Pilgrimage, preservation and renovation of ancient monuments and urbanization of Dagon by King Thayawady
During the 27-day long riverine march from his capital city Amarapura to Dagon, King Thayawddy sojourned at the following stations to visit historic pagodas to carry out religious works and to receive homage and tribute from his subordinate kinglets:
(1) On 7th waning moon of Tawthalin, he stopped for the night at the Yang Aung Myin Jetty, Inwa.
(2) On 8th and 9th waning moon, Their Majesties were carried on the Kat Kyaw Barge and spent one night at each of the two stations – Laung Tha at Nga Zun village and Myingyan in Taloke Myo township.
(3) On the 10th waning moon, the king continued the journey by “Pyi Kyi Mun” royal barge and spent two nights at Nyaung U village. The king and the chief queen accompanied by the entourage were carried in the spired coach to Bagan Shwe Zigon and Ananda Pagodas which they worshipped and donated offertories.
(4) On the nights of the 13th, 14th and 15th waning moon, the royalty spent their time at Pakhan Nge town, Saar Taw village and Kyi Pin Tet respectively.
(5) On the first waxing moon of Thadingyut, royal entourage reached the station at Kyakhat village in Pa-hta-nago township. The king conferred the title “Maha Min Hla Kyaw Swa” on Pakhan Min Kyaw Swa Nat spirit. The king ordered him to join the royal entourage. One night was spent at this station.
(6) On the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th waxing moon of Thadingyut, the king spent one night at each of the three stations — Tha-wuhti village in Myey-de township, Thayet Myo, and Mya Ywa at the Na-win stream in Pyay township respectively.
(7) The king stayed two days at the royal residence at Mya Ywa during which he visited Shwe Bon-tha pagoda built by King Thado Dhamma Yaza, younger brother of King Bayint Naung and Pyay Shwe San-daw pagoda.
(8) The king made an over-night stop at each of the two stations — the royal residence at Kyi-the Hintha Jetty in Shwetaung township and the royal residence at Thanbaya Kan in Mingala Thayawddy township on the 6th and 7th waxing moon respectively.
(9) On the 8th waxing moon, the king reached Mingyi Ywa where he stayed four days during which he gave the governor of Mingla Thayawaddy town construction materials and money to build a pagoda on the site of his previous residence. On the 10th waxing moon at the auspicious hour of 4 p.m. the ground breaking ceremony was held at the site. Minister Thado Atula Mingyi Maha Bandu Kyaw, the Myosa of Sale Pakhan Nge, and the governor of Mingala Thayawaddy were assigned to its supervision.
(10) After one night at royal residence at Thanbaya Kan, the king continued his journey via Zeymaw stream and reached Maha Paung Shwe Laung stream.
(11) The king spent one night at each of the four stations – Shwe Laung stream, San Ywe village, Pho Khaung village, and Ywa Thit Kyi village in Hlaing township.
(12) On the 2nd waning moon of Thadingyut, he journeyed to the royal residence at the pier, a distance of 400 tar away from the palace at Okkalapa (Dagon).
(13) On the 3rd waning moon at past 3 hour the king arrived at the royal residence and spent one night there.
(14) On the morning of the 4th waning moon, Their Majesties were borne on the Ratana Palanquin to the Okkalapa palace, followed by the royal entourage. They ceremonially took occupancy in the palace. Entertainments by performing artists were held in their honour.
(15) On that day His Majesty riding the royal tusker “Pophadanta”, accompanied by his retinue went to pay homage to Shwe Dagon Pagoda.
(16) On the 5th waning moon, a variety of entertainments – wrestling, somersault, dramatic performance, puppet show, dancing, singing and music were held at the palace.
(17) On the 8th waning moon, the king visited Dagon Sundaw Shin and Thanhlyin Kyaik Khauk Pagodas. There was a grand parade of troops and display of flotillas to mark the occasion.
King Thayawaddy came to Dagon (Yangon) with 15000 troops and over ten thousand men were stationed at and around Dagon for security. But the British Intelligence alarmingly reported to the British Governor General of India that King Thayawaddy brought with him a hundred thousand strength.
The King stayed in Dagon till March 1842. He carried out religious works, built new fortresses and a new town. In the month of Tazaungmon (November) he inspected Shin Saw Pu town, Than Hlyin town, Dala town, Pegu town, Thilawa Kin (Patrol town), Thayet Tabin Kyun U and Kyi Myint Taing towns. He visited Shwe Dagon, Shwe Hmaw Taw, Kyaik Khauk, Kusinayone Pagodas and many other sacred places where he repaired and renovated old religious monuments and built new ones. On the 4th waxing moon of Nattaw (December) the king sent Buddha images of gold, silver, and alloy to Mingala Thayawaddy town to be enshrined in the pagoda, being built in the compound of Yey Kin Mingyi (the High Official in charge of the riverine patrol.)
In the month of Pyatho (January) the king again visited Shwe Dagon Pagoda and donated little bells of alchemic iron, gold and silver to be hung on the Hti (crown umbrella on the pagoda). The king discovered the Bodhi tree planted by Mon King Dhammazedi who received its sapling as a religious gift from a Singhalee king. It had grown into a big tree on the Bodhi Kone hillock on the north-west of Shwe Dagon Pagoda. He repaired and renovated religious buildings there and built a sima (ordination hall) named “Maha Wizaya” near the said Bodhi Tree.
Desiring to donate “sound” to Shwe Dagon Pagoda, the king gave assignment to Wundauk Mingyi Maha Sithu and Mingyi Maha Min Kyaw Thinkhaya the minister in charge of armoury and copper smithy to cast a copper bell of 25944, (49) viss, measuring over 9 cubits in height, 5 cubits in diameter, over 13 cubits in circumference, with a big hook decorated with figure of Narathiha lions. Fifty craftsmen were employed in the casting. The bell was officially named “Maha Tithada Ganda” meaning Big Bell which produces a pleasant sound. On the body of the bell were inscribed in 100 lines of his achievements and the full account of his riverine journey to Dagon. This bell is still hung in a spired pavilion at the north-east corner of Shwe Dagon pagoda platform.
The king was a prince serving as a second commander under General Maha Bandula at the outbreak of the First Anglo-Myanmar war of 1824-26. He had experiences of his active services. He found the vulnerability of Alaungpaya’s Yangon to naval attack as it was situated too close to the sea. So when he became king he intended to build a new town at a place not easily accessible from the sea.
Yangon at that time was known to have 99 hillocks of which Shwe Dagon pagoda hill was one. Taking advantage of these natural barriers and their topography, King Thayawaddy planned to construct on some of them fortifications to protect his new town. With Shwe Dagon hill as the main eastern front fortress, the site for a new town was chosen at where present Dagon Township is. His palace building stood on the maidar grounds (rkdif’guGif;), facing Myo Ma High School. Keeping the palace in the centre and facing east, a new town was built.
On the auspicious hour 1p.m. on Saturday the 9th waxing moon of Tazaungmon, the construction of the town was begun. Myanmar chronicle Konbaung Set Maha Yazawun Taw Gyi Vol.3 says that “the wall, the moat, the canal, the battlements, turrets, the town gates, and the bridges, were completed with the combined labour of the military and the public. The king named his new town “Aung Myey Yan Hnin” (The Land of Victory driving out all enemies) and his palace “Myat Nan Aung Char” (auspicious, victorious and central palace).
The new town was square in shape and the town wall was 16 feet high and 8 feet thick. On the north and the east were fortifications built on the hillocks. About a quarter of a mile lay between the eastern gate and Shwe Dagon pagoda hill. The town has 13 gates, namely (1) Myey Ni Gate on the north accessible to Myey Ni Gone area (2) Lake-Khin Gate accessible to Shwe Dagon pagoda (3) Hsin Su Gate (4) Kandaw Galay Gate on the east (5) Babe-dan Gate or Kya-ku Gate (6) South Gate (7) Nyaung Bin Gate (8) Thit Nyo Gate on the south (9) Wet Su Gate (10) Shin Saw Pu Gate (11) Ma Tha Gate and two other gates on the west.
On the north west was the residence of his son Prince Bagan. On its site Prince Bagan later built a pagoda titled “Maha Dhamma Yanthi”(Great Light of Buddha Dhamma). But it is commonly called “Ein-day Yar Pagoda (the pagoda built on the site of Prince’s house). He also built another pagoda on the site of his house in Mandalay named Maha Loka Yanthi pagoda (The Great Ligh of the World). It is also commonly called Ein-daw Yar pagoda.
On the north were stationed 500 swordsmen and 500 gunners, and on the east were stationed garrisons. Many monasteries, rest houses, ordination halls, water tanks, and wells were built and dug around the new town. Around the palace were dug 30 wells to supply fresh water for the palace.
After the construction of the new town was completed, all governmental offices, Mayor’s office, customs house, immigration, revenue department, land survey, etc., and officers’ quarters were moved to the new town. Prominent Myanmar families also moved to Aung Myey Yan Hnin. But foreign merchants, their residences, shops, stores and go-downs were allowed to remain at the old town. They came to the new town only on business.
There emerged two towns of Yangon – one built by King Alaungpaya came to be known as old Yangon which continued to remain as commercial town, and the other built by King Thayawaddy came to be known as new Yangon which became the seat of Myanmar government in lower Myanmar. King Thayawaddy’s visit to Dagon and his sojourn there for over five months had graced Yangon. Foreign trade increased and the old town grew into a seaport. Yangon became more known to the world.
Till today, the main road leading to Shwe Dagon pagoda on the south is called Lan Ma Daw (vrf;rawmf) (Great royal road) which King Thayawaddy used when he visited Shwe Dagon pagoda. The arch way which he built at the entrance stairway still stands behind the modern archway. His bell at the north-east corner is the largest bell on the platform with 100 lines of inscription telling the history of his time. His fortresses and fortifications, moats and canals are still found around Yangon. Mr. B.R. Pearn, Professor of History at Yangon University in pre-war time wrote a big volume History of Rangoon in which he detailed data on Yangon – the tale of three Yangons — Alaungpaya Yangon, Thaywaddy Yangon and British Yangon.
Pilgrimage, preservation and renovation of ancient monuments and urbanization of Dagon by King Thayawady