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August 09, 2020

Maha Bandoola and Danubyu

By Maung Tha (Archaeology)

Maha Bandoola, a renowned Myanmar general in the First Anglo-Myanmar War (1824-1826 AD), was famous for his military capabilities related to Danubyu of Ayeyawady Region although he was born in Ngapayingyi Village of Ahlon Station, Budalin Township of Sagaing Region. Everybody knows Danubyu and Maha Bandoola in matching as Agga Maha Thenapati Thadoe Maha Bandoola Naymyo Thura Yekhaung General Maha Bandoola fell at Fortress Danubyu on 1 April 1825.

Kyaikkalunbun Pagoda.
Kyaikkalunbun Pagoda.

Danubyu in the history
Danubyu included in the area of Maubin District takes a position on the western bank of the Ayeyawady River. It is a small town on 1.15 square miles of area, and the whole township is on 289.35 square miles of area.
After occupying lower Myanmar in 1852, British set up districts. In 1875, Danubyu was included in the area of Thongwa District (Maubin). At present, Danubyu Township is formed with 18 wards and 63 village-tracts where Bamar and Kayin ethnics reside as the major ethnic people.
Danubyu Township shares border with Taikkyi and Htantabin townships in the east, Kyonpyaw Township in the west, Nyaungdon Township in the south and Zalun Township in the north. Many historical buildings such as Kyaikkalunbun Pagoda, Fortress Danubyu and the tomb of General Maha Bandoola are significant in Danubyu.

General Maha Bandoola
Maung Yit who would become General Maha Bandoola was born of U Pauk Taw and Mei Mi Nyein on 11 October 1782. When he was adult, he married Shin Min Bu and moved to the royal palace to serve the Crown Prince.
After the Crown Prince passed away, Maung Yit served Prince Sagaing and became governor of Dabayin with Naymyo Thura Yekhaung title in 1175 Myanmar era. He participated in battles with Assam and Manipur and by showing his wonderfully military abilities.
In the reign of King Badon (1782-1819 AD), the Chieftain of Manipur which was a subordinate of Myanmar king passed away and his eldest son Chaurjit Singh took the power. His brother Marjit Singh took shelter of King Badon who invited the Maharaja to negotiate their two brothers so as to govern the state together. But, the Maharaja was absent to call on the king. So, the king ordered the troops to march toward Manipur on 15 February 1814. General Naymyo Thura Yekhaung joined Tamu-Pantha column together with General Naymyo Minhla Maha Nawrahta. In the battle, the troops of King Badon occupied the state and appointed Marjit Singh on the throne.
In Assam, Vesali counsellors dethroned Chandra Kanta Singh appointed by Myanmar king and gave throne to Purandar Singh on 11 November 1816. So, Myanmar troops led by Naymyo Thura Yekhaung marched to Assam on 23 November.
In his time, King Sagaing ordered Naymyo Thura Yekhaung to govern Ahlon Town and conferred Maha Bandoola title on him.
Marjit Singh appointed as Chieftain in Manipur by King Badon was absent to pay respect to the king and committed extraction of timber from Kabaw valley. So the troops of King Sagaing marched toward Manipur on 2 December 1819 when Maha Bandoola, second in command, led Myanmar troops. He deployed the troops to achieve victory in the Ketsein Hill battle which was decisive for Manipur. After occupying Manipur, Myanmar troops returned to the royal palace on 26 December.

Statue of Maha Bandoola.
Statue of Maha Bandoola.

First Myanmar-Anglo War
When King Sagaing sent Myanmar troops to Manipur, Marjit Singh and his troops fled into Cachar area.
Cachar Chieftain Govinda Chandra sought help from British as troops of Marjit Singh invaded his territory. Myanmar deployed its troops along Sylhet and Assam border line. So, British were worried about falling of Cachar into Myanmar. British assumed if Cachar fell under Myanmar troops, Myanmar would easily occupy the eastern part of Bengal. As such, British occupied Cachar before Myanmar moves and declared Cachar as its subordinate. In 1823, Myanmar troops marched into Cachar and attacked Marjit Singh. So, fighting happened between Myanmar and British troops.
As British troops took a stronghold on Shinmaphyu Island at the mouth of Naff River on 8 July 1823, the governor of Danyawady drove them out in accord with the order of King Sagaing. But the governor general of India demanded to give the island back to British and returned to Shinmaphyu Island. Hence, the troops led by General Maha Bandoola marched to the island on 30 December 1823.
Based on Cachar issue, conflicts happened between Myanmar and British. On 5 March 1824, Governor General Lord Amherst declared war with Myanmar. British General Sir Archibald Campbell led 1,500 soldiers in marching to Yangon by waterway. The British waterborne troops occupied Manaung Island, Mawtinsun and Hainggyi Island.
General Maha Bandoola reported to King Sagaing to assign powerful minister or counsellor in Hanthawady. The king assigned Minister Thadoe Mingyi Maha Minkhaung and Minister Thadoe Maha Thenapati to Yangon on 7 May 1824.
On 10 May 1824 when British troops arrived at Yangon, Myanmar troops withdrew from the city because number of their strength was merely equal to those of garrison troops. Myanmar built defensive line in Kyimyindine to prepare warfare. General Maha Bandoola arrived in Yangon frontline on a few days to command his troops. Meanwhile, Myanmar troops and British soldiers violently fought against each other. Then, Maha Bandoola moved his troops from Yangon to Danubyu.
General Maha Bandoola improved the old fortress of Mon ethnics in Danubyu to fight against British troops. British troops targeted artillery fire to Fortress Danubyu day and night. As such, General Maha Bandoola fell in the fortress on the morning of 17 April 1825.
After General Maha Bandoola had fallen, Myanmar troops withdrew to upper Myanmar. British troops on land and waterway also marched to upper Myanmar. Myanmar troops withdrew and defended the enemies from Myede, Malun, Bagan, NyaungU and Hsimeekhon and then reached Yandapo Village. At that time, Myanmar government sent Dr Judson and Dr Price to British troops to negotiate ceasefire and then signed Yandapo treatment for ceasefire to end the first Anglo-Myanmar war. On 24 February 1826, Myanmar lost lower Myanmar.

Walls of Fortress Danubyu.
Walls of Fortress Danubyu.

Bandoola and Fortress Danubyu
Fortress Danubyu is one mile long and 500-800 yards wide, flanked by two small forts as Kyaikkalunbun Fort close to Kyaikkalunbun Pagoda in Ward 10 of Danubyu and the fort in the place of Shwegu Monastery in Ward 4. Some parts of Fortress Danubyu were damaged in erosion of Ayeyawady River. So, some areas are about 1,000 feet wide.
After the general fell, his remains were cremated in the fortress. The ashes of the general were put in a gold urn conveyed along the marching route. When Myanmar troops arrived at Malun Fort in Minhla Township of Magway Region, Major Min Ye Khaung buried the urn on the bank of Khwelinpan Creek. When they withdrew, the urn was left in Malun. Hence, Bala Minhtin and majors from Minhla Fort built a pagoda on the site of urn not to lose it. The urn was moved to the south of stairway from Myathabeik Hill in 1964. At present, a mausoleum for General Maha Bandoola was built on the memorial place. The pagoda of urn, stone inscription and horse riding statue of General Maha Bandoola are kept at the mausoleum.
Maubin District Deputy Commissioner Captain Robert built a tomb in the place in Danubyu where General Maha Bandoola fell.
The statue of Maha Bandoola in Danubyu, nine feet high, weighing three tons, was carved by Artist Alinka Kyawswa U Saw Maung and Sculptor U Mya Thaung and unveiled on 27 March 1962. Although Myanmar hero soldier Maha Bandoola fell more than 195 years ago in Myanmar history, everybody praises his military tactics and strategies till today. The fortress where General Maha Bandoola fell while fighting a battle against British colonialists becomes a historical site in Danubyu. As such, those arriving at Danubyu pay visits to the fortress as a memorial site. (Translated by Than Tun Aung)

Reference:
Myanmar Encyclopaedia Volume VIII
Great History of Konbaung Dynasty (Volume II)
Kyaikkalunbun Pagoda and History of Danubyu (Danubyu Than Swe Thit)

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