BURMA, BURMAH (with BURMESE, &c.) n.p. The name by which we designate the ancient kingdom and nation occupying the central basin of the Irawadi River. “British Burma” is constituted of the provinces conquered from that kingdom in the two wars of 1824-26 and 1852-53, viz. (in the first) Arakan, Martaban, Tenasserim, and (in the second) Pegu. [Upper Burma and the Shan States were annexed after the third war of 1885.]

The name is taken from Mran-ma, the national name of the Burmese people, which they themselves generally pronounce Bam-ma, unless when speaking formally and emphatically. Sir Arthur Phayre considers that this name was in all probability adopted by the Mongoloid tribes of the Upper Irawadi, on their conversion to Buddhism by missionaries from Gangetic India, and is identical with that (Bram-ma) by which the first and holy inhabitants of the world are styled in the (Pali) Buddhist Scriptures. Brahma-desa was the term applied to the country by a Singhalese monk returning thence to Ceylon, in conversation with one of the present writers. It is however the view of Bp. Bigandet and of Prof. Forchhammer, supported by considerable arguments, that Mran, Myan, or Myen was the original name of the Burmese people, and is traceable in the names given to them by their neighbours; e.g. by Chinese Mien (and in Marco Polo); by Kakhyens, Myen or Mren; by Shans, Man; by Sgaw Karens, Payo; by Pgaw Karens, Payan; by Paloungs, Paran, &c.1 Prof. F. considers that Mran-ma (with this honorific suffix) does not date beyond the 14th century. [In J. R A. Soc. (1894, p. 152 seqq.), Mr. St John suggests that the word Myamma is derived from myan, ‘swift,’ and mu, ‘strong,’ and was taken as a soubriquet by the people at some early date, perhaps in the time of Anawrahta, A.D. 1150.]

1516.—“Having passed the Kingdom of Bengale, along the coast which turns to the South, there is another Kingdom of Gentiles, called Berma.… They frequently are at war with the King of Peigu. We have no further information respecting this country, because it has no shipping.”—Barbosa, 181.

[„ “Verma.” See quotation under ARAKAN, arracan.

[1538.—“But the war lasted on and the Bramãs took all the kingdom.”—Correa, iii. 851.]

1543.—“And folk coming to know of the secrecy with which the force was being despatched, a great desire took possession of all to know whither the Governor intended to send so large an armament, there being no Rumis to go after, and nothing being known of any other cause why ships should be despatched in secret at such a time. So some gentlemen spoke of it to the Governor, and much importuned him to tell them whither they were going, and the Governor, all the more bent on concealment of his intentions, told them that the expedition was going to Pegu to fight with the Bramas who had taken that Kingdom.”—Ibid. iv. 298.

c. 1545.—“How the King of Bramà undertook the conquest of this kingdom of Sião (Siam), and of what happened till his arrival at the City of Odiâ.”—F. M. Pinto (orig.) cap. 185.

[1553.—“Bremá.” See quotation under JANGOMAY.]

1606.—“Although one’s whole life were wasted in describing the superstitions of these Gentiles—the Pegus and the Bramas —one could not have done with the half, therefore I only treat of some, in passing, as I am now about to do.”—Couto, viii. cap. xii.

[1639.—“His (King of Pegu’s) Guard consists of a great number of Souldiers, with them called Brahmans, is kept at the second Port.”—Mandelslo, Travels, E. T. ii. 118.]

1680.—“ARTICLES of COMMERCE to be proposed to the King of Barma and Pegu, in behalfe of the English Nation for the settling of a Trade in those countrys.”— Ft. St. Geo. Cons., in Notes and Exts., iii. 7.

1727.—“The Dominions of Barma are at present very large, reaching from Moravi near Tanacerin, to the Province of Yunan in China.”—A. Hamilton, ii. 41.

1759.—“The Bûraghmahs are much more numerous than the Peguese and more addicted to commerce; even in Pegu their numbers are 100 to 1.”—Letter in Dalrymple, O. R., i. 99. The writer appears desirous to convey by his unusual spelling some accurate reproduction of the name as he had heard it. His testimony as to the predominance of Burmese in Pegu, at that date even, is remarkable.

[1763.—“Burmah.” See quotation under MUNNEEPORE.

[1767.—“Buraghmagh.” See quotation under SONAPARANTA.

[1782.—“Bahmans.” See quotation under GAUTAMA.]

1793.—“Burmah borders on Pegu to the north, and occupies both banks of the river as far as the frontiers of China.”—Rennell’s Memoir, 297.

[1795.—“Birman.” See quotation under SHAN.

[c. 1819.—“In fact in their own language, their name is not Burmese, which we have borrowed from the Portuguese, but Biamma.”—Sangermano, 36.]

  By PanEris using Melati.

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