Thursday, December 6, 2007

Some Place-names in Monland (Lower Burma): Pegu (ပဲခူး) = Paikhu

In the Glass Palace Chronicle and U Kala's Burmese History, this town is frequently referred to as (ဥႆာပဲခူး) Ussa Paikhu _ the classical and native names being put together. (ပဲခူး) Paikhu is the spelling used by the Burmese writers. It is, however, written (ဗေဂါ) Bago in Mediaeval Mon which word first occurs in (မုစလိႏၵ) Mucalinda Inscription set up by Mon King Dhammaceti, and its meaning is "beautiful". Later, it is spelt in many different ways, such as

(a) ဗေဂါ = Bago
(b) ဗေဂါ၀္ = Bagow
(c) ပဂို၀္, ပဂဪု = Paguiv
(d) ပဂ၀္ = Pagaw
(e) ဘေဂါအ္, ဘေဂါ = Bhago.

(a), (b), (c) and (d) have the same meaning and the change in spelling is philologically possible, but as regards the last name (ဘေဂါအ္, ဘေဂါ) Bhago', the change from (၀္) 'w' into (အ္) 'a' is very uncommon in Mon language. Moreover, it has a different meaning altogether, (ဘ) Bha = to cheat or cheating; (ေဂါအ္, ေဂါ) go' = to obtain. Hence it is a town obtained by cheating.

The last name gave rise to a legend found in many of the Mon and Burmese historical writings as follows: _
Once upon a time, Pegu was under the sea. As time passed, a shoal appeared in that place. A sailing boat which came from India for trading with "the eastern lands" became stranded there. Thereupon (ငဒူလာ) Na Du La and (ငဘာပါ) Na Bhapa who were captains of the boat foretold that in time to come that place would become at fertile island and therefore they buried in the earth nine brass trays as evidence of their claim to the island. Later on, two Burmese named (ငေၾကာင္) Na Gron and (ငက်ား) Na Kya discovered the place and wishing to claim that they were the first discoverers, they buried nine basket-fuls of green-grams (ပဲေနာက္) underneath those nine brass trays. Then the two Mons called (ငေအာက္ပိ) Na Ok Pi and (ငေအာက္ဆံ) Na Ok Cham came upon the scene and as they wanted to have the p;ace, they buried nine iron hooks below the green-grams and the brass tryas. Many years afterwards the descendants of those men found the account of the place in the respective records left by their ancestors and so they came in search of the place and found it a fertile and pleasant island. A dispute arose among the claiments to the island and therefore they dug up the place and found the nine hooks all beneath the green-grams and brass trays, with the result that the island was given to the Mons. As it was obtained by cheating, it was known as (ဘေဂါအ္, ဘေဂၚ) Bhago'.
Some Burmese writers, however, think that the name (ပဲခူး) Paikhu has come from (ဥပါယ္ခိုး) Upay Khui. (ဥပါယ္) Upay is corrupted from (Pali) Upaya wich means a trick and (ခိုး) Khui in Burmese means " to steal". So it is a twon stolen by trick. But I do not think that the Burmese word (ခိုး) Khui would be used in a Mon place-name. I am, therefore, of the opinion that in view of the very strong evidence found in the inscription of (မုစလိႏၵ) Mucalinda Pagoda, (ဗေဂါ) Bago is the original name of Pegu, meaning " a town of beauty". Like Rangoon, Pegu is an ancient town in Ramannadesa. It has two classical names (1) (ဟံသာ၀တှ) Hamsawati and (2) (ဥႆာလ) Ussala. These classical names are frequently used in both Mon and Burmese literary and historical works. However, the name "Hamsawati" is more comly used by the people. In the Mediaeval Mon inscription set up by King Dhammmaceti near the (မုစလိႏၵ) Mucalinda Pagoda in Pegu, it is referred to as Hamsawati the meaning of which is "the city of (Hamsa) swans". The legend for this name is as follows: _ Hundreds of years ago, two swan, make and female perched (one upon another) on a small shoal as big only as the palm of a human hand, and this later became the fertile island of Pegu. As regards (ဥႆာလ) Ussala, it is first mentioned in the (ပရိမထှးလႈိင္႐ွင္) Parimma Thihuinrhan Inscription, set up by King Kyansitta in the year 1107 A.D. Some Burmese and Pali scholars believe that (ဥႆာလ) Ussala is corrupte4d from Orrisa, the name of a province in ancient India. I am, however, inclined to think that (ဥႆာလ) Ussala is a separate name by itself having its own approapriate meaning. For if the word Orrissa were to be corrupted into (ဥႆာလ) Usssala, (ၾသ) O has to be changed into (ဥ) U, (ရိ) ri dropped and (လ) la added. Although the changing, dropping and adding of letters in this manner cannot be said to be impossible, it is to be regarded as improbable. Moreover, (ဥႆာလ) Ussala which is shortened later into Ussa has its won meaning. It is a combination of two Pali words, (ဥ) U and (သာလ) Sala. (ဥ) U means mounting, going up or increasing in height and (သာလ) Sala essence or wealth and the city of (ဥႆာလ) Ussala means therefore, "the city of mounting wealth." Although that city at the present is an inland town, formerly it was a sea port of great prosperity.
By Prof. E Maung M.A.

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