A Kingship by Merit and Cosmic Investiture: An Investigation into King Alaungmintaya's Self-Representation


Alaungmintaya’s rise from village headman to kingship in less than five years raises manifold questions regarding the perception of Buddhist kingship in Myanmar. The new king had to establish his credentials not only on the battlefield, but also within a particular cultural and religious environment. Based largely on the edicts and letters of the king himself, this paper takes a look at the way that the king communicated his claims to royal status to other kings and his subjects. It focuses in particular on the common notion of kingship by merit which, in the king’s mind, not only explained and legitimized his political rise, but also made explicit the cosmic relevance of his mission to protect the Buddhist religion. For Alaungmintaya, kingship was not only a reward due to past merits, but the fulfillment of a higher mission with divine approval. By paying close attention to the religious connotations of key terms within their cultural and textual context, the paper tries to highlight the complexity of royal self-representation.