- By Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt
(Maha Saddhamma Jotika Dhaja, Sithu)
Myanmar is a country most favoured by nature. Being not a land locked country it possesses both land and aquatic sources. High snowcapped mountains in the extreme north which are simply off-shoots of the Himalays, thickly forested hill ranger running north to south, the rivers with their tributaries and distributaries, flowing mostly from north to south, creating fertile valleys, plains and deltas with several archipelagos along the long sea coasts, natural acquatic bodies and manmade reservoirs and tanks require a strong water forces [Navy} to defend to protect and to preserve. A long land border with two thickly populated neighbours China and India expose Myanmar must always be alert to her geographic and strategic position.
Throughout her history Land and Water forces, constantly re-in forced by her rulers of the past and present. In the past, Myanmar kings always marched whether to battles or royal ceremonial progress or inspection of their kingdom with yey-arr [a&tm;] and kyi-arr [Munf;tm;]. Therefore these two forces must be always strong fresh and well trained. The month Tawthalin [September] the 6th month of Myanmar Lunar Calendar is the most appropriate month for the exercise of Myanmar water forces and recruiting new blood into it. Because the monsoon has receded, element wealth permitting, fine and calm become all aquatic bodies in land and outside. Myanmar kings held without fail their Regatta festival in calm aquatic bodies rivers or lakes to display their might in water forces and held boat races to recruit new blood into their water forces [Navy].
Yey Khin Taw [a&cif;awmf] literally translated Royal Regatta [Grand display of Royal water crafts of all categories were ceremonially displayed on the calm surface of water. Here Myanmar word khin and kin [cif;? uif;] should be well understood. Khin means to display. Kin means to patrol. Yey Kin Taw in the moats around the walled Palace city was the royal water patrol boats on duty every day to keep off or to find if anyone crossing the moat.These water patrol boats have their own musical band with Yey Kin songs to escape the monotony and to keep them always alert. Today Yey Khin and Yey Kin are mixed up, especially among younger generations.
Royal Regatta was a grand royal ceremonial entourage of barges, boats, rafts and all kinds of water crafts. The grand royal barge ”Pyi Gyi Mon” was a double barge built like the audience hall of siha sa na throne on which their Majesties sat and attended by Crown Prince and his consort, all princes, princess, royal children and minister and military commanders. His majesty ceremonially accepted credential of ambassadors, discussed with ministers matters of state importance.
The Pyi Gyi Mon Barge is the replica of this Siha Suna throne Room. With all royal paraphanalias of royal ceremony their Majesties displayed their might and main. Rows of barge rowers in rich uniform sat on both sides of the barge and rowed in tune with the 37 songs of 37 rowing styles called Tet yey thone zet Khun brit chin [wufa&; 37 csif;]. Two long boats on either side piloted the royal barge. Behind follows a long entarge of barges, boats, all kinds of water crafts carrying royal families, civil and military authorizes. Yey khin taw musical bands etc. We can see a replica of Pyi Gyi Men Barge in Mandalay as well as Kandaw Gyi Lake in Yangon.
After the royal display, boat races of all kinds and categories took place, barges ships, canoes, sampans, cruises, laung hleys etc. A systematic Boat Race took place nearly 3 days in succession. Specially appointed supervisory committees, other related committees were appointed by royal order so that boat races were conducted aire and square lists and types of boats are recorded on parabile folding papers with colourful illustrations. Sometimes, when protests appeared, an extra day was allowed to settle the protest.
Their Majesties awarded cash, kind and title to the outstanding ones. The best boat rowers were recruited into the royal water forces [Navy]. Foreign visitors, Envoys and Christian missic naries who had eye-witnessed Yey Khin Taw and Boat races and Awards and Recruitments noted down with illustrations in their diaries, reports and travelogues. After Myanmar became British Colony such monthly festivals could be held occasionally Aquatic bodies in land e.g. Inlay Lake, Indaw Gyi Lake, Taung Tha Man Lake, Meikhtila Lake and many other lakes across the country do hold boat races. Myanmar ethnic people inhabiting on or near aquatics bodies or sea ports are water-borne. In the as Daweithus, Myekthus, Rakhines etc are water borne. They hold boat races of all kinds. They often win in international water craft races abroat such as rowing boat races, yatching, dragon boat races, etc. etc. In the time of military Governmemnts, Royalta and boat races were held in Yangon Kandaw Gyi Lake. Re-enacting the march of King Tharawaddy of Late Konbaung dynasty of Myanmar history to yangon on the pretext of paying homage to Shwedagon Pagoda in British Burma [Lower Myanmar already fell under British Colonial Rule after First Anglo-Myanmar War].The King built a city for his residence called Aung Mye Yan Hnin [literally meaning victory land to drive out enemies]. He built fortreses around Shwedagon Pagoda hill and other Strategic places. He dedicated to Shwedagon Pagoda a big alloy bell which was being made at Nay Pyi Daw Amarapura. Before the bell was finishes the king died. His son Singu Min carries out the unfinished task. You can see the Hsinbyushin Bell at the Sunday corner [north-east] of Shwedagon Pagoda, on which Tharawaddy Min’s march to Yangon was recorded in 100 lines of inscriptions.
Hsinbyu Shin was the regnal name of King Tharawaddy. The writer was always involved in such activities carried out by military govts to arose patrolism among Myanmar people specially younger generations. There was a plan and project to set up a museum of Myanmar water forces on the bank of Inya Lake. The writer had collected some illustrated folding papers illustrating Regalta and boat races and submitted to the authorities. A record book in English of reenacted Regalta and boat races had been written and presented to embassies in Rangoon. The writer keeps his personal copy with him. Such in-finished works of previous govts should be resumed to finish by succession govts that is the writer since wish.