdoms. Under a string of especially gifted monarchs, the kingdom enjoyed a long golden age, profiting from foreign commerce. The kingdom, with a flourishing Mon language and culture, became a center of commerce and Theravada Buddhism. Nonetheless, due to the inexperience of its last ruler, the powerful kingdom was conquered by an upstart kingdom of Toungoo in 1539.

Shan States (1287?1557)

The Shans, who came down with the Mongols, stayed and quickly came to dominate much of northern to eastern arc of Burma?from northwestern Sagaing Division to Kachin Hills to the present day Shan Hills. The most powerful Shan states were Mohnyin and Mogaung in present-day Kachin State, followed by Theinni, Thibaw and Momeik in present-day northern Shan State.[2] Minor states included Kalay, Bhamo, Nyaungshwe and Kengtung. Mohnyin, in particular, constantly raided Ava's territory in the early 16th century. Monhyin-led Confederation of Shan States, in alliance with Prome Kingdom, captured Ava itself in 1527. The Confederation defeated its erstwhile ally Prome in 1533, and ruled all of Upper Burma except Toungoo. But the Confederation was marred by internal bickering, and could not stop Toungoo, which conquered Ava in 1555 and all of Shan States in 1557.

Arakan (1287?1784)

Although Arakan had been de facto independent since the late Pagan period, the Laungkyet dynasty of Arakan was ineffectual. Until the founding of the Mrauk-U Kingdom in 1430, Arakan was often caught between bigger neighbors, and found itself a battlefield during the Forty Years' War between Ava and Pegu. Mrauk-U went on to be a powerful kingdom in its own right between 15th and 17th centuries, including East Bengal between 1459 and 1666. Arakan was the only post-Pagan kingdom not to be annexed by the Toungoo dynasty.

 
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