Ottama, U

   (1897-1939)
   A pivotal figure in modern Burmese political history, the first of the "political pongyis" members of the Sangha who agitated against British colonial rule. A native of Sittwe (Sittway) in Arakan (Rakhine), he went to Calcutta to study and was deeply influenced by the ideas of the Indian National Congress. He also resided in Japan, teaching Pali in Tokyo. Returning from Japan in 1919, he became involved in the emerging political movements of the time, writing articles for the nationalist newspaper, Thuriya (The Sun), preaching in villages, establishing branches of the wunthanu athin, and becoming famous for writing an open letter to the governor of the province, Reginald Craddock, demanding that he "go home." While conservative monks avoided any involvement in politics, U Ottama, an excellent public speaker, preached that monks should not concentrate on achieving nibbana before the people were freed from (colonial) oppression, an idea linking Buddhism and politics that in different forms remained important until the Ne Win era (1962-1988). In 1921, he was imprisoned for sedition after making a political speech, receiving a harsh sentence that inspired mass protests. Between that year and his death in 1939, he spent much time in jail, and in his latter years endured illness, poverty, and neglect at the hands of a younger generation of Burmese nationalists. He was one of the founders of the General Council of Sangha Sammeggi and, inspired by the khadi movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India, advocated a boycott of British goods in favor of Burmesemade ones, such as pinni or homespun cloth.
   See also Dyarchy; Wisara, U.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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