Toungoo dynasty

Toungoo dynasty

The Toungoo dynasty (1486-1752) was one of the most powerful post-Bagan Burmese kingdoms, over which seven kings reigned for a period of 155 years.

King Mingyinyo (Minkyinyo, 1486-1531) founded the First Toungoo Dynasty (1486-1599) at Taungoo (Kaytumadi), far up the Sittang River south of Ava, towards the end of the Ava dynasty in 1510 AD. After the conquest of Ava by the Shan invaders in 1527 many Burmans migrated to Toungoo which became a new center for Burmese rule. The dynasty conquered the Mohnyin Shan peoples in northern Burma.

Mingyinyo's son King Tabinshwehti (1531-1550) unified most of Burma, consolidating his power and pushing southward, overrunning the Irrawaddy Delta region and crushing the Mon capital of Bago (Pegu). In 1544, Tabinshwehti was crowned as king of all Burma at the ancient capital of Bagan. By this time, the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia had changed dramatically. The Shan gained power in a new kingdom in the North, Ayutthaya (Siam), while the Portuguese had arrived in the south and conquered Malacca. With the coming of European traders, Burma was once again an important trading centre, and Tabinshwehti moved his capital to Pegu due to its strategic position for commerce. He then began assembling an army for an attack on coastal Arakan to the west. Tabinshwehti's forces were defeated at Arakan but he was able to gain control of Lower Burma up to Prome. He led his retreating army eastward to Ayutthaya where he was defeated again by Thai forces, and his campaign to Ava in Upper Burma was likewise unsuccessful. A period of unrest and rebellions among other conquered peoples followed and Tabinshwehti was assassinated in 1551.

Tabinshwehti's brother-in-law, Bayinnaung (1551-1581), succeeded to the throne in 1551 and reigned 30 years, launching a campaign of conquest invading several states, including Manipur (1560) and Ayutthaya (1569). An energetic leader and effective military commander, he made Toungoo the most powerful state in Southeast Asia, and extended his borders from Laos to Ayutthaya, near Bangkok. His wars stretched Myanmar to the limits of its resources, however, and both Manipur and Ayutthaya, which had remained under Myanmar domination for 15 years, were soon independent once again. Bayinnaung was poised to deliver a final, decisive assault on the kingdom of Arakan when he died in 1581. His son Nanda Bayin and his successors were forced to quell rebellions in other parts of the kingdom, and the victory over Arakan was never achieved.

Faced with rebellion by several cities and renewed Portuguese incursions, the Toungoo rulers withdrew from southern Myanmar and founded a second dynasty at Ava, the Nyaungyan Dynasty or Restored Toungoo Dynasty (1597-1752). Bayinnaung's grandson, Anaukpetlun(1605-1628), once again reunited Myanmar in 1613 and decisively defeated Portuguese attempts to take over Myanmar, but the empire gradually disintegrated. The Toungoo dynasty survived for another century and a half, until the death of Mahadammayaza in 1752, but never again ruled all of Myanmar. Anaukpetlun's successor Thalun (1629-1648) re-established the principles of the old Pagan kingdom, but concentrated his efforts on religious merit and paid little attention to the southern part of his kingdom. Encouraged by the French in India, Pegu finally rebelled against Ava, further weakening the state, which fell in 1752.


* Victor B. Lieberman, "Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580-1760", Princeton University Press, 1984.

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