By Maung Thar (Archaeology)
Amarapura, Taung Tha Man & U Pein Bridge are Myanmar’s historical sites, being remarkably well-known among travelers from home and abroad. Situated 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the south of Mandalay, Amarapura, which was an old city of Konebaung Era, became a royal city once in the reign of King Bhadon (a) Bodaw Phayar from AD 1783 to AD 1823 & once in the rule of King Thayarwady from AD 1837 to AD 1857, altogether two times.
Beautiful “Taung Tha Man Inn,” a vast fishery pond with an area of 231.73 acres which is situated at the south of Amarapura was emphatically composed in the “Kawi Letkhana Dipani” by King Siri Maha Zeyathu that “Nearby Sagaing, water is fine, Taungdwin’s Soil Fertile; Yamethin’s paddy, Producing high-yield; Fish pond in Taung Tha Man; Meiktila lake is excellent.”
Findings discovered while excavating the site between Pagoda of 8 Sacred Triumphs & Maha Gandaryon Monastery nearby Taung Tha Man Inn in the years 1969 & 1970s for archaeological research shows that people inhabited Taung Tha Man area, some 2000 years ago. Fossils of human beings, ancient artefacts such as pots, ornamental beads and weapons made of stones & iron had been found and in 1971-1972, pots produced by manned machines were discovered again. Thenceforth, Taung Tha Man became prominent as an ancient historical research area as well.
U Pein Bridge spanning Taung Tha Man Inn was built with teak in the reign of King Bagan (1846-1853) in 1213 ME. 6-furlong-long U Pein Bridge combining Amarapura and Mandalay had lasted for over 160 years. The bridge built with 984 teak posts has 1086 posts altogether with the teak posts from Zayats/ Resting Shelters along the bridge included. Out of the ancient pagodas in the vicinity of Taung Tha Man Lake, Taung Mingyi & Kyauktawgyi are the two well-known Buddha Statues in a sitting posture.
Taung Mingyi Buddha Statue
Located at the far west of U Pein Bridge and nearby Taung Tha Man Lake, the pagoda was also named “Hsin Phyu Shin meant for owner of White Elephant).” It was built in 1148 ME (AD 1786) by Taung Mingyi (a) Minhla Kyaw Swar who had ever served as the In-charge of the White Elephant. At the time of its construction, the Statue made of bricks had no roof and walls, so it was named Nay pu khan kodawgyi meant for “the Statue under the scorching sun,” after it.
When Bodaw Phayar (King Badon AD 1782-1819) came to the throne, his alter ego “Taung Mingyi” was appointed as the royal treasurer. By taking an opportunity from father’s friendship with the king, Maung Shwe Kan, the former’s son was too close to royal daughters & concubines from the western part of the palace, hence the warning from the king to Taung Mingyi to reprimand his son.
For fear of being punished by the king due to his son’s deed, Taung Mingyi himself was said to have killed his son at the Thayet Hnapin Cemetery. Being saddened by such a sorrowful incident of killing his own son, Taung Mingyi built 4 Buddha Statues in a standing posture in the west of Taung Tha Man Lake. Taung Mingyi built the Taung Mingyi Buddha Statue at the village of Yardaw, the son’s native place near the village of Tagundaing in Amarapura township.
Tha statue is 46 ft 11 inches in height, with the distance between the edges of its knees 36 ft 6 inches long and the crested headdress 13 ft 1 inch high. The statue was made in the type of meditating.
Long ago, it was believed that danger would cast over the builder if Buddha statues were put in a shelter, so Taung Mingyi statue stood in an open space for long. People said that the shelter had collapsed although it was once put under shelter. Under the aegis of U Yin Galay residing at Chinatown Qr in Amarapura, a raffle was opened to place the statue under the roof. With money earned from the raffle or lottery the statue was managed to be under the shelter successfully, thenceforth the former name gradually and it was famous as Taung Mingyi Statue. Yet, any record was not found as to when it was built.
In “Narrative of the Mission to The Court of Ava in 1855,” Henry Yule wrote that a huge Buddha statue which stood tall near Taung Tha Man, Amarapura was looking at Taung Tha Man Lake smilingly, as if statues near the River Nile in Egypt did.
Dalhousie, governor-general of India sent a delegation led by Sir Arthur Ferrer to Amarapura in June, 1855. After the 2nd English-Myanmar war, the British came to Myanmar in 1852 on several reasons—to persuade Myanmar government to accept the conquest and rule of the then Pegu (Bago), to discuss with King Mindon and to investigate military & socio-economic situations in upper Myanmar.
The diplomatic delegation climbed up the Ayeyarwady riverine route from Yangon to Amarapura, bringing a British army officer named “Linnaeus Tripe” and the artist, “Colesworthy Grant to put the trip on record. Amarapura was the first-ever city where the British delegation opened its office. The delegation led by Sir Arthur Ferrer lodged at the diplomatic circuit residency.
Along the trip, Linnaeus Tripe took more than 200 photos, 120 of which were published. Of them, 58 were those photographed in Amarapura including Nay pu khan Kodawgyi/ Statue under the scorching sun. Thus, it became a document of great value. The photographer described in his book that the Statue surrounded by mini-pagodas was 37 ft 6 inches above the throne.
Due to the quake which struck in ME 1200, Taung Mingyi Statue collapsed. In 1212 ME, U Hmone, the owner of saw-mill residing in Myinn Yone Qr of Amarapura asked for permission from King Bagan to have the Taung Mingyi pagoda renovated, finishing it in ME1214 when King Mindon went to throne. Many donors donated gold for renovation of the pagoda.
As time went past, the Statue was covered with bushes as there had been no one to care for it. In ME 1250, Shwe Hlan Sayar Phoo living at Theingyizay Mikesu Ywathit (East) in Amarapura cleared the vicinity of the pagoda, to hold the offering ceremony of “Soondawgyi.” Thenceforth Taun Mingyi pagoda festival had been being held in the month of “Tabaung” annually until now.
The signboard erected in the terrace of the statue reads—the height of the throne is 7 cubits, its length from rear to front 33 ft & from south to north 47 ft. It was also described that its ear-holes were big enough for a man to enter.
Maha Sekkya Siha Kyauktawgyi Statue
Maha Sekkya Siha Kyauktawgyi known as Taung Tha Man Statue is located at the end of U Pein Bridge in the east of Taung Tha Man, 3 miles far from Amarapura. To distinguish it from Maha Sekkya Muni Marajein situated at the foot of Mandalay Hillock, it was called Amarapura Kyauktawgyi (a) Taung Tha Man Kyauktawgyi. Its donor was King Bagan.
According to “Maha Sekkya Ransi Kyauktawgyi” stone inscription erected in the north-east of the statue, the Stone Statue was carried along the Ayeyarwady river from the town “Nga Sintgu”, entering Taung Tha Man via the two pagodas, Shwe Kyet Yet & Shwe Kyet Kya. In the chronicle of Konebaung dynasty described in Myanmar Dates, it was described that the great raft carrying the statue onboard was dragged by the steamer and it was placed in the brick-building on 6th waning of Waso, ME 1211 (AD 10th July, 1849) to be worshipped by the people. The great chronicle of Konebaung Dynasty wrote it in detail.
Kyauktawgyi Statue was the one in a sitting posture, in which 12 gold Buddha images 358 silver images were enshrined as sacred relics, according to Myanmar Encyclopedia.
The temple in which Kyauktawgyi Buddha Statue resided was built in the type of Bagan Arnandar Pagoda, at the 4 entrance gates donations of King Bagan in Amarapura, Innwa, Okkalar, Shwetaung, Pyi, Kukham, Sagaing and Bagan were painted with murals written in index. Varieties of colorful pictures—gods, Vijja, planets and stars, elephants, horse, buffalo, cows, people in the place, regatta, ships and boats, troupe of orchestra were drawn up. Colored murals and ink inscriptions on stucco of Amarapura Era are being found to have been conserved in original style inside Kyauktagyi Statue.
The Buddha’s Sacred Footprint in the prayer hall before the statue was originally situated in the ruined brick building measuring 20 cubits from east to south and 10 cubits from south to north, located at the north of the wall, later transferred to the present place. At the back of the prayer hall were 88 statues of Arhats built.
A practice of worshipping Buddha Statues cast in gold, silver, bronze, wood and stone is a cultural heritage on religion for Buddhists in Myanmar, in their homes and in religious edfices such as pagodas, stupas and monasteries, in artistic styles.
Taung Mingyi Buddha Statue made of bricks & Maha Sekkya Siha Kyauktawgyi Buddha Stone Statue, which were the works of sculptures made in Kone Baung Era are situated on opposite sides of Amarapura Taung Tha Man Inn. Both were the well-proportioned ancient statues which reflected historical images, hence the need to be conserved as long-lasting Myanmar cultural heritage.
Translated by Khin Maung Oo (Tada-U)
1. Myanmar History that Dates Recount (Kone Baung Period)
(U Teikkha Dhammar Linkara & Dr Than Tun)
2. Taung Min Gyi Pagoda Journal
3. The Journey to Amerapoora in 1855 (Linnaeus Tripe)