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July 23, 2019

Let the name of Taungthaman Bridge be not at a loss

  • By Hsu Ngnet
  • The construction of the bridge was started in 1849 and finished in 1851.

When discussed about the ancient cities of Myanmar history, Amarapura township has become an indispensable part of the history. One additional point concerning with the history of the town, the 3967-ft long wooden bridge, built in 1213 ME, should be taken seriously. In order to set up blockades on Amarapura Nay Pyi Taw, the bridge was built across the Taungthaman Lake, making a successive inscription as “ Taungthaman Lake”. But the genuine name “ Taunthaman Bridge” has almost disappeared after the builder Maung Pain changed to that of U Pain. We will have to look at the history of Konbaung Dynasty if things are to be discussed about Taungthaman Bridge.

Locals and foreign tourists visiting the bridge.

Yadna Theinkha, Zeyapura, Awapura to Amarapura
Konbaung Dynasty began with King Alaungpaya commonly known as U Aung Zeya. The capital was Yadana Theinkha, the present-day town is the Shwebo township. The king ascended the throne in 1752; his son Naungdawgyi succeeded to the new throne in Zeyapura in 1760; now it is Sagaing township. Then the son of King Alaungpaya ,Hsinbyushin ascended the new throne in Awapura in 1763. The son of King Hsinbyushin, King Sintku became a king in Awapura Kingdom followed by King Fongkar, son King Naungdawgyi and King Badon or Bodawpaya, son of King Alaungpaya in a successive order. King Bodawpaya ascended the throne in Awapura in 1782 (1243 ME) and in 1783(1244) about 6 miles away from Awapura Innwa Kingdom, the King established the Amarapura Kingdom in Htipaungkar region.

Michael Sign and Old Innwa City
King Bodawpaya abandoned his kingship in 1783 and established a new Amarapura Kingdom; English diplomat Col. Michael Sign recorded the conditions of Old Innwa City after years in 1796 as follows:
City walls became obsolescent and collapsed; bushes were covered atop the walls as well as at the bottom. Wooden houses were removed to Amarapura; but plots of houses and buildings and streets were left behind. We were shown around by a guide for the places of palaces ,the Hluttaw and many-tiered roofs. Once flourished Palace, there were many bamboo forests, banana belts and thorny bushes instead.

King Bagyidaw and Innwa
Again in 1819, King Bagyidaw ascended to the throne, restoring from a zero position to a renewed kingdom. Innwa kingdom was grand and prosperous and so were the Thingyan Water Festivals . Karaweik barge, in which Kings and Queens poured on one another, was 30ft high and gilted. The barges belonging to Princes , Princesses and King’s counselors were also gilted. Awapura, popularly known as the Golden Land of Innwa, was a truly heaven on earth. Abandoned in 1837, King Thayawaddy established a throne in Amarapura. After his 9-year tenure as the King in 1846, King Bagan succeeded to the throne with Innwa Nay Pyi Taw as being abandoned again.

King Bagan and Amarapura
At the time of succeeding to the throne by King Bagan, the British annexed the lower part of Myanmar in Thayet Region, but King Bagan was not interested in the affairs of the country even though they were in danger. These affairs were put in the hands of princes and king’s counselors and he was enjoying himself with cockfighting sport. He enjoyed watching a cockfighting and fighting among the buffaloes, goats and sheep.
It is usual that an unintelligent King was always attended to by obsequious servants. The King was always accompanied by a servant by the name of Bi-Sad who had also a reliable person by the name of Maung Pain. The community around Maung Pain was made ready for cock-fighting and bird-fighting for King Bagan by breeding them in a compound.

Bridge Scheme
King Bagan over-indulged in gambling and amusement; but at the same time, he had a kind heart of making generous donations without the slightest hesitation. It was difficult for the villagers from the 12 Taungthaman region during the rains to come to the Golden City of Amarapura because of the flooded Lake. At this point, Maung Pain submitted a proposal to the King of building a bridge across the Lake. King Bagan readily accepted the proposal because it was meant for the poor villagers of 12 Taungthaman Regions. For the building of the bridge, no financial assistance was necessary from the Kingdom’s Royal Treasury. So it went smoothly with a hitch.

Permission of breaking and taking away
The requirements of planks were collected from a rubbish heap abandoned from old palaces of Sagaing and Innwa kingdoms; licenses were applied to break and carry them for building the bridge. King Bagan also thought that royal old planks were not only used by the royal relatives but also not suitable for religious buildings. Maung Pain was allowed to old planks for building the bridge. Therefore Maung Pain was allowed to use teak planks and posts from Sagaing and Innwa old palaces in order to build a bridge across the Taungthaman Lake. Afterall, these planks were old enough because they were used in building palaces in 1211 ME.

Making a faint murmur from the Lake leads to the completion of the bridge
Town clerk Maung Pain was allowed to use the planks given by the King and with the help from the people to get the building of the bridge finished within a period of two years.. That is why there is a saying: Making a faint murmur from the Lake leads to the completion of the bridge in the year in 1213 (1851). During that year, the city mayor and town clerk and their colleagues plundered a palace of its treasure illegally. They tortured and killed the people. They were executed by royal orders, according to the Konbaung history.

Invaluable name of Taungthaman Bridge
A 3967ft-long wooden bridge with 482 compartments and 1086 posts in the water was built 168 years ago. Now it has been put in the World Heritage List. But it is sad that the name of Taungthaman Bridge has disappeared. The name of Taungthaman Bridge is an original one by itself.
Translated by Arakan Sein;

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