The Light of Asia, Ashun U Ottama

Posted: August 31, 2010 in Ven.Ottama


Early life

He was born Paw Tun Aung, son of Mra Tha Oo, in Rupa, a district of Sittwe in western Burma. Paw Tun Aung assumed the religious name Ottama when he entered the Buddhist monkhood.


Ashin Ottama studied in Calcutta for three years, until he passed the vernacular. He then travelled around India, and to France and Egypt.
In January, 1907 he went to Japan, where he taught Pali and Sanskrit at the Academy of Buddhist Science in Tokyo. He then travelled to Korea, Manchuria, Port Arthur, China, Annam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. In Saigon, he met with an exiled former Burmese prince, Myin Kun (who led a rebellion along with Prince Myin Khondaing in 1866, and assassinated the heir to the Burmese Crown, Crown Price Kanaung).

Anti-colonial and political activities

Upon his return to British Burma, U Ottama started his political activities, toured the country, lecturing for YMBA (Young Men Buddhist Association) and giving anti-colonial speeches. In 1921, he was arrested for his infamous “Craddock, Go Home!” speech against Craddock Scheme by Sir Reginald Craddock, the then Governor of British Burma. He was imprisoned several times for sedition, but he carried on. He was one of the first monk to enter political arena and the first person in British Burma to be imprisoned as a result of making a political speech, followed by a long line of nationalists such as Aung San and U Nu. According to academics, between 1921 and 1927, U Ottama spent more time in prison than outside.
While Ashin Ottama did not hold any post in any organization, he encouraged and participated in many peaceful demonstrations and strikes against British rule. An admirer of Gandhi, he did not advocate use of violence.

He represented the Indian National Congress at the funeral of Dr Sun Yat-Sen in June 1929. The only time he held a post was as leader of the All India Hindu Mahasabhas in 1935.


U Ottama was imprisoned in the late 1930s for his nationalist political activities. In protest of recent political events, U Ottama went on a hunger strike, which the British colonial government ignored. Finally, he died in prison in 1939.


U Ottama is seen as both the first true martyr of Burmese nationalism and father of the modern Arakanese nationalist movement. U Ottama is seen as the first of Myanmar’s long list of political monks, who had stood up for the Burmese people in times of strife, either under colonial, democratic, socialist or military rule. His monastery in Sittwe, the Shwe Zedi Monastery, continues to be an important focal point in the Burmese political movement – the recent August-September 2007 riots were sparked when monks at the Shwe Zedi monastery began to march to the Sittwe Prison demanding the release of an activist.
The Light of Asia, U Ottama

While Myanmar being under the darkness,
He appeared in the western, Arakan Kingdom
To give the ray for the people under the dark.

While the whole Myanmar People being the full of being afraid,
He dare to the “Craddock”
” Hi, Craddock!” “GET OUT!”

While the other leaders being honored,
He is forgotten by the people of Myanmar
To honor him, “the Light of Asia.”

While the memorials days of others held inside Myanmar,
The unforgettable day for him isn’t allowed inside it
To celebrate the unforgettable day of his demise.

However the times and years pass by,
However they insult your gratitude,
Despite you had already been death,
You are always alive in our Arakaneses’ heart.



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