Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Agra Red Fort

January 18, 2011



As with the Taj Mahal, our visit to the Agra Red Fort was unsatisfactory regarding the time allowed there and now, reading the articles on it on the internet, I find that I missed several places to see: Delhi Gate, Naqqar Khana, Diwan-i-Khas, Rang Mahal, Moti Masjid, and maybe more…

There was no local guide to show us, and I was nearly lost in the main palace and did not know that I had been to the place where Shah Jahan was kept as prisoner, until much later. However, I had a great time on the parapets around the courtyard and had a nice view of the Taj Mahal from there and also from the royal apartments (I presume). Shah Jahan must have looked at the Taj Mahal from his palace and have many thoughts regarding his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal who had departed.

After some time going along with Pyone and others, I was left behind taking photos and suddenly found myself alone. Luckily, I met ko TunTun, a tour organizer, who was looking for stragglers and was shown the way out of the palace.

Agra Red Fort

The Red Fort (Hindi: लाल क़िला, Urdu: لال قلعہ, usually transcribed into English as Lal Qil’ah or Lal Qila) is a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi (in present day Delhi, India). It served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government.

Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, started construction of the massive fort in 1638 and work was completed in 1648 (10 years).[2] The Red Fort was originally referred to as “Qila-i-Mubarak” (the blessed fort), because it was the residence of the royal family.

Architectural design

Red Fort showcases the very high level of art form and ornamental work. The art work in the Fort is a synthesis of Persian, European and Indian art which resulted in the development of unique Shahjahani style which is very rich in form, expression and colour. Red Fort, Delhi is one of the important building complexes of India which encapsulates a long period of Indian history and its arts. Its significance has transcended time and space. It is relevant as a symbol of architectural brilliance and power. Even before its notification as a monument of national importance in the year 1913, efforts were made to preserve and conserve the Red Fort, for posterity.

The walls of the fort are smoothly dressed, articulated by heavy string-courses along the upper section. They open at two major gates, the Delhi and the Lahore gates.



Beyond this gate is another, larger open space, which originally served as the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Aam, the large pavilion for public imperial audiences with an ornate throne-balcony (jharokha) for the emperor. The columns were painted in gold and there was a gold and silver railing separating the throne from the public.

his article is about the Red Fort in Delhi. For the Red Fort in Agra, see Agra Fort.

Coordinates: 28°39′21″N 77°14′25″E / 28.65583°N 77.24028°E / 28.65583; 77.24028

The Red Fort Complex*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Red Fort is a prominent fort in Delhi

State Party India
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 231
Region** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2007  (31st Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Red Fort (Hindi: लाल क़िला, Urdu: لال قلعہ, usually transcribed into English as Lal Qil’ah or Lal Qila) is a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi (in present day Delhi, India). It served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government. The British used it as a military camp until India was made independent in 1947. It is now a popular tourist site, as well as a powerful symbol of India’s sovereignty: the Prime Minister of India raises the flag of India on the ramparts of the Lahori Gate of the fort complex every year on Independence Day. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007[1].

Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, started construction of the massive fort in 1638 and work was completed in 1648 (10 years).[2] The Red Fort was originally referred to as “Qila-i-Mubarak” (the blessed fort), because it was the residence of the royal family. The layout of the Red Fort was organised to retain and integrate this site with the Salimgarh Fort. The fortress palace was an important focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad. The planning and aesthetics of the Red Fort represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which prevailed during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. This Fort has had many developments added on after its construction by Emperor Shahjahan. The significant phases of development were under Aurangzeb and later Mughal rulers. Important physical changes were carried out in the overall settings of the site after the First War of Independence during British Rule in 1857. After Independence, the site experienced a few changes in terms of addition/alteration to the structures. During the British period the Fort was mainly used as a cantonment and even after Independence, a significant part of the Fort remained under the control of the Indian Army until the year 2003.The Red Fort is a tourist attraction from around the world.

The Red Fort was the palace for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s new capital, Shahjahanabad, the seventh city in the Delhi site. He moved his capital here from Agra in a move designed to bring prestige to his reign, and to provide ample opportunity to apply his ambitious building schemes and interests.

The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the wall. The wall at its north-eastern corner is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh Fort, a defence built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546.The construction of the Red Fort began in 1638 and was completed by 1648.

The Indian flag flying from Delhi Gate

On 11 March 1783, Sikhs briefly entered Red Fort in Delhi and occupied the Diwan-i-Am. The city was essentially surrendered by the Mughal wazir in cahoots with his Sikh Allies. This task was carried out under the command of the Sardar Baghel Singh Dhaliwal, who led Karor Singhia misl which comprised Jat Sikhs from present day Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts (some major villages being Chabal, Naushehra Pannuan, Sirhali, Guruwali, Chabba, Sur Singh, Bhikhiwind, Khadur Sahib, Chola Sahib etc.) .

The last Mughal emperor to occupy the fort was Bahadur Shah II “Zafar”. Despite being the seat of Mughal power and its defensive capabilities, the Red Fort was not defended during the 1857 uprising against the British. After the failure of the 1857 rebellion, Zafar left the fort on 17 September. He returned to Red Fort as a prisoner of the British. Zafar was tried on in a trial starting on 27 January 1858, and was exiled on 7 October.



// [edit] Architectural design

View of the pavilions in the courtyard

Naqqar Khana

Red Fort showcases the very high level of art form and ornamental work. The art work in the Fort is a synthesis of Persian, European and Indian art which resulted in the development of unique Shahjahani style which is very rich in form, expression and colour. Red Fort, Delhi is one of the important building complexes of India which encapsulates a long period of Indian history and its arts. Its significance has transcended time and space. It is relevant as a symbol of architectural brilliance and power. Even before its notification as a monument of national importance in the year 1913, efforts were made to preserve and conserve the Red Fort, for posterity.

The walls of the fort are smoothly dressed, articulated by heavy string-courses along the upper section. They open at two major gates, the Delhi and the Lahore gates. The Lahore Gate is the main entrance; it leads to a long covered bazaar street, the Chatta Chowk, whose walls are lined with stalls for shops. The Chatta Chowk leads to a large open space where it crosses the large north-south street that was originally the division between the fort’s military functions, to its west, and the palaces, to its east. The southern end of this street is the Delhi Gate.

[edit] Important buildings and other structures inside the fort


[edit] Diwan-i-Aam

Beyond this gate is another, larger open space, which originally served as the courtyard of the Diwan-i-Aam, the large pavilion for public imperial audiences with an ornate throne-balcony (jharokha) for the emperor. The columns were painted in gold and there was a gold and silver railing separating the throne from the public.


[edit] Diwan-i-Khas

The Diwan-i-Khas is a pavilion clad completely in marble, the pillars are decorated with floral carvings and inlay work with many semi-precious stones.

[edit] Nahr-i-Behisht

The imperial private apartments lie behind the throne. The apartments consist of a row of pavilions that sits on a raised platform along the eastern edge of the fort, looking out onto the river Yamuna. The pavilions are connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht, or the “Stream of Paradise”, that runs through the centre of each pavilion. The water is drawn from the river Yamuna, from a tower, the Shah Burj, at the north-eastern corner of the fort. The palace is designed as an imitation of paradise as it is described in the Koran; a couplet repeatedly inscribed in the palace reads, “If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here”. The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals in its architectural elements the Hindu influences typical of Mughal building. The palace complex of the Red Fort is counted among the best examples of the Mughal style.

[edit] Zenana

Rang Mahal

The two southernmost pavilions of the palace are zenanas, or women’s quarters: the Mumtaz Mahal (now a museum), and the larger, lavish Rang Mahal, which has been famous for its gilded, decorated ceiling and marble pool, fed by the Nahr-i-Behisht.

Moti Masjid

[edit] Moti Masjid

To the west of the hammam is the Moti Masjid, the Pearl Mosque. This was a later addition, built in 1659 as a private mosque for Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s successor. It is a small, three-domed mosque carved in white marble, with a three-arched screen which steps down to the courtyard.

[edit] Hayat Bakhsh Bagh

To its north lies a large formal garden, the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, or “Life-Bestowing Garden”, which is cut through by two bisecting channels of water. A pavilion stands at either end of the north-south channel, and a third, built in 1842 by the last emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, stands at the centre of the pool where the two channels meet.

[edit] Red Fort today

The Red Fort by night.

The Red Fort is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Old Delhi, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The fort is also the site from which the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on 15 August, the day India achieved independence from the British. It also happens to be the largest monument in Old Delhi.

At one point in time, more than 3,000 people lived within the premises of the Delhi Fort complex. But after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the fort was captured by Britain and the residential palaces destroyed. It was made the headquarters of the British Indian Army. Immediately after the mutiny, Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried at the Red Fort. It was also here in November 1945, that the most famous courts-martial of three officers of the Indian National Army were held. After India gained independence in 1947, the Indian Army took control over the fort. In December 2003, the Indian Army handed the fort over to the Indian tourist authorities.

Today, a sound and light show describing Mughal history is a tourist attraction in the evenings. The general condition of the major architectural features is mixed. None of the water features, which are extensive, contain water. Some of the buildings are in fairly good condition and have their decorative elements undisturbed. In others, the marble inlay flowers have been removed by looters and vandals. The tea house, though not in its historical state, is a functioning restaurant. The mosque and hamam are closed to the public, though one can catch peeks through the glass windows or marble lattice work. Walkways are left mostly in a crumbling state. Public toilets are available at the entrance and inside the park, but some are quite unsanitary.

The entrance through the Lahore Gate leads to a retail mall with jewellery and crafts stores. There is a museum of “blood paintings” depicting young Indian martyrs of the 20th century along with the story of their martyrdom. There is also an archaeological museum and an Indian war memorial museum.

The fort was the site of a December 2000 attack by terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba which killed two soldiers and one civilian in what was described in the media as an attempt to derail the India-Pakistan peace process in Kashmir.

Red Fort Complex

Brief Description

The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The private apartments consist of a row of pavilions connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht (Stream of Paradise). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement. The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style, including the garden design, strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield.

Outstanding Universal Value

The planning and design of the Red Fort represents a culmination of architectural development initiated in 1526 AD by the first Mughal Emperor and brought to a splendid refinement by Shah Jahan with a fusion of traditions: Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu. The innovative planning arrangements and architectural style of building components as well as garden design developed in the Red Fort strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield. The Red Fort has been the setting for events which have had a critical impact on its geo-cultural region.

Criterion (ii): The final flourishing of Mughal architecture built upon local traditions but enlivened them with imported ideas, techniques, craftsmanship and designs to provide a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions. The Red Fort demonstrates the outstanding results this achieved in planning and architecture.

Criterion (iii): The innovative planning arrangements and architectural style of building components and garden design developed in the Red Fort strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield. The Red Fort Complex also reflects the phase of British military occupation, introducing new buildings and functions over the earlier Mughal structures.

Criterion (vi): The Red Fort has been a symbol of power since the reign of Shah Jahan, has witnessed the change in Indian history to British rule, and was the place where Indian independence was first celebrated, and is still celebrated today. The Red Fort Complex has thus been the setting of events critical to the shaping of regional identity, and which have had a wide impact on the geo-cultural region.

The Red Fort Complex is a layered expression of both Mughal architecture and planning, and the later British military use of the forts. The most dramatic impacts on the integrity of the Red Fort Complex come from the change of the river into a major road, which alters the relationship of the property to its intended setting; and from the division of the Salimgarh Fort by a railway. Nevertheless the Salimgarh Fort is inextricably linked to the Red Fort in use and later history. The integrity of the Salimgarh Fort can only be seen in terms of its value as part of the overall Red Fort Complex. The authenticity of the Mughal and British buildings in the Red Fort Complex is established, although more work is needed to establish the veracity of the current garden layout. In the specific case of the Salimgarh Fort, the authenticity of the Mughal period is related to knowledge of its use and associations, and of the built structures dating from the British period.

The nominated property has been declared a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1959. A buffer zone has been established. Although the state of conservation of the property has improved over the past ten years, much more work is needed to put the overall state of the property into a stable condition and to ensure visitors do not contribute to its decay. The Red Fort Complex is managed directly by the Archaeological Survey of India, which is also responsible for the protection of all national level heritage sites in India and Indian cultural properties included in the World Heritage List.

‘ It first occurred to the omniscient mind that he should select on the banks of the aforesaid river some pleasant site, distinguished by its genial climate, where he might found a splendid fort and delightful edifices, agreeably to the promptings of his generous heart, through which streams of water should be made to flow, and the terraces of which should overlook the river.’ Muhammad Tahir, Inayat Khan Shahjahan-nama, 1657-58.

Such worthy thoughts, according to the royal librarian, prompted the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to found a fresh city at Delhi in the mid-seventeenth century. He called it Shahjahanabad, meaning City of Shah Jahan. At its centre stood the Red Fort, a vast walled complex of beautiful palaces and meeting halls from which the Emperor ruled with unmatched public pomp and ceremony. Today, the surviving Fort buildings stand silently amid the still bustling city, now called Old Delhi.

The Red Fort’s success was instant. It represented the pinnacle of Mughal palace-fort building, and symbolized political and economic power. It was also perhaps the most extravagant and sophisticated theatre ever built for daily performances of one of the world’s most dazzlingly grand courts. But its glory was short-lived; as the Mughal Empire waned, so did the Fort. Later Emperors abused the fine buildings, raiders snatched its treasures, marauders wrecked its buildings and finally the British, blind to its qualities, pulled down the greater part. Even this century, what remains has been largely ignored, unappreciated and uncared for. But, despite the ravages of time and human action, the extraordinary achievement of the Red Fort in plan and fine architecture is still visible today, although it is unjustly ignored. It is time to set the record straight, to look again at the surviving buildings and to bring the Fort alive through the personality of its creator, Shah Jahan, and his Court.

The Red Fort and its surrounding city constitute the only large-scale Mughal city planned and built from scratch to survive as a living city. Built in just over nine years, it burst into life in 1648 and, although the palace buildings are peopled only by ghosts, the city it supported still thrives today and the inhabitants of its tiny lanes are often descendants of merchants and craftsmen who served Shah Jahan and his Court, still practising the same trades in the same areas. Here they live and work, shop in the markets and celebrate their festivals in the streets. And a few old families who a generation ago deserted the lanes for spacious, air-conditioned comfort in the New Delhi suburbs keep the family haveli (courtyard mansion) in Old Delhi and speak proudly of the city they come from, even if they have never slept a night in it.

The key to the Red Fort’s success was firstly that it was designed not merely for Court pleasure. It may have contained glittering palaces, but it was also the power-base for the whole Empire, for internal government and external foreign affairs. It was built for defence, too, although this role would later prove its Achilles’ Heel. The Red Fort was also a complete community, a city-within-a-city, with its own bazaars (the covered Chatta Chowk is a token survivor), gardens and mansions for favoured courtiers. Every detail of layout and every building reflected Mughal greatness, using the finest materials to realise the most mature Mughal designs.

Secondly, the supporting city was an essential part of the original plan. It had its own protective walls; its great mosque, the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), stands on the only hillock so all can see it; and its host of specialist bazaars, which supplied the vast Court with everything it needed from silk slippers to fresh Kabul melons. The city gained enough momentum to survive, albeit less glamorously, when the Mughal Empire waned and, more importantly, when the British built New Delhi and its competing shopping centre at nearby Connaught Place.

Thirdly, the whole of Shahjahanabad, both Red Fort and city, was a thoroughly royal undertaking. The city outside the Emperor’s palace-fort was an extension of it in design, patronage and function. Indeed, Fort and city sustained one another, living in symbiosis. The Jama Masjid encapsulates the idea, for it was planned as the mosque for both the city and the royal Red Fort, which had no internal place of prayer. The city’s main market street, Chandni Chowk, was laid out by one princess; additional markets, sarais (inns), Hammams (baths), mosques and gardens were given by other members of the royal family; and grand havelis (mansions) were built by favoured princes and courtiers. The havelis have mostly gone, but those markets and places of worship are still focuses of Old Delhi. Conversely, the public had access to the daily public meetings held in the Diwan-i-Am (Public Audience Hall) in the Fort itself, a fundamental element of Mughal rule.

As a royal undertaking, the Emperor’s personal interest and vast finances were behind the project. With a stable empire and a huge income from taxes paid by his
subjects, Shah Jahan could indulge his obsession, building a new and magnificent capital whose centrepiece would become a legend in his lifetime and whose magnificent planning and buildings would survive, in part, to be admired by posterity. Shah Jahan seems to have taken an active part in the design, direction and encouragement of the whole project. He was involved in the general plan and in the detailed designs for the marble palaces, the Chatta Chowk, the Jama Masjid and probably more. As one recorder noted, perhaps with an overdose of loyalty: ‘Occasionally His Majesty supervised the work of goldsmiths, jewellers and sculptors. Thereupon specialists commissioned to design new buildings would submit their plans to His Majesty, who discussed them with expert persons … Various monuments, which even the best-versed architect could not have devised, were drawn up by His Majesty personally. His advice or his objections were regarded as binding.’

Forthly, the Red Fort and its city are an inspired triumph of urban planning. Within the Fort, the core of the design is T-shaped, the cross-bar consisting of a string of palaces facing the Yamuna’s cool river breezes on the east side of the Fort. To the west, they face the main axis of the Fort and city: a procession of increasingly less private and less royal buildings which leads to a giant gateway, out of the seat of power and into the city’s principal thoroughfare, Chandni Chowk.

Finally, each building in the Red Fort displays the hallmark of perfect taste and elegance. Built at the height of one of the most cultured courts the world has known, this is Mughal palace architecture at its most ambitious and sophisticated. Imagined in its original completeness, it would have easily outshone its contemporary European rival, Louis xiv’s palace at Versailles, and it covered twice the area of the largest European palace, the Escorial. Of the surviving structures, each one perfectly fulfils its function. At the same time, each is visually satisfying, relates happily to its neighbours and fits snugly into the overall plan. Lines are simple, proportions human in scale, detailing restrained and both materials and workmanship of the highest quality. Architectural historian Percy Brown judged it in 1942 as ‘the last and finest of those great citadels, representative of the Moslem power in India, the culmination of the experience in building such imperial retreats which had been developing for several centuries.’ Thus the Red Fort symbolizes the apex of Mughal cultural refinement


India through the eyes of a Myanmar visitor: rural India

January 16, 2011

road near Sankassa village

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My friend Moe Win who was a nautical engineer told me that whenever his ship reached India, he was very happy as it is the best port visit for him, as his ship does not get to Yangon. Indians are part of Myanmar life and as Indians (of India) can speak English, there is no problem as with other countries where English is not well understood. He also likes Indian food and therefore he was at home in Indian ports.

I also like Indian food as my father liked it and we had it frequently at Indian shops or bought and had it at home.

Rural India sight is not a surprise to me, as I have seen many Indians in Yangon and in villages at Zeyawaddy, Nyaunglebin, Kyaikhto and in the Sittwe, Kyauktaw and Mrauk U townships.

Brick dwellings are the norm in India. Even in the smallest villages, brick buildings, however small, are seen, even if roofs are of thatch. There seems to be scarcity of wood and bamboo.

Cow dung is dried on walls and is for use as cooking fuel. It is dried on wall so as not to take space on the ground.

Palm trees are present in rural areas everywhere.

Buffalos are also seen everywhere in the countryside and cows too!

Railways level crossing looks different from Myanmar.

Brick kilns are everywhere as all buildings are of brick. However, they have high smoke funnels as different from Myanmar kilns where there is no funnel.

Date trees are also seen. Dried maize / corn is also a common sight.

Sugarcane is also grown everywhere.

Groups of unknown small stupa like structures are also seen. As Hindus cremate, I wonder whether these structures are places where ash of the deceased is stored. They might be burial ash storage sites.

Teak plantation and a forest or plantation were also observed beside the highway.

We stopped for health as in Myanmar highways! There are no public foodcourts, toilets and restroom stopover sites on the highway. There are private food shops which also provide latrines. We once used the latrine of a fuel shop were the bus refilled.

The village near Sankassa / ThinKaThaTa NaGoh is unique as there are plenty of birds that are not afraid of humans. They come nearby and are seen even in the village. There were peacocks and peahen on trees, in farmland and inside the village at Sankassa. The local people do not harm the birds and they in turn are not afraid. I wonder whether it might be due to the previous presence of Buddha and all previous Buddhas who returned to earth from TharWaTeinThar at the same hill, the Sankassa / ThinKaThaTa NaGoh.

Potato farms are also seen frequently as it is their staple food.

The crows at Sankassa are light headed as those near the Nepal border.

Indian hoe has a special unique design: it is double layer,

Water supply for irrigation comes from underground pipes. They are pumped into ditches or brick tanks and then flowed in ditches.

Dahl / ပဲ were seen placed upright leaning on walls and let dry, similar to the way sesame is collected in Myanmar.

Squirrels are also seen at Sankassa.

I met boys playing cricket, the Indian National game, near Sankassa.

Some houses seem to be built by the government or company as they are identical.

But occasionally rare non brick huts were seen.

The roads in India are good except at some places where repairs have not been made, as seen by the road in remote Sankassa which is very good.

peacock at Sankassa

The village near Sankassa / ThinKaThaTa NaGoh is unique as there are plenty of birds that are not afraid of humans. They come nearby and are seen even in the village. There were peacocks and peahen on trees, in farmland and inside the village at Sankassa. The local people do not harm the birds and they in turn are not afraid. I wonder whether it might be due to the previous presence of Buddha and all previous Buddhas who returned to earth from TharWaTeinThar at the same hill, the Sankassa / ThinKaThaTa NaGoh.

In the footsteps of Buddha: Kapilavastu / KatPiLaWut remains

January 8, 2011

Pyone digging for AungMyay earth of the Kapilavastu palace to take back home

the shadow of the photographer at the Kapilavastu palace remains

We reached Kapilavastu / KatPiLaWut palace remains on 17-December, the 7th day of our pilgrimage after the night’s stay in Lumbini Burmese Vihar / monastery.

Kapilavastu / KatPiLaWut palace is the place where prince Siddhartha / TheikDatHta lived till the age of 29 when he saw old man, sick man, dead man and monk and left the palace and family in search of the escape from suffering. The palace remains still stand in modern Piprahawa; Lumbini lies 5-6 km away to the southeast.

The remains of ancient Kapilavastu / KatPiLaWut, the Shakya capital have been found with a 22 feet wide moat and a 10 feet wide defence wall

Kapilavastu, where the Buddha is said to have lived till the age of 29. Kapilvastu is the name of the place in question as well as of the neighbouring district.

In the Account of Chinese monk Fa-Hien’s travels in India and Ceylon A.D. 399-414 in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline, Fa-Hien wrote about Kapilavastu / KatPiLaWut:

Chapter XXII


There was neither king nor people. All was mound and desolation. Of inhabitants, there were only some monks and a score or two of families of the common people. At the spot where stood the old palcace of Suddhodana there have been images of the prince (his eldest son) and his mother; and at the places where that son appeared mounted on a white elephant when he entered his mother’s womb, and where he turned his carriage round on seeing the sick man after he had gone out of the city by the eastern gate, topes have been erected. The places where (the rishi) A-e inspected the marks (if Buddhaship on the body) of the heir-apparent (when an infant); where, when he was in company with Nanda and others, on the elephant being struck down and drawn to one side, he tossed it away; where he shot his arrow to the south-east, and it went a distance of 30 li, then entering the ground and making a spring to come forth, which men subsequently fashioned into a well from which  travelers might drink; where, after he had attained Wisdom, Buddha returned and saw the king, his father; where 500 Sakyas quitted their families and did reverence to Upali while the earth shook and moved in 6 different ways; where Buddha preached His Law to the devas, and 4 deva kings and others kept the 4 doors of the hall, so that even the king, his father, could not enter; where Buddha sat under a nyagroda tree; which is still standing, with his face to the east, and His aunt Maja-prajapati presented Him with a Sangali; and where king Vaiduya slew the seed of Sakya, and they all in dying became Srotapannas. A tope was erected at this last place, which is still existing. (Chinese monk Fa-Hien_5th Centuary A.D.)

The Eastern gateway, also known as “Mahabhinishkramana Dwara” is the gate from which Lord Buddha left his worldly life.

The Western gateway is the main gate of entrance and departure.

While there, I was told by a co-pilgrim U Htun Win, who was on his 3rd BodhaGaya pilgrimage, to take some earth from the palace grounds as he had done so_the place is the Aung Myay from which prince Siddhartha / TheikDatHta began his quest for escape from sufferings. Pyone and I dug some earth and took it back (as we had done in BodhaGaya earlier, at the request of my childhood friend Moe Win; I gave some of each to him).

The palace is not very big and reminds me of the movie Little Buddha.

It is here that prince Siddhartha / TheikDatHta took the last look at the sleeping YaThawDaYar and newborn son Rahula / YarHuLar, and left by the eastern gate at midnight with the minister HsanNa on KanDaKa horseback. At the eastern gate, Mah Nat tried to stop Siddhartha / TheikDatHta but failed. He continued his journey and reached the Anawmar river in the morning.

the Eastern gate through which Prince Siddhartha / TheikDatHta left worldly life

Nyi Win’s Bodhagaya pilgrimage: the beginning

January 7, 2011

In departure lounge

at the Mingalardon airport before entering

I went to Bodha Gaya pilgrimage from 11-25 Dec to 2010 with Pyone, the longest trip apart from my regular 4 weeks rotations in the Oil and Gas field and the earlier 6 to 7 month work stints in various remote areas of Myanmar. The 10 day journey to the north was my previous record.

Aung Ko Oo and Linn Zaw Win could not accompany us as both of them could not take leave. It was our third trip together without either or both of them, the first in 1979 April, to Dawei, with about 12 classmates before AKO was born and the second one last August to Naypyitaw, when we had to go to get Education Clearance for Pyone’s passport.

We went along with the DarNa BodhaGaya pilgrimage group. We chose it after inquiring at several groups because of its iteniary (which includes the Taj Mahal, Red fort at Agra and New Dehli tour), its long history of handling the BodhaGaya pilgrimage and its price which is the best, as it quoted the rate in USD and the Myanmar currency was strong. We were not disappointed with the trip although we could not spend time as much as we wanted at several places (I wanted to sit for at least half an hour gazing at the panoramic view of the YaMonNar Nadi when we were only allowed an hour at the Taj Mahal); this is to be expected of group tours (I usually plan my own iteniary and had gone along with 2 tours only, the trip to Cameroon Highlands, Penang and Melaka in 2006 and one to the South East: KawThaung, Ranong, Beik trip in 2007).

There were 29 people in our group which included 2 monks and a family of 3 who did not make the complete 15 day / 14 night trip, but only the 1 week trip and left us after Nalanda / NarLanDar as the 2 parents were both over 80. However, our group leader, ShweMyinTin U Nyo is 86 and it was his 80th trip to BodhaGaya and there was an over 80 lady too.

We had to leave in Yawgi clothes for easier customs clearance at both Mingalardon and Gaya airports and also needed to wear it for the robe offering ceremonies on the circuit.

I met Naing Lin Aung unexpectedly at the immigration queue. He was on his way to BKK to go to Mae Sot to AD-1 rig and although he was at the top of his queue near the counter, he was worried because of the nearness of the departure time of his flight. As a Myanmar citizen, he had to queue up in one of the 2 long lines. Foreigners had an easier entrance at a different counter that has no queue at all. I went over from my queue and had a talk with him. We discussed about the drilling schedules that will be done by Asia Drilling in Thailand and at Mann oil field. As we had got to the airport 2 hours ahead of departure time, we had some time in the departure lounge. However, the departure of the MAI airbus was delayed for about 15 minutes due to the lateness of the last passenger to embark (maybe it was the slowness of the immigration; I wonder what would happen if a Myanmar were travelling on a different airline that would not wait. I did not notice any calls for near departure flights to come to a separate counter).

Departure time was 09:45 and the flight was very bumpy after lunch while serving beverage and it had to be stopped. We did not get anything to drink after the flight became smooth. The coffee time was over; I still have the MAI sugar and creamer packet at home. The flight took 2 hours and we arrived Gaya at 10:45 India time.

There were also 2 long lines at the Gaya immigration counters and it took us over 1 hour to pass through. As our place got near the counter, group a lady from the Mizzima pilgrimage group which was behind us went to the counter and placed a pile of passports of their group on the counter and the Indian immigration officer did not protest. After some time, that lady called one of her group near her. When the persons at the counter were finished, she moved the pile of passports towards the immigration officer who called the top passport holder, which was the person who the lady called up. She then called all others to come up to the counter and they all passed in front of us. When Pyone complained, one of them replied: NyiMaLay should also have piled your passport. This is contrary to the usual procedure which is for all to queue holding their passport. However, this is the Myanmar way of life and the Indian Immigration!

The bus which collected us at Gaya airport took us all the way till we were taken back to Gaya airport at the completion on 25-Dec (except the 12-Dec tour near Gaya because some roads that day could not be travelled by the bus).

Gaya and Bodha Gaya are different but nearby places. A shopkeeper in Bodha Gaya specifically replied that he was born in BodhaGaya when I asked him whether he was born in Gaya. The Gaya airport seems to be on the outskirts of Gaya and it was a short bus ride to Bodha Gaya, maybe about 7 minutes, first through sparsely populated areas with large compounds and later fields and then varioius monasteries of different countries. We were not shown which the real Gaya is, but on our return from the trip to Gaya, the road that branched from the highway passed through a town before we arrived back to the Myanmar monastery / Burmese Vihar and it might be the Gaya or it might be BodhaGaya town too as it is continuous with the part of BodhaGaya where the Burmese Vihar / Myanmar kyaung is.

The first time I got to the BodhaGaya temple, I was overwhelmed. There were hundreds of Tibet pilgrims praying in their style all around the middle compound and even some in the inner compound and around the Mahabodi temple, first and third place / TatTa. HtarNa, the Continuous PaHtan chanting ceremony by monks of the 6 Buddhist countries (Bangaladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand), the many Thai pilgrim groups in white and also the many Indian Hindu pilgrims.

During the pilgrimage we got to the following_

BodhaGaya: the first 7 places after Enlightenment / TatTa. HtarNa, Maharbodi temple, DokeKhaSariyar cave, the stupa / pagoda remains where once stood the house of Thu.ZarTar, the rich man’s daughter (another rich man’s wife); the place where Thu.ZarTar offered milk in a gold bowl; the place where the gold bowl was placed into the Narinjara Nadi / river (although the Narinjara Nadi is wide, about half a mile, there was no water but only sand during our stay); the place where an old man offered 8 handfuls of grass; the MaHant palace (the Indian Buddhist monk who owned the majority of land near the BodhiGaya site); king Mindon’s Zayat and inscription.

Nalanda, Rajgir / YarZaGyo: cart / chariot wheel marks on rock; Rajgir / YarZaGyo city walls; king Bimbisara / BeinMaTharRa’s  palace site; the Japanese stupa; the GizZaGote hill top monastery remains where Buddha stayed; the NyiTaw Arnandar cave and the Shin TharRiPoteTaYar cave on the GizZaGote hill; Bimbisara / BeinMaTharRa’s jail and prison cell site; the site of Mango plantation of ZiWaKa; the place near Nalanda where the future ShinMaharKatThaPha departed with his wife to meditate separately; the ancient Nalanda Buddhist university; modern Nalanda Buddhist university; Hindu hot water spring bathing place; the  ThatTaPanNi cave on the WayBarRa mountain top where the First Buddhist Synagouge / Convention was held; Venuvana / WayLuWun / the bamboo forest / grove monastery / vihar / kyaung donated to Buddha by king Bimbisara / BeinMaTharRa king of Magadha / YarSaGyo / Rajgriha; Son Bhandar caves_Jain caves, supposed to contain Buddha relics; Maniyar Math, king AhZarRaThat’s Buddha’s relic storage site

WayTharLi / Vesali (Patna / ParTaLi.Pote): Buddha’s relic stupa of the Arnandar; the well where AmPaParLi met the prince Bimbisara / BeinMaTharRa who fathered her son who later became an Arahant; remains of Kolhus of Vaishali, where the monkey chief offered Buddha a bowl of honey and the lion top Asoka pillar.

KuThi.NarYone / Kushinagar: the Reclining Buddha depicting Buddha leaving for Nirvana; the nearby stupa where Buddha left life on earth; the Ramabhar stupa where Buddha’s body was cremated; the KaKuDa river where Buddha washed for the last time; Matha-Kuar shrine, the place where Buddha drank for the last time.

Lumbini / LoneMaNi: Kapilavastu / KaPiLaWut palace remains, the Mahabhinishkramana Dwara / Eastern gate through which prince TheikDatHta left the palace; Sanctum, the sacred site where prince TheikDatHta was born; Marker stone, with the sacred infant footprint image which marks the exact birth place of Buddha; Mayadevi temple which encloses the Sanctum; the Nativity / Birth sculpture; the stupas denoting the first steps of the Prince TheikDatHta; Puakarni_the sacred pool where queen Mayadevi took a holy bath before the birth / the pond where prince TheikDatHta was bathed for the first time; Kudan the Nigrodharama / Banyan grove / Ni.GyawDarYone Vihar / kyaung / monastery remains;

Sravasti / TharWutHti: ZayTaWun Vihar / monastery / kyaung; Arnandar Nyaung / Bo / Banyan tree, planted by Buddha’s instruction as object of worship for Buddha during His absence; place where Buddha showed supernatural powers, the palace remains of the king KawThaLa and the queen Malikar; places where DayWaDat and ZeinZaMarNa were entrapped into the earth

Sankassa / ThinKatTha NaGo: the hill where Buddha descended on earth on the full moon day of Thadinkyut from the TarWaTeinThar Nat Pyay after preaching the whole War / lent; the Asoka pillar with elephant head; the Buddha image depicting descent from TarWaTeinThar

Agra: Taj Mahal; Red fort (Shah Jahan’s palace and where he was imprisoned during his last days by his son and successor)

Dehli (New Dehli): Indira Ghandi last house and place where she was assassinated, Mahatama Ghandi’s last house and place where he was assassinated, India gate

Varanasi / Banares / BarYarNaThi _ Saranath (contraction of Saranganath_lord of deers) / Rishipatana / Issipatana / Mrigadava / Mrigadaya / MiGaDarWun: the Chaukhandi stupa where the 5 Weggi welcomed Buddha; the Dharmarajika / DhammaRarZiKa stupa where the first sermon, the Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana / DhammaSetkyar Tayarr to the 5 Weggi / 5 earstwhile companions was preached (Myanmar version); the Dhamekh / DhammaKhay stupa remains where the AnnataLetKhana sermon was preached; the Asoka pillar; the monastery / vihar / kyaung donated by the NanDiYa rich man; mediaval shrine with covered passage / the underground path taken by BeikKhuNis to the place of bath; the Ipsipatana deer park; Mulagandha Kuty Vihara at the site where Sakyamuni Buddha preached the first sermon (India version)

The return on 25-Dec was uneventful, but a sad occasion. Everything ends sooner or later. Nothing, including life, is permanent.

AyeYarWaddy West bank Mann

December 5, 2010

Mann is on the Ayeyarwaddy west bank and has a long history of civilization and Buddhism. There was a Pyu ThunarParanta Taing near present day Lei Kaing which, during the time of KanYarZar Gyi, was a Pyu nation. KanYarzarGyi after losing a contest with his younger brother KanYarzarNge for the kingship of Tagaung, left it with his entourage and went to KaleTaunNyo and stayed for 6 mths. During the period Pyus, Kanyans asked for king and his son Dusetta was installed in ThunarParanta. KanYarzarGyi moved to Rakhine.

Dusetta, son of Kanyarzargyi, ruled ThuNarParanta (LeKaing-SaKu) after Pyu king Thambula was taken away by Dhanyawaddy army.

825 BCE. King Kan Yaza-dyi is established at Kale on the Chindwin. His son Umidusitta migrates to Kyauppadaung in Arakan and establishes the Arakan Kingdom. King Kan Yaza-nge is established in Tagaung.

…. visit of the Buddha and five hundred yahan to Sagaing. Changes in the earth prophesiedÑthe formation of the Bo-u lake, the rise of Popa mount (volcanic), the retreat of the sea from Thayekittaya near Prome(cf p.50), and the spread of Buddhism

I got to the Mann area in 1992 for the first time as part of a geological field party of BHP-Peroleum to ShweSetTaw. We came by 2 vehicles and stayed at the HtaukSharPin MOGE guesthouse both on the outgoing and return trips. At the time, we visited the NagaPwet taung which is the first time for me and the 2 expatriate geologists: Senior Geologist Jeanette from New Zealand and Matt Yacopetti from Australia. The MOGE geologist U Saw Hla had not told the expatriates that we would be visiting a mud volcano although I knew about it in advance and when we got there, although Jeanette did not show much emotion, Matt was visibly delighted and joyful. He remarked to me that many would pay to visit such a mud volcano. However, tour companies still have not included the NagaPwet taung in their itenieries yet.

The NagaPwet taung is a mud volcano, the only one in central Myanmar although there are said to be several in the Rakhine offshore. It got its name from the legend that says that a Nagar lives underneath in the depths of the mud volcano.

I heard about the  NagaPwet taung from my mother who told me about her visit there with her relatives when she was young, in the late 1920s. The local legend is that a Nagarr lives inside. When they got there, people gave tribute to the Nagarr and when wish / Nagarr Minn ko shit khoe taing taeAhShin NagarrMin / Dragon sir, I believe in you; please show a bubble / pwet pya. par, a bubble burst forth in a short time. Her older brother U Jone Sin was a non-believer and he wished after paying tribute to the Nagarr: AhShin NagarrMin / Dragon sir, I believe in you; please stop showing a bubble / pwet ma pya. par nae._a bubble burst forth in a short time nevertheless.

Is It The Dragon’s Lair?


By Harry Phone Thant

Enchanting Myanmar

Long, long time ago, even before Buddhism had taken roots in Myanmar people were awed with the forces of nature: the clashing of thunder and bolts of lightning that flashed in the sky must be of Gods fighting in heaven, the visitation of illnesses are but punishment from the Gods to those who had defied them. And smoke and fire belching from a volcano must have seem to them like a dragon(Naga in the Myanmar language) spitting out his fiery breath from the bowels of the earth.

Near Minbu, in central Myanmar, there is a unique geological site. It is called the NAGA PYWET TAUNG”( Mountain where the Naga Breathes). Pilgrims going to the nearby Naga pywet Taung Pagoda invariably also go to see this geological phenomenon. Actually for the scientifically-minded it is an ordinary mud volcano but to the ancient primitive people of the area, with their beliefs in supernatural beings, this must have been seen as a manifestation of the existence of the fiery dragons(naga) living deep inside the earth.

This mud volcano is not very high. In fact it is just about 10-20 feet high. But it belches grey, oozy mud periodically, accompanied by distinctive noxious sulphur fumes, further consolidating the peoples’ belief in the mythical creatures.

However, there is one mystery here. In the Myanmar calender we have a notion that the Naga points its head to a certain direction at certain time of the year. Myanmar people belief that it is bad to travel down the direction of the Naga’s tail as it will bring misfortune, either when travelling or moving house. Better to transverse the Naga’s body or to go in the direction of the mouth. And the curious thing is that the flow of lava from this mud volcano inexplicably shifts direction according to the direction of the naga’s tail as shown in the appropriate Myanmar calender month.

So the US of A has its geysers in Yosemite but we have Minbu Mud Volcano. Maybe this is truly the lair of the fire-breathing dragon. Who knows???????????

Buddha visited central Myanmar for a week during which Buddha’s footprints were made in SetTawYar on Mann chaung not far from NgaPhe near the western Rakhine yoma; Buddha also visited the KyaungTawYar near LaeKaing on the Mone chaung; Buddha also got to Minbu southern edge on the Sabwet chaung at present day SaKaTae pagoda and also north of Minbu, present day AukKyaung, where a monastery of the monk Mahar Ponna who met Buddha in India and later became an Arahant was living. Buddha gave sermons for 7 days at this SandaKuu monastery and later a small pagoda was built on this site, which much later was renovated to this size and shape.




Kyaung Lein pagoda, Minbu

a Bagan style pagoda / temple in Minbu

I was surprised when I first saw it until I realized that Minbu was Bagan territory which extended till the PyiTawThar Kyun near MiChaung Yae

The pagoda legend says that it was built by MaMinbu who was taken as queen by king Sale NgaKhway 894 – 924 against her wish. She revenged upon him for her sufferings. King Sale NgaKhway reigned a long time before king Anawratha 1044 – 1077.

As the KyaungLein pagoda is a temple of late Bagan era, the MaMinbu stupa would be much earlier, pre Anawratha when Shin Arahan brought Theravada Buddhism to Bagan.


ancient bricks at wall of the KyaungLein pagoda



stupa south of the KyaungLein pagoda entrance Chinthes / lions


MyinPhyuShin Nat Nann near the KyaungLein pagoda


the KyaungLein pagoda


KyaungLein pagoda from MaMinbu pagoda




MaMinbu pagoda


MaMinbu pagoda before renovation


MaMinbu pagoda after renovation




AukKyaung pagoda


Nann Oo နန္းဦး pagoda

There is a Nann Oo နန္းဦး village with Nann Oo နန္းဦး pagoda near the AukKyaung pagoda

It is said that this is the place where king Narathihapate 1256 – 1287 stayed at first, while fleeing from Bagan when the Mongols invaded and had the Nann Oo နန္းဦး pagoda built

Later, king Narathihapate went to Pathein, but on the way, it is recorded in an inscription that he stayed at HleKya, west of Pyay and while there sent Shin DiThar ParMauk as envoy to Chinese / Mongol capital of Chengdu for armistice. After staying the lent / WarTwinn on the way, the abbot succeeded in persuading emperor Kublai Khan to withdraw the Mongol forces from Myanmar

The Mongols had reached till Tayokemaw, south of Pyay but did not pursue Narathihapate further

On the way back after mongol withdrawal, Narathihapate was poisoned by his son Thihathu of Pyay, forced to take poisoned food under threat of sword / Dahr Moe Pyi AhHseit Khat Htarr Tae SarrTaw Hset Tae ဒါးမိုးျပီး အဆိပ္ခပ္ထားတဲ ့ စားေတာ္ဆက္



Nann Oo pagoda entrance


Nann Oo pagoda image


the king, queen, minister and general



old bricks of Nann Oo pagoda wall

Kalatharpura / Pot country / Tawnte

November 17, 2010

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Some time back, I saw on MRTV-4, a weekly Industrial Talk show, which that time covered the Sint စဥ့္ / စင့္ / glaze industry of Myanmar. It was mentioned that the Tawnte region that is still producing pots both glazed and unglazed had been doing it since ancient times and that the region was called Kalatharpura / Pot country in a 7th century AD SriKsetra inscription.

There are collections of broken Sint စဥ့္ / စင့္ / glaze pots in Tawnte and over a thousand ancient kiln sites have been identified in Tawnte alone with innumerable ancient kiln sites in the AyeYarWaddy delta too. Inscriptions are present in some pieces. The earliest of them have been proved to be Pyu inscriptions that date to the 7th century AD on paleographic evidence.

The History of Ceramic Pottery
in Myanmar (Burma)

Extracted by the Webmaster from “Burmese Ceramics” by
Sumarah Adhyatman and published by The Ceramic Society of Indonesia, 1985

Nothing has ever been published on Burmese ceramics although the name Martaban, an ancient port in Southern Myanmar has lent itself to a group of large dark glazed earthenware and stoneware jars. A revised edition of the book TEMIPAYAN MARTAVANS concerning martaban jars found in Indonesia which was published in August 1984 by the Ceramic Society of Indonesia contains pictures and references to present production of Burmese jars in Upper Burma.

Several centuries before Christ the Mons – who probably came from Burma (?? ~ Webmaster)- settled down on the estuaries between the Salween and Sittaung rivers. Their settlement area is known as Suvannabhumi or the Golden Land2 from descriptions in Chinese and Indian text. A coastal town of Suvannabhumi is Kalasapura or ‘City of Pots’ mentioned in the Indian Kathasaritsagara of the 11th century.

About 2000 years ago the Pyu people, a Tibeto-Burman tribe settled in Upper Burma, their first capital established in Sri Ksetra near present day Prome. A fragmentary Sanskrit inscription recently found at Sri Ksetra refers to Kalasapura four times in a manner inferring that it was conquered or entered into a special relationship with the Pyus around the end of the 7th century. To be of economic or strategic use to the Pyus, Kalasapura would have been placed either near the mouth of the Salween river in the Martaban-Moulmein area, or near the mouth of the Irrawaddy3.

In the 14th century Martaban was already a busy harbour. It was mentioned by Ibnu Batuta an Arab traveller in 1350 in connection with large jars “… Martabans or huge jars, filled with pepper, citron and mango, all prepared with salt, as for a sea voyage”.

The demand of the Arab, Indian and later the European traders for large jars in which to store liquid and foodstuffs was met by the supply at Martaban, most probably by the supply of local jars. Historical sources mostly refer to the fact that the jars were produced locally8. So the generic name of martavan or martaban jars were indeed first applied to the jars produced and used at the Martaban site. It was later used for all kinds of large earthenware and stone-ware jars from different origins. For instance it is reported that presently Upper India also produce large black jars which they call ‘Martaban”9. The import of Chinese ceramics consisted of porcelain especially celadon dishes which are called “gori”10. At present celadon wares are still called “martabani” in the Middle East.

There has been evidence of use of glaze pots in the Arabian peninsula since old age and their source was first thought to be from Thailand. Not long ago, it has been proved that their origin was from Tawnte region.I read articles about the confirmation of Myanmar as the major source of 15th and 16th century green ware dishes at Julfar one of the largest ports in the Arabian Gulf from the 14th to 16th centuries.

Myanmar ceramic production and trade during the Middle Ages

By Dr Sein Tu

THESE are exciting times in the scientific study of Southeast Asian ceramic history.

The scholarly world of Southeast Asian ceramic research is in a state of intellectual ferment because until recently, Myanmar was regarded as having no tradition of ceramic production.

Kiln excavations in Southeast Asia had previously been conducted only in Thailand, with the result that all ceramic finds of Southeast Asian origin were considered to be Thai. This was the consensus of scientific opinion, with the Myanmar tradition of ceramic production remaining unacknowledged and Myanmar contributions to ceramic ware of Southeast Asia being ignored.

Then, in 1984, ceramic green and white ware of a type never before encountered was found in a burial mound in Tak, a Thai town near the Myanmar border.

At first these were claimed to be products of the archaeological excavations at ancient kiln sites at Kalong in northeastern Thailand, but a number of international ceramic experts thought it more likely that they came from Myanmar.

Then, in a series of crucial experiments reported in the early 1990s, Japanese ceramic scientists K.Yamasaki, G.Hasebe, Y.Emoto and M.Murozumi compared the lead isotope ratios of the Tak burial mound samples with those of glazed tiles from Shwe-gu-gyee Pagoda in Bago and the Apeyadanar Pagoda in Bagan and lead samples from the Baw Hsaing lead mine in Myanmar and the Mae-hon-hsan lead mine in Thailand.

The results showed that the lead isotope ratio of the Tak samples matched those found in the lead from Baw Hsaing mine and the glazed tiles from the Bago and Bagan pagodas, but not with the lead samples from the Thai lead mine.

Furthermore, Myanmar samples showed the effects of the addition of tin to the lead flux during the production process to impart a blanching or whitening effect to the glaze. This is not found in Thai, Vietnamese or any other Southeast Asian ceramic ware. The Tak green and white ware, alone among all other Thai samples, showed the effects of tin glaze technology. This settled the question of the provenance of the Tak samples.

The discovery that Myanmar ceramic ware was based on tin glaze technology drew the attention of international scholars who were quick to point out that any future history of Southeast Asian ceramics would be incomplete without a consideration of Myanmar’s contribution, whilst others suggested that a revision of Southeast Asia ceramic history was already in order.

One related problem was whether there was any archaeological evidence of past Myanmar ceramic production extensive enough to be worthy of note in the history of Southeast Asian ceramics.

In a search for archaeological evidence of ancient kilns in Myanmar, Australian expert Don Hein teamed up with Myanmar ceramic scholars Dr Thaw Kaung and Dr Myo Thant Tyn to excavate the Lagumbyee site near Bago in 1990, and discovered more than 100 cross-draught kilns and production paraphernalia similar to those found in Thailand.

Innumerable ancient kiln sites have been identified since, including more than a thousand at Twante, in the Ayeyarwaddy delta about 40 miles west of Yangon.

A new chapter was written in the history of Myanmar ceramics by a team of Japanese archaeologists led by Tatsuo Sasaki and Hanae Sasaki of Kanazawa University, working from 1988 to 1994 at the Julfar and Hulaylah sites in the United Arab Emirates. Prof. Sasaki reported their findings to the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science on November 12 this year in a seminar paper titled Trade to the Indian Ocean in the 15-16th centuries from Myanmar : The Excavation of Myanmar Green Ceramic Ware in the Arabian Peninsula.

Julfar and Hulaylah are at the lower end of the Persian Gulf in Ras al Khamia.
Julfar was one of the largest ports in the Arabian Gulf from the 14th to 16th centuries. The archaeological team identified seven layers – the uppermost layer, Level 1, yielded ceramics from the middle of the 15th century and later, whilst the lowermost habitation layer, Level 7, dated to the middle of the 14th century.

The lower levels yielded many sherds of Chinese green ware and white porcelain, while Myanmar and Thai wares were found only in the upper layers. On the other hand Myanmar sherds formed the largest proportion of the green wares found in the 15th and 16th century levels at Julfar.

Generally speaking, Myanmar green ware dishes are heavy and have a low, broad foot ring. Twante bowls have a high foot, the inside of which is not glazed, and is decorated only by simple curved lines. The colour of the glaze is a fairly uniform pale green.

In the shape of the lip and foot, the colour of the glazes, and the curved decorations, the unidentified sherds from Julfar and Hulaylah were found to be similar to Myanmar ceramic ware from the Twante kiln site. The bowls of this type found in Julfar and Hulaylah had also been made using the same production techniques as the Myanmar Twante ware, judging by marks left on the underside of the base during the firing process.

From the archaeological evidence uncovered in the Middle East it has become clear that Myanmar ceramics were exported to many countries during the 15th century. The same type of green ware has been found, not only in the UAE, but also on the coasts of Iran, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.
Indeed, the wheel appears to have come full circle. Myanmar, for a long time relegated to a backwater in Southeast Asian ceramic history because of a dearth of archaeological evidence of ceramic production, has been proved to have had a viable ceramic industry.

The evidence also shows that the industry was so extensive that trade relations were established with many lands during the 15th and 16th centuries for the export of Myanmar green ware in such volumes as to form most of the green ware sherds found at the 15th and 16th century levels at the Julfar and Hulaylah excavations in the Persian Gulf.

Myanmar’s long and documented history of making big glazed jars
By Dr Sein Tu

THE reluctance of many international academics to acknowledge the long tradition of ceramics in Myanmar is nowhere more apparent than in their treatment of glazed earthenware jars associated with the seaport of Martaban or Mottama on the Gulf of Martaban. This is a surprising omission, given that historical references have referred to the production and trade in Martaban glazed ceramic jars for hundreds of years. Many of these references have been noted by Dr Myo Thant Tyn, the chairman of the Myanmar Ceramic Society, in his Tradition of Myanmar Glazed Ceramics and its Historical Status in Southeast Asia, published by the Society in 2000. The references have been gleaned from a variety of sources, which for reasons of space, cannot all be acknowledged. Among the earliest references cited by Dr Myo Thant Tyn are those of two Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, I-tsing and Huien Thsang (or Yuan Chwang) who visited the Pyu kingdom (or Sri Ksestra or possibly Old Bagan or Tampavati) and recorded that the inhabitants bartered earthenware jars as well as glazed ware. Their observations were included in the Man-shu, a chronicle published during the Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.). The famous Islamic traveller, Ibn Batuta, who visited Lower Myanmar in 1350 C.E. wrote: “The Princess made me a present consisting of … four huge Martaban jars filled with pepper, citron and mango, all prepared with salt, as for a sea-voyage.”  However, the production in Myanmar of Martaban jars was unequivocally testified to by a Portuguese visitor to Myanmar, Duarte Barbosa, who recorded in 1516 that; “In this town of Martaban are made very large and beautiful porcelain vases and some of glazed earthenware of a black colour which are highly valued among the Moores, and they export them as merchandise.” After this, similar observations came thick and fast.  Francois Pyrard de Laval reported seeing in 1610 “the most beautiful, best glazed and made jars I have seen anywhere. There are some that hold a pipe or more. They are made in the Kingdom of Marbatan, from where they are brought and from where they take their name throughout India.” One pipe equalled two hogsheads, or about 105 gallons (nearly 400 litres). Preserved in the Public Record Office of London is a memorandum dated 1664 which states: “The Trade of India as ‘tis now managed by the English Company of Merchants trading in some parts of it is very invalid in comparison of what is now drove by our neighbour nation the Dutch… many sorts of clothing are sent into Pegu, a port in the Bay (Bangala) which returns rubies and readie money, the coin or current money of the place, allsoe Martananas Jarres.Hamilton reported in 1727 that; “Martavan was one of the most flourishing Towns for trade in the East… they make earthen Ware still, and glaze them with Lead-oar. I have seen some Jars made there would contain two Hogsheads of Liquor.”  Dr Than Tun relates how King Alaungpaya (1752-1760), after his conquest of Bago (Pegu), took 5000 prisoners of war back to Upper Myanmar. The potters among them were permitted by royal decree to make glazed earthenware at Kyaukmyaung in Shwebo District. Kyaukmyaung remains a thriving centre for making Martaban jars. Hunter in his Account of Pegu in 1785 adds an amusing footnote to the history of Martaban jars. He wrote; “a foreigner may marry one of the natives, on which occasion he pays a stipulated sum to her parents; but if he leaves the country, he is not permitted to carry his wife along with him. So strict is the law in this particular, and so impossible it is to obtain a dispensation from it, that some men, who have had a great affection for their wives, have been obliged, on their departure, to carry them away in secret in (Martavan) jars which were supposed to be filled with water.” Australian scholar Dr Pamela Guttman referred in 1978 to a long tradition of Myanmar glazed ceramics based on the history of Martaban jars.  In a paper presented that year at a symposium in Hong Kong, Dr Guttman surveyed the glazed ceramic tradition of Myanmar from the 7th century to the 18th century and disproved the view that Myanmar had no history of ceramic manufacture or trade.  British academic John Guy also stated in his Ceramic Traditions of South-East Asia (Oxford University Press, 1989) that while Myanmar was not traditionally associated with glazed ceramic production “there is evidence, both archaeological and textual, of a tradition existing in Burma (Myanmar) from at least the ninth century.” In 1977, an American scholar, Roxanna Brown, noted that; “until very recently Burma (Myanmar) was thought to be quite devoid of old glazed ceramics even though there was physical evidence of modern manufacture, literary evidence of ancient production, and a long tradition in Asia calling large storage jars ‘martabans’. (Brown, R, 1977, The Ceramics of South-East Asia – Their Dating and Identification. Oxford University Press). Excavations in 1984 and 1985 along the Myanmar-Thai border resulted in the discovery of Green and White ceramic ware which was proved by chemical analysis to be of Myanmar origin. This finally aroused the interest of an increasing number of international specialists to the possibilities of further revelations of Myanmar contributions to the history of Southeast Asian ceramics.

The caves of Myanmar: MyinMaHti cave

October 21, 2010

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P AKO LZW AungBan Loikaw road 1998

AKO LZW AungBan Loikaw road 1998

I first came to know about the MyinMaHti cave during my many visits to Kalaw. On the higher north side of the Kalaw Zay / market, facing the Taunggyi highway are several tour guide offices. They promote hiking tours and among them is the trek to the MyinMaHti cave. I have looked at their itenieries which include the trek to the Palaung village out of interest but never thought of hiking to the MyinMaHti cave from Kalaw although I had walked to the MyinTaik station and the Kalaw reservoir / dam during my student days.

I got to the MyinMaHti cave unexpectedly for the first time when I visited Loikaw in 1998. It lies in Kalaw township, 4 miles away as a crow flies from Kalaw, but on the road to Loikaw (4 miles) which began from the Taunggyi road just (2 miles) before it reaches Aungban. One has to go in an indirect way to reach it by road.

Once on the Loikaw road, the scene became very different, unlike any other place I have been. It is different from the view along the road to Pindaya and also from the rail track side view between Aungban and NyaungShwe which are also beautiful. Once one passed through a pass between 2 hills, one gets to a plain where there are hillocks as far as one can see and they are so beautiful that I stopped to take photos of the scene and some portraits.

When I saw the road side sign of the MyinMaHti cave, I dropped in to visit it. It was not in the original plan. This is the advantage of travelling by one’s car. One can stop anytime anywhere for a rest or a visit. Going along with tours also have their advantages of not being burdened with plans but one has to go along their iteniery which would most probably not suit you and travelling by bus or train, one cannot stop anywhere one chooses to.

The second time I got there was in 2000 when I went there intentionally while visiting Pindaya from Kalaw, but did not get there in 2008 when we went to Kalaw by bus and made tours by hired car from Kalaw.

At the MyinMaHti cave, there are many Buddha statutes, both outside and inside the cave as the cave is a Buddhist shrine. We went inside the cave and at the cave ends at another opening in the other side of the hill at some elevation from the entrance opening which lies near the ground level. The hill is not a very big one and rises out apart from others, unlike most limestone caves which occur inside massive limestone structures that have openings in the wall of the cliffs and extend inside to end somewhere.

The MyinMaHti cave is 1028 ft long from the entrance opening to the exit opening.

The original pagoda with 3 tiered Htis / umbrellas was first built by the king Thiri Dhammar ThawKa / ArThawKa / Asoka who built 84,000 stupas and have 84,000 lakes dug, and later repaired by king Anawratha and king Alaungsithu. Thus the presence of 3 Htis / umbrellas, although I wonder whether the Htis / umbrellas are actually the good deeds of the mentioned 3 kings as it is a well known fact that stupas of the Bagan era do not have Htis / umbrellas in their original form and the Htis / umbrellas now present in Bagan stupas are the good deeds of later donors.

There are also a collection of 28 Buddha statutes / HnaKyeit ShitHsu, 14 above and 14 below, donated by king Anawratha

OhnNaLone MywayShin stupa

Some of the Buddha images are of 3rd century AD while the earliest stupa is over 2300 years BP and there are many Buddha images of Bagan era

The cave is lined by stalactites and there are natural formations on the walls which have uncanny resemblance to life like structures. They are:

YaThe. PhoWin Gu / Zawgyi Gu with YaThe. Gaung Pyat / headless YaThe. human body structure

NatThamee ThaNaKharr KyaukPyin / Angel’s ThaNaKharr grinding stone

Kyauk Hsin MiTharrSu / rock elephant family

Kyauk Hsin Phyu Taw / rock white elephant

Kyauk MaHar BawDi Pin / rock Bo tree

Hsin Chi Taing / elephant tying pole Myinn Chi Taing / horse tying pole

Kyauk Nwarr / rock cow

Kyauk KhaYuThinn / rock conch

Kyauk Shwe Hintha / rock Brahiminy duck

There are also natural wonders

Kyauk Si Kyauk Mauung / Shan Mauung / Danu Mauung / rock drums: multiple protrusions of rock on the wall which make different musical pitches

NatThamee Yay Kan / Angel’s pond where water seeps out from the wall to collect and is always full year round and which when applied is supposed to bring beauty and be mind cleansing

3 NatThamee Tharr Myat / Angel’s breasts

Myin Mahti Cave : A 1,020 feet long cave circling through the limestone. It offers a variety of different little stupas and religious images, illuminated weakly by an old generator outside the cave. The first stupa was built in the cave over 2,300 years ago by King Thiri Damar Thaw Kayarzar and has three tiers of umbrellas.


Myin-ma-hti Cave Pagoda,near Taunggyi{A.D 17}

A Salient Myin Ma Hti

Kalaw which lies on the hilly region in the northern Shan State is located 4315 ft above sea level. If you look at the town from a distance, you can see a beautiful town in the midst of green and lush mountain ranges.

Now, we¡¯ll be presenting to you a salient natural cave, called ¡° Myin Ma Hti¡±, which is an ideal spot to visit in Kalaw. Myin Ma Hti natural cave is situated in Myin Ma Hti village, Kalaw Township. It is bordered with Pin Laung Township in the south and Myin Kapar village in the north. The Myin Ma Hti hill is 1075 ft high. It is an enchanting hill for visitors to take a tracking tour. Myin Ma Hti natural cave lies on the Pin Laung-HpeKhon-Loikaw motor road, 4 miles from Kalaw and 2 miles from Aung Pan.

This natural cave has existed for thousands years ago. The length of the cave is 1028 ft and there are many small caves on the either sides. The cave is also named Yewin cave because water flowed into the cave in the ancient time. It has one entrance and one exit. In the cave, many pagodas and statues have been built since over 2300 years ago, in the reign of King Thiri Dahmar Sawka and their handicrafts are intricate and unique. According to the archaeological research, some of the statues were built earlier than 17 or 18 AD.

At the entrance of the cave, there are many stalactites, where cool water is dripping steadily.

While observing these stalactites, you can also pay homage to the ancient historical Mywe Taw Shin pagoda with a three-tiered finial.

That¡¯s why, if you happen to visit Kalaw, in the Southern Shan State, we would like to urge you, do come and study Myin Ma Hti natural cave to be able to revere the pagodas and to obtain general knowledge, while viewing the lovely natural vistas and breathing cozy fresh air from the hill.

The caves of Myanmar

September 19, 2010

Nathamee YetKannSin / angels’ loom 1985 with Aung Ko Oo

HsinChiTaing and MyinnChiTaing 1998

Nathamee YetKannSin / angels’ loom 2000

ThuDaNu prince slaying the spider which captured the angels April 2008

I have been writing “The limestone caves of Myanmar” for some time and the progress has been slow. The topic covers many limestone caves that I have been to and heard about and it will be a long time before I finish this. I now have the notion to change the heading to a broader “The caves of Myanmar” so as to include sandstone and other caves, including the constructed ones (Gu Phayars / cave temples). This will make finishing this topic a very difficult one so I will post the first part after I finish the Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu cave and post more as I progress.

Narga Setkyar Mahar Wingabar HlaingNgu TawGyi

Recently, I saw on MRTV-4 the Narga Setkyar Mahar Wingabar HlaingNgu TawGyi in PatheinGyi township near Htonebo quarry. It was found and is being developed by the MyaKyauk Sayardaw. The path to the cave is still a trail and the descent into the cave is lined by bamboo handrails and there are only a few Buddha statutes inside near the cave opening. The cave is a long one and the MRTV-4 group did not go beyond the pool of water which lies across the cave. From the commentary, there seems to be more of the cave on the other side of the water although it was not shown.

The cave contains marvelous stalactites, both from above and below and also a few stalactite pillars. There is also a KyaukMauung (hollow / resonant rock) on the wall at one place. The cave’s length was not mentioned and there seems to be an opening on the side at one place and the air does not seem to be deficient of oxygen as evident by the well lighted candles along the side and the absence of labored breathing of the group.

The cave is not near villages and is still unspoilt yet, but as the cave is now being developed as a Buddhist place of worship, archeology will be impossible unless the Archeology department acts quickly.

There was development of the PeikChinnMyaung cave beyond PyinOoLwin around 1990s. The eastern Yoma is a limestone structure and there will be many more large unspoilt caves in the Shan plateau and the Kayah and Karen States and these might contain evidence of Stone Age hunter gatherers. The Padalin cave is not likely to be the only one where human inhabitation occurred.


When I was young, I read an article in one of the magazines, the Shumawa, Myawaddy or NgweTarYi, about a KyatGu which contained coffins as far as one could go inside. I later saw on tv and the internet, caves in China and the Philippines that are used as burial places; one high up on the cliff beside a stream and people had to go up by using pulleys. The KyatGu has always been on my mind and I want to visit it but do not know whether the article is true or not and also where the cave is situated.


The first cave I have been to is the KyeePaSat cave at KyaikHtiYoe pagoda. It is not far from the KyaikHtiYoe pagoda and most pilgrims to the KyaikHtiYoe pagoda get to it. The cave lies beneath the KyeePaSat opening on the top of the rock into which people throw coins. The cave is small and can accommodate only about 6 persons and is supposed to reach the Sittaung river but I do not remember having gone inside for any memorable distance in the 4 times I have been from 1965 to 1999.

Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu

I got to the Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu cave the first time in 1970 summer with my friends on the trip to Kalaw, ShweNyaung and Taunggyi. We hired a jeep from Kalaw and went there on a day trip. I always stay at Kalaw and go there through Aungban where the road to Pindaya branches inside the town. The restaurant near the road junction is good. There is also a good food shop which serves KhaukHswe, ToHuu, AhKyaws, Mohingha, tea, coffee, etc., before the road intersection to Pindaya.

Beyond Aungban, there is a place with many pine trees where many movie scenes are shot. Before reaching Pindaya, there is a side road which joins the Yangon – Mandalay highway and one which passes by the Padalin cave where there are wall paintings and artifacts of people who lived 10,000 years ago.

I had always thought that the  Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu cave lies north of Pindaya but it was only recently that I learned that it is south to the town. The road to Pindaya must have entered it from the south and I remember passing the town and getting around the BokeTaLoke lake to reach the Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu cave which lies outside the town. On my last visit there in 2007, there is now a road bypassing Pindaya town and reaches the Pindaya Shwe U-Min HlaingGu cave directly.

There are large Nyaung / Banyan trees on the road to the cave which are unlike any Nyaung / Banyan tree I have known elsewhere. This area is the place where local pilgrims stay during the pagoda festivals. The road climbs the hillside and there is a parking lot near the southernmost of the 3 caves which is the largest and the main cave. On my last visit in 2007, there stands a large spider statute and the price who is aiming his bow and arrow at the spider. Local legend says that the NatThamees / female angels bathed at the BokeTaLoke / PoneTaLoke lake and one day, the spider caught them and kept them in the cave. They were rescued by the ThuDaNu prince who slayed the spider.

The main cave contains a stupa / SayTi near the entrance. It is supposed to be built by king Asoka / ThriDhammar ArThawKa MinnGyi and rebuilt by king AhLaung Sithu. There are over 8000 Buddha statutes in the cave and the earliest ones dates from the late 18th centuary AD, according to specialists, from the Buddha images. There is no evidence of earlier times. Only the Buddha images from the early KoneBaung period to modern times.

The cave opening was enlarged during the early 20th centuary and some Buddha images near the entrance were damaged. The Buddha TaTaung is a teak pillar composed of 4 planks on which was sculptured 1140 Buddha images. There is a maze of Buddha images near the main stupa. The Yadanar Muni standing Buddha statute has been adorned with rings on the fingers. There are 2 ChwayHtwet KoTaws / HnitHsu of sandstone sitting Buddha images that are coated with ThitSay / SitSay / laquer which have moisture on the surface from seepage or maybe condensation of atmospheric air.

From the cave entrance, there is a tunnel which goes 290 feet into the hill. It was formed by the water flow in ancient times inside the limestone. The eastern Yoma (Shan plateau, Kayah, Karen, Mon and the Thanintharyi) became land 230 – 210 million years BP (before present) so the limestones were formed under the seabed a long time earlier. The tunnel is quite large and over 10 feet high. It is here that I saw stalectites for the first time in my life. There are both KyaukSet PannSwe and KyaukSet MoeHmyaw and even those that have met and are now a large pillar KyaukSetTaing / stallectite pillar which is estimated to be 200 m. years age.

The KyaukSet MoeHmyaw Ceti (stupa) is near a stallectite post.

There are HsinChiTaing and MyinnChiTaing at one place. I was asked how elephants could enter the cave and the answer is that those with supernatural powers can bring elephants inside. There is also the question of how elephants could climb up to the cave entrance, let alone get inside.

On the wall at one place are KyaukSi KyaukMauung, where there were poles to strike them to make sounds. But they have been removed about 2 years ago on the advice of the specialist who said that the vibrations can damage the tunnel and one cannot demonstrate it anymore.

One place is called the Nathamee YetKannSin / angels’ loom. The wall is shaped like a loom at that place.

There is also a small bridge on the path at one place although there is no water underneath nowadays. There once was water and without the bridge no one could get inside. The place is called NatYayKan / angels’ pond. There is also a NatYayTwinn / angels’ well.

The tunnel ends at 290 ft from the entrance. The legend is that it once connects with the HgnetPyitTaung tunnel in Bagan and that it is now closed by the lime.

MoTaWa Gu

It was also during my Kalaw Taunggyi trip with my friends in 1970 that I got to the MoTaWa Gu at Taunggyi for the first time, thanks to our friend San Lin who got there ahead of us. I got there again in either of the 1998 and 2000 trips (I am uncertain which trip it was) with my family but the MoTaWa Gu was very different from the earlier visit.

We stayed in Kalaw for a few days during which we went to the house of a son of a Sawbwa / SaoPha who was a friend of Nyunt Than’s family. We were invited to dinner and we went there again.

We visited this house during our walk around the town and it was in the part on the west side but I do not remember exactly. He lived there with his sisters and they all were around 40 – 50 at the time. Their dining table was a circular one and had a rotating centre piece and it was the first time I have seen such a dining table. During our talk before dinner, we mentioned about our walk to MyinTaik the nearest railway station in the direction of Thazi. We went there accompanying U Tun Aung, a friend of my father who was also having a vacation in Kalaw. He is a great walker and walks or bicycles whenever he can, rather than take a ride in a car, and even goes bicycling to distant towns by himself or with his friends (his bicycling story was portrayed in the Shwe Thway children journal around 1980s). He (our host) then told us not to enter the old mines near Kalaw if we ever get there as it has not been in use a long time and would be dangerous. Although man made, it would be like a tunnel and a long cave. We did not get there as U Tun Aung has returned.

Our group consisted of 6 classmates attending the 1st M.B. at the time and we stayed in an empty railways quarters on the hill near the Kalaw station, eating at the station Htamin Hsaing / food shop. We came from Rangoon by train as the 3 of us got free railways pass as my (my elder brother Khine Soe is also my classmate) father and the father of Min Lwin worked in the Railways. After Kalaw, we went to stay overnight in a room at the NyaungShwe station, visiting InnLay.

Then we went to Taunggyi and stayed at the Haw / Sawbwa’s house of our Kalaw dinner host. It was in HawKone and having meals was a problem as there were no food shops nearby so we had to walk a long way to the main road and then take a bus ride to the market where there were restaurants and food shops. While there, we met another friend San Lin, who was attending the Rangoon Institute of Technology (he and all 6 of us were Paulians, who passed the 10th Standard from the SHS 6 Botataung in 1969; we were classmates since our 4th – 6th Standards; I met Chit Sein and Percy / Tin Myint in 4th Standard, Nyunt Than, Min Lwin and San Lin in the 6th Standard). San Lin was in Taunggyi, visiting his father who was an engineer in the Construction Corporation / Public Works Department. His father told us not to follow his son. His words were: “do not follow that AhYuu / lunatic”.

However, San Lin had already told us he would take us to the MoTaWa Gu near WaPyarr. From his house (it was his father’s quarters) we took the bus (actually, it was a Ranger Hino truck converted for public transport as a Taunggyi city bus by the RTC, Road Transport Corporation) to the terminal near the Taunggyi College. It was at WaPyarr and from there we had to walk a long time to reach the cave.

There were several Buddha statutes at the opening of the cave and several people taking care of the the MoTaWa PhaYarr / pagoda. We donated cash for an hour’s lighting and went inside after paying homage to the Buddha statute. The cave was about 12 feet in diameter near the opening, but got smaller as we went inside but could walk upright most of the way although we had to go in one after another. At one point, there is a hole in the floor with a stairs and we climbed down about 10 feet to find another tunnel. This one had flowing water and ended after a short distance. I do not remember going in both directions so maybe the other end began near the ladder’s foot. There were several other visitors around there and we had much difficulty passing one another in tight places. We climbed up the stairs and continued along the main passage again.

The wall electric bulbs lighted the tunnel until we reached a small Buddha statute. Here, the electricity light ended and we continued with our torches (we had only 2). The tunnel became smaller and we had to bend down and even crawl at one point but it became larger and we could walk again further inside. I was breathless from the effort and so were others too. After some distance, the tunnel opened up into a large cave and the torch lights could not reach the walls after a few feet. We tried lighting the candles but the matches did not light up. We knew the oxygen level was very low at the point. As we had only 2 torches for the 7 of us, we dared not go further and returned to the mouth cave and back to Taunggyi.

On my visits to the Southern Shan State in 1998 and 2000, I drove there myself and stayed at Kalaw and toured Pindaya, KoneLone and Loikaw in 1998, but only to the Pindaya in 2000 before going to Taunggyi. There, either in 1998 or the 2000, I inquired the way to the MoTaWa Gu and visited it again. This time we had to stop the car near a monastery and I walked to the MoTaWa Gu with my 2 sons. There was a steep climb down which seemed unfamiliar. The route seems to be a different one from the one we were taken along in 1970.

When we got to the MoTaWa Gu it was not as in 1970. There were no caretakers and apart from some boys playing there, the place was deserted. We entered the cave which was without any electricity and after entering a short distance, we came against a brick wall which closed the tunnel completely. Some disaster must have happened in the meantime so that the cave had been closed by the authorities. I had planned to explore the cave at least up to the place I had reached previously and had taken along torches. I returned very much disappointed.

Kawtgun cave

Kawtgun lies 45 miles northeast of Mawlamyaing and 12 miles southwest of Pa-an. There are numerous (thousands of) Buddha figurines including many on the 80 feet long wall. I got there in 1999 on my return from KyaikKhaMi, Setse after visiting Mawlamyaing through Pa-an via the new Mawlamyaing-Pa-an road over the new Attaran and Jyaing bridges. Although I had been to Mawlamyaing during my childhood, this was my first time to Pa-an. I had intended to go to ThaMaNya but on arrival at Pa-an, I heard that the Sayardaw had gone to Thailand and was not in ThaMaNya. We returned and visited the KyaikHtiYoe on the way back. I never reached the ThaMaNya as the Sayardaw passed away before I could make another trip that way again (I still have not visited there again).

The oldest of the Buddha statutes of Kawtgun are dated to be of 7th century A.D., although there are many of later dates. It would be contemporary with the Pyu (1st century BC to 9th century AD) and the Vesali / Waytharli (327 – 818 AD) of Rakhine. The Thuwunnabumi / Suvanabhumi is said to be located not far from Thaton near the present AhYetThaMa and TaikKaLarr villages. Suvanabhumi existed long before Buddha’s time in the 6th century B.C., as it is mentioned in the ZaNetKa Jataka that ZaNetKa went to Suvanabhumi across the seas to find wealth. ZaNetKa Jataka is one of the 10 previous human lives of Buddha and must be a very long time prior to the 6th century B.C. As Kawtgun is dated to be of 7th century A.D., it was established much later than the time when Suvannabhumi flourished.

There is a sandstone inscription in ancient Mon.

The larger statutes are of sandstone and the small ones on the walls are votive tablets. Some of the medium sized statutes on the walls are very similar in style to those at the AhKaukTaung at HtoneBo, near Pyay.

There is also a bamboo pole said to be more than 100 years old without putrefying.

The cave is a limestone cave as limestone is the main structure of the eastern yoma. Many caves of Myanmar are limestone caves as it is easily eroded by water which flows throught the cracks.

Hanthawaddy Kingdom, kingdom of the Mon people, who were powerful in Myanmar (Burma) from the 9th to the 11th and from the 13th to the 16th century and for a brief period in the mid-18th century. The Mon migrated southward from western China and settled in the Chao Phraya River basin (of southern Thailand) about the 6th century AD. Their early kingdoms, Dvaravati and Haripunjaya (qq.v.), had ties with the ancient Cambodian kingdom of Funan and with China and were also strongly influenced by Khmer civilization.

After the Mon moved westward into the Irrawaddy River delta of southern Myanmar in the ensuing centuries, they acquired Theravada Buddhism, their state religion, from Ceylon and South India, and they adopted the Indian Pali script. By 825 they had firmly established themselves in southern and southeastern Myanmar and founded the cities of Pegu and Thaton.

Kawtgun cave

to be continued later

Malae and Sanpaenago

August 17, 2010

On my return from Tagaung last November, I reached Malae unexpectedly.

The ShutPyay from Katha reached Tagaung only at 11:00 instead of the usual 10:00. The lateness was due to being grounded on shallow sandbanks twice. On the way from Tagaung to Mandalay, we grounded twice again. The first time, we got off after about 20 minutes efforts by the crew and the passengers by pulling the anchor rope and pushing with poles. The second time it was not so easy and some of us had to get down and push the boat. Finally it got off the bank and we got to Malae late at 3 pm instead of the usual 1 pm. Malae is the place where the passengers has lunch and the the passengers who had not brought their lunch had a very late lunch.

Malae is opposite SanPaeNaGo. These 2 palces existed from ancient times and are still inhabited. Both are large villages and looked prosperous. There is even a phone service at Malae. Handphones are available there and passengers can phone from the river bank. They are situated on the northern end of the 3rd Ayeyarwaddy defile / myitkyinn.

Burmese saying / Sagapone စကားပုံ

Nyaung Oo KannParr Pyo ေညာင္ဦးကမ္းပါးျပိဳ

SanPaeNaGo ga NaMa Paung Kyoe ႏြားမေပါင္က်ိဳး

It is used whenever one gives excuses that are not applicable.

SanPae NaGo is far to the north of Mandalay, beyond ThabeikKyinn whereas Nyaung Oo is quite downriver in middle Myanmar

This saying must have appeared because at the time, SanPae NaGo was the outpost of the Bagan nation, the furthest from Bagan, although later, it extended to Tagaung and beyond up to Ngasaunggyan if not more and Malae is on its opposite bank.

There is also mention about Malae in the chronicles about Male since the time of king Binnaka of Tagaung and also in the Chinese chronicles about the Battle of Ngasaunggyan

Mention about Malae in the Myanmar Chronicles

The ancient history books said that the people of the Thaki race entered Tagaung region twice in two droves. The first drove led by Abhiraja arrived at the region before the Buddha attained the enlightenment. The second drove was under the leadership of Dhajaraja (Thado Jabudipa Dhajaraja title holder).

The first dynasty of Abhiraja ruled the city till its 33rd king, Binnaka. Tar Tars from China invaded and destroyed the city during the reign of King Binnaka. Binnaka and his followers retreated to the mouth of Meza River (Male) and later, split into three groups. When the Tar Tars left the city, the group led by Queen Naga Hsein stayed behind in Male region, while another group migrated to the place where the Ayeyawady met Shweli, and founded Kanthida town. The last group moved to Hanlin region in Legaing, Thuna Pantrara state, and settled there. We can assume that in this way, the people of the first Tagaung dynasty started to settle at places around the upper Myanmar. When the king of Tagaung attacked the Kanthida of the group led by Binnaka later, the group fled to the upper reaches of Shweli River and built Mongmao town there. The group again went upstream the river and set up Kyainghon (the ruined town located north of Bahe village in Mabein Township). The group organized and ruled the Yunnanese who fled their homeland for Myanmar for fear of the Tar Tars. The Binnaka group set up a city state comprising 19 districts in the region located in the southern upper reaches of Shweli River. Those who resided in the area were called Binnaka Shans.

The second drove of the people of Thaki race led by Dhajaraja entered Myanmar after the enlightenment of Buddha. It is likely that Buddhism also arrived at Myanmar together with the second drove of Thaki race. When Dhajaraja arrived at Male region, he met and married Queen Naga Hsein, formed alliance with her group, and settled in Tagaung region. As Tagaung was burnt-out town then, he set up the royal seat at the Pyu-gama (Bagan) of the Pyu race. The dynasty ruled the city till its 17th king, Thado Maha Raja. Thado Naga Naing or Maung Pauk Kyaing was the ninth king.

Mention about Malae in the Chinese chronicles in their description about the Battle of Ngasaunggyan

Anantapicci and Yantapicci tried to stop the enemies whotried to cross the Irrawaddy river from Bhamo in 1283. For 3 months they killed everyone including attendents employed in feeding elephants and horses who came up their side of the river. Wave afterwave of U Ti Bwa’s men came and were killed. From sheer exhaustion, the Burmese could do nothing at last and the enemy finally succeeded in crossing over the river and Ngasaunggyan fell Dec-1283. The Burmese were able to prevent the Chinese from crossing the ShweLi river for 3 months. Mongols took Ngasaunggyan 3-Dec-1283. Kaungsin, administrative centre of northern Burma, fell 9-Dec.

Tagaung was taken Jan-1284. Northern Burma became a Chinese province of Cheng-mien.

The Burmans did not yeild easily. Quduq Tamar’s army for invasion of Mien encountered the rebels and was routed 1284. Reinforcements were sent and it was reported that peoples minds were wavering.

Yunnan reported in 1285 that they have not yet had time to invade Mien. King Narapati sent a peace mission.

King Narapati evacuated Bagan and fled to Pathein.Anantapicci and Yantapicci made another stand at Male by putting up 2fortifications on the east of the foot of a range. Anantapicci was killed andYantapicci made an orderly retreat to Bagan where he found that the king had fled.He followed to Pathein. The invaders came after him as far as Tayoke Hmyaw andfinally gave up the chase because of the scarcity of food.

Thus Malae is a historic site and has been inhabited continuously since the time of king Binnaka and much history has occurred around there.

Tagaung is Bamar territory

August 14, 2010

Tagaung is Bamar territory

My father was posted in Katha at the time he married my mother. She went along from Pathein after their marriage to Katha for her first visit there till near her childbirth when she went to Rangoon where my brother was born.

They returned to Katha and stayed there until my father was transferred to Bassein. I was born in Pathein but after my father was transferred to Hinthada / Henzada, Toungoo and Pathein again, he was finally transferred to Rangoon where I attended school and lived till after I got my license and worked at the Myaungmya Jute Mill Construction Project, the first of my jobs outside Yangon.

During my childhood, my parents frequently talked about their stay at Katha. From what they said, it was my understanding that there were plenty of Shan Kadus ရွမ္း ကဒူး around the area, including the family who helped at their home and also took care of my brother. Actress San Shar Tin originated from around there and she is also supposed to be a Shan Kadu. It was my impression that the area around Kathar is Shan Kadu area and the Bamars are only a minority.

When I studied history and read about Tagaung တေကာင္း, I read that Tagaung is derived from a Shan name တေကာင္. This further reinforced my belief. The TharKiWins who came from northern India ruled over the local Shan Kadus and established a city at Tagaung. It was only later when they extended their territory to other parts of Myanmar, establishing cities in MaingMao, Beikthanoe, Sriksetra, and the lower Myanmar including the Thaninaryi that they came in contact with the Bamars who they ruled and also the Mons in lower Myanmar.

There might be earlier Pyu migration into Myanmar than AbiYarzar, as it is written in Myanmar chronicles that when KanRajaGyi went away from Tagaung and reached LeiKaing / ThuNanpara taing, the population there asked for a King as there was no one to inherit the kingdo, he left his son to rule there, going on to Rakhine and settled in KyaukPadaung before shifting to Dhanyawaddy later. This part of KanRajaGyi reaching Dhanyawaddy is seen in Rakhine history and explains the Aryan features of northern Rakhines. It is also mentioned in Rakhine chronicles that Rakhine had connections with northern India since ancient times and that Marayu came from northern India to establish the first Dhanyawaddy in BC 3440.

Before going to Tagaung တေကာင္း, I had a talk with a Bamar friend from a village in Kathar ကသာ township, several miles east of the Ayeyarwaddy, and learned that the villages around there are Bamar villages. One has to look at the population of the villages to know what type of ethnic group is the main one in an area. The towns do not represent the real ethnic distribution as it consists mainly of people who settled from elsewhere. In Khamti, the Shans are the majority in the villages. In Kathar, I found out recently, it is the Bamars.

On my return from Tagaung, I talked to fellow travelers on the ShutPyay, Bamars, and they also told me the same thing. The villages in HtiJyaint ထီးဂ်ိဳင့္ township and Katha ကသာ township are all settled by Bamars. Katha and HtiJyaint townships, north of Tagaung is Bamar territory and my earlier belief that it is Shan Kadu ရွမ္း ကဒူး area is wrong. So the saying Myanmar AhSa Tagaung Ka ျမန္မာအစ တေကာင္းက has the Bamar population around Kathar, HteeJyaint and Tagaung to support it.

Actually, the word Myanmar is the same as Bamar and the usage of it to include all ethnic nationalities is a political one. Bamars are the majority in Myanmar and they have ruled Myanmar since the time of Anawratha (the Pyus ruled current day Myanmar boundaries earlier) even if not continuously, as after the fall of the Bagan was a period of smaller independent countries (Ava, Hantharwaddy, Mrauk U) until TabinShweHti united the country again under Bamar leadership, and again by U Aung Zeya after the fall of the Toungoo dynasty and whose son HsinPhyuShin extended Myanmar to the mamimum since the time of Anawratha / AhLaungSithu, including ZinMae / Chaing Mai, ArThan / Assam, Manipura.