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October 14, 2019

King Bayintnaung Bell, the fourth Memory of the World

By Maung Tha (Archaeology)

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has started the program “Memory of the World” in 1992 to do assessment on the heritages of the countries and select the heritages that meet the required criteria to be registered in the “Memory of the World” UNESCO had issued the list of heritages that went as far back as 1700 AD registered in the “Memory of the World”. Those heritages registered in “Memory of the World” included both tangible objects and intangible culture.
The aims and objectives of the “Memory of the World” program is primarily to promote the conservation works on historical and cultural heritages of the respective countries.
104 countries in cooperation with 5 organizations had carried out the program and could have registered 338 heritages in the “Memory of the World.” till 2015. Out of 338 heritages which won the registration in “Memory of the World”, the King Bayingnaung Bell Inscriptions at the Shwezigon pagoda in Bagan has become Myanmar’s fourth registration in “Memory of the World” recently.
The first three heritages were from Myanmar. UNESCO usually makes the assessment on the heritages submitted and issues the list of winner biennially. The first three winners from Myanmar are the 150-year-old Pitakas Stone Slabs in the Maha Lawka Marazein Pagoda of Mandalay, Gold Leaf letter of Alaung Mintaya U Aung Zeya, the 904-year-old Yaza Kumar Stone Inscription, the oldest-surviving inscription.

Fourth Registration in “Memory of the World”
The King Bayinnaung Bell Inscriptions document the donations made for Buddhist religious merit and are inscribed in 3 languages; 43 lines in Myanmar language, 35 lines in Mon language and five lines in Pali language.
Recorded on the bell, are the name of the donor, their endeavor for the country, their meritorious deeds, prayers, and occupied regions with the dates; the date of throne ascendance and the donated date of this bell. Also the inscriptions include the accurate regal titles for the king and his chief Queen. The Bell inscriptions are now located at the Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan and were donated by King Bayinnaung in 1557 AD.
Ministry of Culture made the submission on King Bayinnaung’s 16th Century Bell to the UNESCO’s program in December 2014.
The Bayintnaung Bell was cast with 2100 bowls of brass.

Bayintnaung Bell
The Bayintnaung Bell is 3 feet 8inches high, girth is 3 ft. 6 in., girth of the base is 10 ft. 3 in., thickness is 6 in., diameter is 1ft. 7 in., height of the hanger (paunggaing) is 1ft. 7in., girth of the hanger is 1ft. 4 in. and the girth of the neck is 4 ft. 1 in. The inscriptions in both Myanmar and Mon language can be seen on the face of the bell. There are also 5lines in Pali language inscribed in the part above neck and below the hanger.
Bayintnaung Bell was cast and donated to the pagoda in 1557 and since the military and political activities, victory in war against the neighbouring lands, meritorious deeds in culture during the reign of King Bayintnaung was written on the bell, the Bayintnaung Bell has been kept under national level protection.
According to the inscription record on the bell, King Bayintnaung had cast a bell and donated at the Shwezigon Pagoda which was one of the product of meritorious deeds of King Anawrahta and Kyansittha on 23 May 1557.
The inscriptions of 35 lines on the bell in Mon language was translated into Myanmar and published in the Anthology of Stone Inscriptions in Mon language in 1965.
King Bayintnaung won the Kaytumadi on Sunday, 11 January 1551 and could defeat the Thaye Khitaya (Sri Ksetra) on Saturday, 30 August 1551. Then the king conquered Hanthawaddy on Saturday, 12 March 1552 and ascended the throne in the Kanbawzathardi palace.
In 1555 January 22, Tuesday King Bayintnaung conquered Inwa and the king and queen together with his ministers, retinues and military transferred along the river to Inwa. The king and queen arrived in Inwa on Thursday, 24 December 1556. During the riverine trip to Inwa, the royal barge of the king and queen was splendidly and profusely ornamented and decorated.
Bayintnaung had vanquished Momeik, Thibaw and Ruby Land on Monday, 25 January 1557 and two weeks later the king held the ceremony of stake driving for Yadana Zedi(pagoda) in the northwest angle of Momeik and enshrined the sacred relics of enlightened one on 8 February 1557. Then the king left Momeik and marched to Htichaint (Dikyi) and reached it 3 days later. He then built a bridge across Dikyi river and proceeded his march and could occupy Monhyin on Saturday, 6 March 1557. On 25 March he won Mokaung.
Though he won Mokaung, he maintained the Mokaung Saophas in power as a leader of vassal state. The king’s prominent work in the victory of Mokaung is prohibiting the rites in which slave men and women were executed and the bodies were buried together with their master who died. The king returned to his royal capital on 9 April 1557 and on 23 May the king cast the bell with bronze and donated to Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan.
According to the Bell Inscription, after the demise of King Tabinshwehti on 1 May 15551, King Bayintnaung conquered Taungoo (Kaytumadi) and Pyi (Sri Kestra) in 1551, Bago (Hanthawaddy) in 1552, Inwa in 1555 and Momeik, Thibaw, Monhyin and Mokaung in 1557 and could have established the 2nd Myanmar Empire.
The first line of inscription in Mon language states the regal title of King Bayintnaung as Thiri Marama Maha Dhamma Yazadirit whereas in the 8th line the title given to the Queen is stated as Thiri Agga Maha Dhama Yaza Daiwi.
Bayintnaung had made many repairing and renovating the old religious edifices and also had collected new merit by building new religious edifices in every localities he arrived.
He also prohibited not to misuse the fund of Pagoda, Dhamma and Sangha. The bell inscription recorded that Buddha’s teaching had been flourishing under the rule of King Bayintnaung.
King Bayintnaung after making Buddha’s teaching more brightened and extended, he got an opinion to make Buddha’s teaching flourished in Sri Lanka. He sent a missionary including a set of Tri-Pitaka, Sanghas, mason and craftsmen to Sri Lanka. Myanmar has a long historical background and has a lot of archaeological records and regions which are now being discovered and endeavoured to become listed in world heritage program. So we all are obliged to discover, maintain and preserve the ancient tangible and intangible heritage of Myanmar.

1. Memory of the world (Unesco publishing)
2. မြန္ေက်ာက္စာေပါင္းခ်ဳပ္
3. ႏွစ္ဆယ့္တစ္ရာစုျမန္မာ့အလားအလာ(ေဒါက္တာ
4. လက္ေရြးစင္ေရွးေဟာင္း ေခါင္းေလာင္းစာမ်ား

Translated by U Khin Maung Win


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