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February 29, 2020

Geopark: The Relationship between Mt. Tuyin and Bagan Kingdom

Than Htun (Myanmar Geosciences Society)

Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance and managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Geopark uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society, such as using our Earth’s resources sustainably, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing the impact of natural disasters. By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area. The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as a new sources of revenue are generated through geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are protected.
The motto of UNESCO Global Geoparks is “Celebrating Earth Heritage, Sustaining Local Communities”. Geoparks are fundamentally about people and about exploring and celebrating the links between our communities and the Earth. The Earth has shaped who we are: it has shaped our farming practices, the building materials and methods we have used for our homes, even our mythology, folklore and folk traditions. Geoparks, therefore, engage in a range of activities to celebrate these links. Many Geoparks have strong links to the arts communities where the synergy released by bringing science and the arts together can yield surprising results.
With regard to the above Geopark concept the relationship of our planet Earth, human beings and animal kingdom has a long history since 40 million years ago. The knowledge of past, present and future relationship between planet Earth and living creatures, including human beings, is inevitable for sustaining and conserving, our home, the Earth.
With the above view in mind, I would like to present an example of relationship between Tuyin Taung and famous Bagan World Heritage Site during Bagan dynasty since 107 AD.

The Mt. Tuyin
The Tuyin Taung is situated west of Nuaung Oo — Kyaukpadaung motor road about six miles away south-east of Bagan. The motor road goes right up to the foot of the western stairways which takes you up to the hill top cedi. There is a large lake west of the Turin and Thet Soe Taung range which is called Mya Kan (Mya Lake). On the north-west of Mya Lake, there once used to be an ancient stone building. It is called the Paper Repository or Mya Kan stone building. In the Bagan region the Mya Kan stone building, the Kyaukgu U-min (tunnel) and the Nanhpaya are the only buildings made of stone bricks (Paragu, 2013). The Tuyin Taung plays an important role not only in Bagan history but also in the religious history of the period. Ancient Myanmar historical records say that the Tuyin range is the place where King Alaungsithu in the guise of a thief exhibited his physical prowess and equestrian skill to prove that he was not yet decrepit with age.
The Mt. Tuyin is northern continuation of Bago Yoma and made up of sandstone and clay of Pegu Series (Miocene). The mountain range is trending SSE-NNW and occupied 12 to 15 miles length. The Sacred Tooth Relic Tuyin Taung cedi is situated at northern tip of Tuyin range and Gwegyo Hill is situated at the southern tip. The Tuyin range is magnificently exposed on the Myingyan plane. The region is mainly composed of Obogon Alternations, consisting of rapidly alternating thin beds of sand and clay which is upper part of Pegu Series (H.L. Chhibber 1934).
All who write about Bagan try not to leave out the fact that in the construction of the Shwezigon Pagoda sandstone from Mt. Tuyin was used. Mt. Tuyin acts as a fortified wall affording protection on the East and when the plants and trees on the mountain were thriving in the rainy season the water washed down to fill Myakan (Emerald Lake) and the environs of Bagan were green and verdant and not dry and dusty as it is today. Tamarind trees and Ingyi trees grew in profusion endowing Tuyin Mountain with grace and beauty and it was also a vital factor in carrying out deeds of merit. Stone was quarried and cut from Tuyin mountain and relayed hand to hand by people to the site of the Shwezigon. In relaying the stone the people were lined up three in a row under the shade of huge Tamarind trees along the way. This long column of people must have been vast and one can imagine how verdant these huge trees were to be able to provide adequate shade for the host of people. Furthermore, leaving aside the notion of spiritual power, the very thought that stone from the Tuyin mountain was passed hand to hand by a huge crowd of people lined up in orderly rows is enough to inspire immeasurable happiness and religious wonder (Dr. Ma Tin Win, 2009).
According to Dr. Ma Tin Win 2009, Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the five monuments built of stone bricks quarried from Tuyin Taung. She mentioned four religious monuments built of Tuyin Taung sandstone in Bagan as follows:
1. The Pitaka Taik or Setku Taik at the foot of Mt. Tuyin
2. The great Shwedagon Pagoda
3. Kyaukgu Umin (Cave) and
4. Nan Hpaya
The Pitaka Taik or Setku Taik at the foot of Mt. Tuyin
According to Mya Kan lithic inscription The Pitaka Taik or Setku Taik at the foot of Mt. Tuyin in 11th Century was believed that it was built by King Kyansittha. Then King Kyaswa and young generation renovate the building. The pillars are made up of stone bricks and the wall is about six-foot thick. Some parts of the roof are collapsed and the design is similar with the current cathedral. The sandstone bricks are also similar to those of Nan Phaya Temple. The basic structure of windows and arch styles is similar to Nan Phaya but the sculptures are much simple than Nan Phaya. Professor G.H. Luce gave its name Mya Kan Lithic Inscription Library. We regret to know that the sandstone bricks of collapsed royal library were used in building road and dam in 1959.

Shwezigon Temple is built of solid sandstone bricks.
Shwezigon Temple is built of solid sandstone bricks.
Sandstone bricks used in building of Shwezigon Pagoda.
Sandstone bricks used in building of Shwezigon Pagoda.

Shwezigon Pagoda
In the south-west of residential quarters of the Town Nyaung Oo, on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River lies a religious precinct of over seven hundred fifty feet in length, fenced in on all four sides by great thick walls. In the middle of this precinct stands majestically an immense monument of one hundred and sixty feet in width at the base and one hundred and sixty feet in height. This monument is Shwezigon Pagoda of the early Bagan period. The original builder of Shwezigon Pagoda was King Anawrahta (1044-1077 A.D.). Construction was begun in February 1059 but was not finished in his life time. King Kyanzittha (1084-1113 A.D.) resumed the work in December 1089 and the Pagoda was completed in 1090.
Throughout its history of over 950 years, Shwezigon Pagoda has been the object of worship and devotion by royalties, nobilities, aristocracies, and common folks. Three factors explain strength and durability of Shwezigon Pagoda, despite its old age. Firstly that it is a solid type of Pagoda of a bell shape. Secondly that it was built of stones brought from quarries of Turin range. Men were lined up along the distance of seven miles between quarries and the site of construction and hewn stones were hand-carried by a human chain, and thirdly that masons and architects of the Bagan period were skillful and their technique pretty high. So, the Pagoda has been able to withstand all weather and calamities through ages. On 8th July 1975 at 6 pm a severe earthquake took place in Bagan and most monuments were damaged by it. But Shwezigon Pagoda was effected very little (Shwezigon Pagoda Trustees, 1994).
The sandstone from Mt. Tuyin was relayed hand to hand and the great Pagoda was built of sandstone bricks from the base to the upper levels of the decorative inverted lotus and the spreading lotus flower. Pieces of cement had been dislodged from the stupa in the violent earthquake of 1975, but repairs were made a certain part of the pagoda was left uncovered for the edification of the general public. A study of this part shows how closely and evenly the bricks had been laid and that unlike other pagodas lime cement was used to lay the bricks. This demonstrates an ancient technique of mixing lime and milk in making and applying cement. The stone for the Shwezigon was quarried from the Tuyin Mountain and bricks made from it according to size. The stone hewn and obtained from the mountain was then conveyed hand to hand by people standing one behind the other in rows of three and the line of people stretched from Tuyin Mountain to the site of the Shwezigon Pagoda.

To be Continued

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