Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Set in stone: Myanmar asks for help decoding tablet


The Ministry of Culture has requested the help of Indian archaeologists to translate a recently discovered stone inscription that they believe is the oldest so far found in Myanmar.

U Kyaw Oo Lwin, director general of the ministry’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, said local experts have already deciphered around 60 percent of the tablet, which was found in Paytaw Monastery in Mandalay Region’s Myittha township in November 2013.

The inscription includes at least four languages, of which epigraphists have deciphered all of the Mon and Pali text and about 10 percent of the Pyu characters. A copy of text in the Nagari writing system used in northern India and Nepal has been sent to the Archaeological Survey of India for deciphering, U Kyaw Oo Lwin said.

What has been translated so far describes the donation of a monastery, Maha Anuruda Deva Rama, by King Sawlu and his wife Manicanda. The son of King Anawrahta, who is considered the founder of the Bagan dynasty, King Sawlu is a little-known and often poorly regarded monarch.

He said the inscription could change the way King Sawlu is viewed and shed new light on early writing styles.

“We couldn’t decipher the entire inscription so two months ago we copied it and sent it to India,” he said. “We will hold a forum when we get the finding of the inscription back from there.

“It is very important because it reveals the history of Myanmar. There shouldn’t be any mistake.”

While the inscription dates to 1052AD, some of the Nagari characters appear to be in an earlier style, the department said in a recent statement.

“At the top of the stone inscription, the characters are in a Nagari alphabet. Some characters appear to be in the Siddhamatrika or Kutila scripts, which are written in triangular and diamond form that dates to between the eighth and ninth centuries,” said the department’s statement, “The initial findings of the rock inscription of King Sawlu”.

Myittha local and author Shwe Yee Oo said the monastery was one of several religious buildings donated by princess Manicanda, who had also been a queen of King Anawrahta.

A couple from Mandalay have donated K3.5 million to construct a traditional-style building in the Paytaw Monastery compound to house the inscription. – Translation by Thiri Min Htun