His father was Kunhsaw Kyaunghpyu, who took the throne of Pagan from Nyaung-u Sawrahan and in turn was overthrown by the sons of Nyaung-u Sawrahan, Kyiso and Sokka-te, who forced Kunhsaw Kyaunghpyu to become a monk. When Anawrahta came of age, he challenged the surviving brother Sokka-te to single combat and slew him. Anawrahta offered to return rulership to his father, who refused and remained a monk, so he took the throne in 1044.
He made a pilgrimage to Ceylon, returning to convert his country from Ari Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism. To further this goal he appointed Arahan, a famous Mon monk of Thaton. In 1057 he invaded Thaton under the premise that they had refused to lend Pagan the Pali Tipitaka, and successfully returned with the Mon king Manuha as prisoner. From 1057-1059 he took an army to Nanzhao to seek a Buddha's tooth relic. As he returned, Shan chiefs swore allegiance to him, and he married Saw Monhla, princess of the Shan chief of Moguang. In 1071 Anawrahta received the complete Tipitaka from Sri Lanka. Buddhists from Dai regions (southern Yunnan and Laos), Thailand, and India (where Buddhism had been oppressed) came to study in Pagan as Anawrahta moved the center of Burmese Buddhism north from Thaton.
He also built the famous Shwezigon Pagoda.
In the end, Anawrahta was successful in his quest, and Theravada Buddhism became the dominant religion in Burma within two centuries.
His rule was usurped by a general called Kyanzittha, who allegedly fell maddly in love with Anawrahta's wife to be, the Princess of Mon Kingdom.
Anawrahta Street (Frasier Street) in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is named after him.
Far Eastern Folly: A Series of Recent Developments at Bagan in Myanmar, One of the Ancient Wonders of Southeast Asia, Are Damaging the Former Royal Capital, According to Historians and Archaeologists. Inappropriate New Buildings and Poor Restoration Work, Encouraged by the Military Government, Could Be Doing Irreparable Harm to One of Buddhism's Greatest Cultural Achievements
Aug 01, 2006; The view west from the top of the 13th-century Tayok Pye Temple in Bagan, central Myanmar (Burma), is as breathtaking today as it...