Special features of the palace and palace city
Western envoys and visitor were struck with wonder at unique features of Mindon’s palace “Mya Nan San Kyaw” and palace city “Lay Kyun Aung Myey”. The first was the Anauk Wun, the Minister in charge of the affairs of Western Palace, who looked after all female members of the royal family and residents of the buildings in the western group, on the palace platform. The next was the Thabin Wun, the Minister in charge of all entertainments. He had the full authority to act, on behalf of the king, regarding all performances of music, dance, dramatic and puppet shows and the royal theatre house on the palace platform.
The most unique and extraordinary of “Mya Nan San Kyaw” palace was the eight thrones and nine thrones rooms. In following the precedents and procedures in the Jataka stories, there was the conspicuous absence in Myanmar palaces of three palaces Yama, Thuba and Thuyama, Summer, Rain and Winter, three seasons’ palaces in the capital of Kapilavathu for Prince Siddhartha [Bodisatha] to reside before he renounced his mundane life at the age of 29. But there were eight thrones in Myanmar palaces, which were placed in different throne halls. Each throne was used for specific function and ceremony.
They were (1) Sihasana Throne the most important and the largest of all eight thrones. Wooden gilt stylized figures of male lion were placed in the niches of this throne. It was made of Yamanay wood [Gemelia arborea]. This throne was placed in the Myey Nan Pyathat Saung [The great Spired Audience Hall] on which the king sat in full regalia to receive homage and to hold daily assembly. Also on this throne the king received the rite of Yazabeitheik [crowining ceremony and swearing coronation oath. Lion is the symbol of sovereignty, bravery, integrity and faithfulness. There was another lion throne of the same design and size in the Hluttaw [the king’s privy council] where the king held daily conference with his Hluttaw members on matters of importance. In the absence of the king, either the crown prince or the chief minister presided on behalf of the king. They did not sat on the throne, only put their hands on it.
Next was Bamayasana Throne [Bumble Bee Throne]. With guilt and stylized figures of bumble bee in the niches. This throne was made of Karaway wood [cinna monumspp] and was placed in the Hman Nan Saung [Crystal or Glass palace]. Bumble bee symbolizes unity, perseverance and wealth. The king sat on it when he discussed privately with his interior ministers.
The third throne was the Elephant Throne [Gazasana] placed in the Bye Taik [Council chamber]. Gilt and stylized figures of male elephants were placed in the niches. It was made of Saga wood [Champaca]. Male elephant symbolizes majesty, might and longevity. The king sat on it when he issued promotion or demotion orders and gave award and reward.
The fourth throne was Peacock Throne [Mayura Sana] made of Pauk tree wood [Butea monosperma]. Gilt stylized figures of peacock were placed in the throne’s niches. This throne was placed in the North Smote Hall. The king sat on it when he received gifts such as horses and elephants of exceptional breed and quality presented him by his vassals or nobilities. Peacock symbolizes national pride, glory and auspiciousness.
The fifth throne was the Deer Throne [Minga Sana] made of Yeythaphan wood [Ficus glomerata] with gilt stylized figures of male deer in the niches of the throne. It was placed in the South Smote Saung Hall. The king sat on it when he discussed with his most trusted ministers regarding the affairs of national importance. Deer symbolizes swiftness, compassion and magnanimity.
The sixth throne was Conch Shell Throne [Sankha sana] made of Taung Peinhne wood [Jack fruit tree]. Gilt stylized figures of conch shell were placed in the niches of the throne. It was placed in the Laytha Saung [Promenade Hall]. The king sat on it to receive religious sermons from the Buddhist monks. Originally conch shell was one of the regalia of Hindu deity Vishnu. Conch shell symbolizes purity, peace and prosperity.
The seventh throne was Hintha Throne [Hamsa Sana] made of Thinganet wood [Rock dammar tree]. Gilt stylized figures of Hintha [Brahminy duck] were placed in the niches of throne, which was placed in the East Zeytawun Saung Hall. The king sat on it to pay homage to Three Gems [the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha] and to receive the credentials of foreign envoys and to grant audience with them. Hintha bird symbolizes grace, dignity and faithfulness.
Lotus Throne [Paduma Sana] was the eight throne made of Thayet wood [Mango, mangifera indica]. Gilt stylized figures of lotus bloom were placed in the niches of the throne. It was placed in the west Zeytawun Saung Hall. In this hall homage paying ceremony by dames and wives of ministers, commanders, high officials and all female residents of the palace to the chief queen who sat on this throne. When the king sometimes appeared there, he and the chief queen on his right sat on the throne. Lotus bloom is the symbol of sacredness , purity and peace.
The most unique and unusual of the palace city Lay Kyun Aung Myey was one extra bridge on the west side. It was named Alawi Bridge with wood draw bridge in the middle. When funeral procession came out of the palace city or when a criminal was to be executed, the west gate was flung open and Alawi Bridge was used for crossing the moat. Royal cemetery and the execution ground lay on the west outside the palace city at some distance. When not in use the wooden part of the bridge was lifted.
Beautification and greening of the palace city and the capital city
King Mindon wanted to create his new capital city like Rajagraha in India of Buddha’s life time. Just as Rajagraha was surrounded by pleasant forested hills, so also was Ratanapon Mandalay with many offshoots of Shan Plateau, extensions of Mogok Ruby Mine area in the north, especially the Sagyin marble hill ranges and individual clusters of hill coming out from the plains nearby. They gave Mandalay the image of a second Rajagraha in Myanmar. So the king began beautifying his palace city with artificial rock hills, lakes, and fountains and falls. Nearby the palace platform on the west was a complex of recreation centre for royal children and their playmates. It was named after the lake of the celestial kingdom Tavatimsa. It was called Pon-ta-lot Kan. The plan and design revealed those of the Versailles and Rome. For the king’s relaxation there were two typical Myanmar garden –Taung U-yin taw and Myauk U Yin taw to the south and north of the palace platform. There either the king with his family or alone repaired for rest or for keeping Sabbath on full moon days. Here were wooden buildings of Myanmar traditional architecture with bamboo groves around.
Twenty royal parks outside the palace city
On the east side of the dug-up Ratana Nadi River were founded twenty royal parks. They were (1) Maha Haymazala Park (2) Maha Asoka Park (3) Insana Keythi Park (4) Maha Thiri Thumana Park (5) Mahabonzayika Park (6) Mahagirimalika Park (7) Maha Thiri Theikdi bala Park (8) Maha Zeya patha Park (9) Maha Thiri Mandawara Park (10) Mangala U Yin Taw (11) Maha Thiri haymawun Park (12) Maha Thiri Manaw ratha Park (13) Maha paduma Park (14) Maha Maygawun Park (15) Maha Thiri mahithara (16) Maha Thiri Mudeika Park (17) Maha devata Park (18) Maha Thiri Tala Park (19) Maha Thiri Manaw Rama Park and (20) Maha Giri Sitara Wun Park.
The proceeds of these parks, fruits, flowers, vegetables etc., were donated to the pagodas and monasteries.
Founding of sanctuaries [Abaya thana or No danger lands]
In Buddha jataka stories, there were four stories of creating sanctuaries, namely Nijorda jataka (2) Nandiya jatake (3) Maha Ka Ka jataka and (4) Thupatha jataka and the Deer Park of Migara Wuna in which Lord Buddha delivered his first sermons to the five recluse disciples. These jatakas inspired King Mindon to establish sanctuary in the surrounding of his capital city. He issued royal order demarcating sanctuary covering vast areas of green lands around his capital city. His orders were inscribed on stone pillars, set up at many strategic points for public notice, strictly prohibiting capturing, killing persecuting of all living creatures both fauna and flora within the sanctuaries. Even collecting of eggs, shells, feathers was prohibited. Even if a criminal escaped into the sanctuary was to be captured peacefully and not to be treated violently. Violators of the royal order were subject to punishment.
Monks were encouraged to preach the public the importance and merit of respecting and sparing living beings for the happiness of mundane and spiritual life. The sanctuary stone pillars were found in the sand of Aungpinle Lake and around Thayet Tabin village to the north east of the capital city.
(To be continued)
Special features of the palace and palace city