Taw Sein Ko
From 'Burmese Sketches', 1883-1913


        At Hmawza in the Prome District, attention was devoted to the conservation of two monuments, namely, the Bebe and the Bawbawgyi Pagodas. The former enshrines a sculptured stone with a legend in an unknown script of very high antiquity, and it is extremely desirable to protect and preserve it. The language of the inscription is supposed to be Pyu, which survived at Pagan till the 11th century A.D.; but the record itself may be referred to the 7th century, if not earlier. A considerable amount of damage was done to the Bebe pagoda during the last rains. The bricks from the lower part of the Sikhara and from the terraces and part of the wall, on the west face, fell down; and they were replaced. The bricks composing the arched dome below the Sikhara were set in mud mortar. In order to reduce the superincumbent weight to a minimum and to prevent the future settlement of the building, the contents of the core of the Sikhara were scooped out, thereby converting it into a water-tight shell or cone. In restoring the terraces, replicas were made of the models, which exist on the north face of the pagoda. The colour of the work was toned down, so as to be in harmony with that of the old. The upper part of the eastern face had settled down although the foundation remained undisturbed. The bricks, which fell out of position, were carefully replaced and set in lime mortar. The domical roof of the Bawbawgyi Pagoda was rendered water tight with cement plaster; and, in repairing the body of the Pagoda, in order to produce cohesion between the new work and the old, and to neutralize the force of gravitation, Mr. W. G. Davie, Executive Engineer, Tharrawaddy Division, who was in charge of the works, issued instructions for the use of header bricks. To the north-east of the Bawbawgyi Pagoda are a stone staircase and a sculptured stone representing the Buddha in the act of taking the rice porridge offered by Sujata before attaining enlightenment. As there were seven attitudes of the Buddha around the Bodhi Tree, and, as the sculpture represents the seventh or final attitude, I directed a search to be made of the six remaining sites, which were found in the vicinity. In the course of an excavation made near the stone sculpture, exquisitely shaped terra-cotta plaques depicting various animals and a trident have been found, in addition to a clay seal bearing the linga on its obverse face. These are strong evidences of the Siva cult. The question arises as to whether the Bawbawgyi Pagoda, which is now 153 feet high and 240 in circumference, originally represented the linga, and whether, when Saivaism was absorbed or subverted by Buddhism, it was transformed into a symbol for the Bodhi tree. The shape of the Bawbawgyi is undoubtedly that of a stupa, which approximates more to a Turanian tumulus than to a domical Indian or Sinhalese dagoba. Indeed, Fergusson says :—" No only out of doors but in the earliest caves, the forms of dagobas are always rounded; and no example of a straight-lined cone covering a stupa has yet been discovered."

        No replica of this Burmese Pagoda appears to be found elsewhere, and its architecture deserves a careful and minute study.


        At Pagan, both sculpture and architecture were mainly derived from Southern India, through Thaton, which was conquered by Anawrata in the eleventh century. This conquest is a great land-mark in Burmese history. It resulted not only in the expansion and consolidation of Burmese dominion, but also in an outburst of architectural energy, the introduction of the Southern School of Buddhism, and the religious and commercial intercourse with Southern India and Ceylon, which. infused a new spirit into the Burmese nation. The most celebrated buildings were erected between 1057 and 1284 A.D., i.e., between the conquest of Thaton by Anawrata and the invasion of Pagan by Kublai Khan. The period, during which stone sculpture flourished is even more limited, as it extended from 1057 to 1234 A. D. The earliest specimen of stone-carving is found in the Theinpaya at Myinpagan, one of the numerous ordination halls consecrated by Anawrata (1059 A. D.), and the latest in the Setkudaik, a lecture hall, built in 1234 A.D. by Kyazwa Mingyi, who abdicated his throne in favour of his son, in order to devote himself to study and instructing others in the Buddhist scriptures. As falling between these two dates, may be mentioned the Nanpaya, erected in 1059 A. D., by Manuha, the last King of the Talaings, whose sculpture, both on the exterior and interior, is unique; the Ananda Temple, built in 1090 A. D., by Kyanzittha, which still remains the grandest religious edifice in Burma,. and the greatest store house of statuary in stone ; and the Kyaukku Temple, built in 1188 A D., by Narapatisithu against the face of a ravine, on the jambs of whose entrance are carved, in low relief, most interesting figures illustrating Buddhist cosmogony.


        The Ananda Pagoda is likewise adorned with eighty pieces of stone sculptures of exquisite workmanship depicting scenes in the life of Gotama Buddha from his conception and birth to his Nivarna. The pose, contour, and drapery of the figures are distinctly Indian, and the architects employed must have been foreigners


        Two kinds of terra cotta tiles have been found at Pagan adorning the basements and corridors of Pagodas. They illustrate scenes in the life of Gotama Buddha and during his previous births, and serve as sermons in baked clay exhorting the laity to follow, in both worldly and spiritual matters, in the footsteps of the Buddha, who is looked upon as the highest type of humanity. In the Shwezigon and Ananda, the tiles are enamelled in a green colour, while those decorating the ambulatory passages of the Petleik are of red baked clay. All these three shrines belong to the 11th century A.D. Chinese influences traceable in the former two, and the Petleik plaques, which are of a better technique, may be ascribed to a South-Indian origin. The arrangement of the tiles is still well preserved in the Ananda, and may be described as follows.

Position Description Number
  Basement   Hosts of Mara 276
  Basement   Disciples of Buddha 276
  First storey   Scenes in 537 Jatakas 537
  Second, Third, and Fourth storeys   Scenes in the ten Jatakas beginning with the Temiya and ending with the Vessantara Jataka. 383
  Total 1472


        The architecture of this Pagoda is unique, and bespeaks its ancient origin. It probably ante-dates the introduction of the Southern School of Buddhism into Pagan in the eleventh century A.D. It is bulbous in shape, and is crowned by a small chamber which is now roof-less. The striking peculiarity about this shrine is that its face bricks were moulded to size, were well finished and well baked, and dipped in a kind of green glaze, which cannot now be reproduced. It was decided not to restore the roof of the sanctum, because the Director-General emphasized "on the importance of not adding, in the course of repairing a building, any feature to it which does not actually exist at the time when repairs are first taken in hand, however strong the presumption may be that it originally existed, before the structure fell into decay. Much grouting was done; the basement was repaired; and the whole building was made water-tight as far as possible, so as to secure to it a further term of longevity.


        TheMingalazedi Pagoda was built by Tayokpyemin (the king who fled from the Chinese) in 1268 A.D., and indicates the high water-mark of Burmese religious architecture at Pagan. The Burmese empire was subverted by the Mongols under Kublai Khan in 1284 AD. It was shattered. to pieces and never recovered its former grandeur and magnificence. A stone inscription found within the walls of the Pagoda records the following: " On Sunday, the 6th waxing of Tabaung 630 Sakkarj(1269 A.D., King Narathihapade (Tayokpyemin) who is the supreme commander of the vast army of thirty-six million soldiers, and who is the consumer of three hundred dishes of curry daily, being desirous of attaining the bliss of Nirvana, erected a pagoda, - - - - ." "An empire under the rule of a gourmand of such a stupendous type certainly deserved to be shattered and torn to pieces. The Pagoda stands on a raised platform, and its triple terraces are adorned with green enamelled terra-cotta plaques depicting scenes in the Jataka stories. The small subsidiary shrines at the corners of the third terrace are entirely covered with green glazed tiles. The bricks, with which the retaining walls are built, are stamped with Talaing letters, and the dimensions of each are 18 inches by 9 inches by 3 inches. Efforts were made to procure a complete set of the inscribed bricks, without dismantling any portion of the walls, but they proved to be fruitless. The thick jungle found within the precincts and the debris were cleared; both the pagoda and the walls were made water-tight ; and the steps facing the east were repaired. The shrine is still an object of worship, and the iron ti now crowning it was placed by the villagers of Pagan in 1908. Under the Burmese regime, the crowning, by commoners, of a pagoda built by a royal personage, would be considered to be high treason, and the concession of this privilege is now greatly appreciated throughout the Province.


        Situated half-way between the villages of Myinpagan and Thiyipyitsaya in the Pagan Township, which were, at one time, centres of Talaing and Indian influence, the Seinnyet Pagoda, a cylindrical structure of the 11th century, represents a distinct stage in the development of Buddhist religious architecture in Burma. A detailed examination of it indicates its mixed origin in which the Chinese element preponderates. Unlike the Shwesandaw Pagoda at Pagan and the Sinbyume Paya at Mingun, each of which has five receding terraces representing the five-fold division of Mount Meru, it rests on a triple square basement, which symbolises the abode of the four Maharajas, or Guardian Spirits of the world. At each corner of the first terrace is a small chaitya resting on a high plinth. Each corner of the second terrace is decorated by an ornament which looks like a flower-vase or relic-casket, and which is guarded by the figure of a lion with distinctly Chinese features, while the corresponding decoration on the third terrace is a stunted chaitya guarded by the figure of an animal, whose remains indicate it to be a winged dragon. All the three terraces are fringed with miniature battlements, and are embellished with Mouldings in brick and plaster, which are a characteristic feature of the basement of all Burmese religious and ceremonial Structures. Then comes the octagonal band encircling the building, which represents the Tushita heaven, the abode of all Bodhisats or Buddhas in embryo; but the eight gods, Indra, Agni, and others, each of whom protects a point of the compass, are absent. The next tier is a circular moulding, which the Burmans call the "Kyiwaing" or circular band of copper, but which, the Chinese say, represents the highest empyrean, where Buddhas dwell after fulfilling their high mission on earth. Next succeeds the "Kaunglaungbon" or belt-shaped dome near whose rim is a circle of small battlements, surmounted by a double band of lotus petals. The dome is bisected by a bold moulding and to the upper fringe of the lower half is attached a row of ogres disgorging chaplets of pearls, a form of ornamentation which is very common in Tibet. Right across the bisectional moulding are small niches facing the cardinal points, which are crowned by miniature structures resembling the Temple at Bodhgaya. In each niche sits enshrined a small figure of a Buddha of exquisite proportions in a preaching attitude. The figures represent Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa, and Gotama. In China, Metteyya or Maitreya, the Buddhist Messiah to come, is acknowledged and adored; but at the present time he has no votaries in Burma. The upper half of the dome is decorated with a band of Lotus petals and is surmounted by a foliated capital, which takes the place of a "dhatu-gabbha "or relic-chamber in a Sinhalese Pagoda. The whole structure is crowned by a sikhara or gradually attenuated spire with eleven concentric circles.


        The best specimen of stone architecture at Pagan, if not in the whole province, is the Nanpaya, erected in 1059 A. D. by Manuha, the last king of the Talaings. The wealth of the ornamentation lies in the frieze below the cornice, the corners of the building and the frieze at the basement. The sculptor's art reaches its climax in the decoration of the four pillars flanking the sanctuary in the main building. On the sides of each pillar is carved the four-faced Brahma, the creator of the universe, holding lotus flowers in each band. The anatomy of the figure and its facial expression are perfect. The broad forehead, the firm mouth, the thin lips, and the well-developed chin indicate high intellectual power.


        The Nagayon Pagoda, built by Kyanzittha in 1064 A. D., marks an intermediate stage in the development of Indo Burmese architecture, which reaches its culminating point in the Ananda Temple. With its portico and aisles, and its steeple-like sikhara, it looks, from a distance, somewhat like a mediaeval cathedral. The fineness of the brickwork and the absence of the slightest interstices between the different layers of brick, aided, no doubt, by the remarkable dryness of the climate, have kept this as well as other equally important buildings at Pagan, in a fairly good condition. In repairing the Pagoda, the main work consisted in renovating the terrace and making it water-tight, in grouting all cracks, after the removal of unsound portions of brickwork and plaster, in edging the old plaster carefully, and in restoring the inner circuit wall.


        The Sulamani Pagoda is a five-storied building erected by King Narapatisithu in 1183 A. D., and is ornamented with frescoes depicting the manners and customs of a bygone age. In the torrid heat of Pagan, it was apparently intended to serve as a combination of a stupa and vihara, that is to say, to be a chapel or pagoda as well as a monastery. No doubt, it was also intended to be a self-contained institution, like the ancient colleges of Europe, because, in its immediate vicinity, traces exist of cloistered cells, lecture halls, chapels, the residence of the Master or Abbot, an ordination hall, a library and a tank for the performance of ablutions. The building has much weathered, but the brickwork, strengthened by bond-stones, is still in a sound condition, in spite of the absence of plaster or cement on the outside. The conservation work done is more of the nature of preservation than restoration. The stone paving was repaired, cracks in the arches were cut out and rebuilt; all loose plaster was removed carefully, the sound portions being edged to arrest further decay. Extreme care was taken not to injure any of the valuable frescoes. The steep portions of the stairways were eased out. All damaged brick-work was renewed; and the sikhara surmounting the whole building as well as the small pagodas at the corners were repaired and made water-tight.


        The Sapada Pagoda constitutes a land-mark in the history of Buddhism as it commemorates the religious intercourse between Burma and Ceylon in the 12th century A. D. It was built by Sapada, a native of Bassein, who had been ordained a Buddhist monk in Ceylon, and who had founded a sect on his return to Pagan. The Pagoda was constructed after the model of a Singhalese shrine, and is the prototype of similar structures in the province. It stands on a raised earthern platform. which is protected by an ornamental retaining wall, measuring 88 feet square. Its form differs from the cylindrical-shaped Pagoda of the ordinary Burmese type, in that a square block of masonry, commonly called the "dhatu-gabbha," or relic-chamber, intervenes between the sikhara and the bell-shaped dome. The conservation work carried out by the Public Works Department was very well done. The grouting and pointing were nearly finished and the mouldings in plaster were correctly reproduced.


        The Kyaukku-Onhmin or temple is a remarkable building constructed partly of stone and partly of brick. It was erected by Narapatisithu in 1988 AD., and consists of three terraces built against the precipitous rock-bound face of a ravine. Its stone carving is in a fair state of preservation, and represents, in a narrow compass, the complete ascendancy achieved by the Buddhist faith over Brahmanism. Figures with four faces or four hands, from the Hindu Pantheon, no longer appear, and even Indra, the powerful god of the sky, becomes the Recording Angel of Buddhism, and is made to kneel, holding offerings of flowers, while Brahma, the Creator of the Universe and the Chief of the Triad, assumes the role of a humble disciple of the Buddha. The disrepair was mainly on the western face of the building, where the bricks work had been forced out of its original position owing to settlement and the leakage of rain-water. As it was found necessary to support the superstructure, the whole of the basement wall of the main portico, together with its moulding in stone, was restored as approximately as possible to its original condition. The terraces were all repaired with concrete, and a plain finish was given to the battlement walls. On the eastern side of the portico, an old door which had been bricked up was re-opened in order to improve the lighting of the interior. By the removal of obstructions, the upper rooms were lighted and ventilated. Although the repairs were comparatively extensive, efforts were successfully made to render them inconspicuous.


        On the Pegu-Thanatpin road two octagonal granite pillars, measuring about 11 and 5 feet, respectively, were found and one of them has been re-erected on a masonry plinth in the compound of the district court at Pegu. They may be identified with the Jayastambha or Pillars of Victory set up by Rajendra Chola I., who overran Pegu in 1025-1027 A. D., that is to say, a few years before the conquest of Thaton by Anawrata, King of Pagan. In the native chronicles, nothing is mentioned of Pegu for a period of 500 years from the 8th to the 13th centuries A. D., nor is there any reference, to it, during the Burmese invasion of the Talaing country by Anawrata. This omission can only be explained by its subjection to foreign rule, and the discovery of these two pillars, provided that the above identification is correct, fills up a gap in the Talaing records. There is a conspiracy of silence among native historians not to refer to anything relating to the invasion of their country by South Indians or other foreigners. Such silence appears to have been somewhat inexplicable to Sir Arthur Phayre, who attempts to explain it as follows (pages 31-32 of his History of Burma).

        "In the appendix to this volume will be found a list of the first dynasty of the Kings of Pegu as entered in the Talaing chronicles. But that dynasty extends only to the year AD. 781, when the reign of King Titha or Tissa came to a close. From that time until the conquest of Pegu by Anawrata, that is, for about two hundred and sixty-nine years, no events are recorded in the Talaing annals. The conquest by the King of Pagan is not to be found therein. From indications in the Talaing annals as to the reigns of King Tissa and his predecessor, it appears probable that, for a long period, the country was disturbed by religious struggles, Brahmanical and Buddhist votaries contending for the mastery. Later chronicles have been unwilling to refer to the troubles and the degradation of their country caused by heretical disturbance and foreign rule, so that the course of events can only be conjectured. Coins or medals bearing Hindu symbols which have been found and which no doubt were struck in Pegu, probably belong to this period, and lend support to the conclusion as to events which the native chroniclers have obscured or suppressed. Excepting a few vague sentences, no notice is taken in the Talaing chronicles of the conquest by Anawrata. Thus the native annals of Pegu, from the period when pure Buddhism was for a time restored under King Tissa, until the fall of the Pagan monarchy, near the close of the thirteenth century, a period of about 500 years are almost a blank."


        In the East generally, a royal personage is regarded as a manifestation of the divine afflatus, and his tomb serves as a place of pilgrimage. The maintenance of the sacrosanct character of a ruling house is in an inverse ratio to the development of political institutions. Where republicanism prevails, as in France and the United States of America, the office of the Head of the State is respected while his person merges in the common population. Where autocracy prevails, as in Russia and China, and to a certain extent, in Japan and Siam, the Sovereign assumes the role of vicegerent of Heaven on earth. Burma forms no exception to the rule and falls under the same category as her neighbours, Siam and China. The Sandamani Pagoda, whose conservation has been sanctioned by the Local Government, is the tomb of the Crown Prince of Mindon and three other princes, who were murdered in the rebellion of 1868. An annual festival is held in its honour in October of each year, which is largely attended by the adherents and descendants of the Crown Prince, who was not only the mainstay of his brother Mindon, in his capacity of warrior, statesmen, and reformer, but was one of the few vigorous and stimulating personalities of modern Burmese history. The process of the dedication of heroes is still extant in Burma, and the Sandamani Pagoda is a tribute paid to hero-worship.


        The majority of the conservation works undertaken during the year 1907-08 presented no special features of architectural interest, but the Taungthaman Kyauktawgyi Pagoda of Amarapura and the Nanpaya Temple of Pagan deserve some notice. The former was built, in 1847 A.D., by King Pagan, the immediate predecessor of Mindon Min. In constructing this shrine, the model taken was the Ananda Pagoda at Pagan. There was an interval of a little more then seven centuries and a half between the building of the two temples, and the achievement must be pronounced to be a fair success. The prototype is awe-inspiring by the chastity of its design and the simplicity of its grandeur, while one's religious sense is bewildered by the extraordinary wealth of detail and the amount of fantasfic ornamentation lavished on the later edifice. In the 19th century, the Burmans had apparently forgotten much of their knowledge of architecture in brick and stone, and had been accustomed to build and carve in wood ; hence one serious defect of the Amarapura Pagoda, which is conducive to its instability, is the use of wooden beams and joists in the interior aisles.


       The Pondawpaya or the model of the well-known Mingun Pagoda, consists of a sikhara surmounted by a miniature stupa and resting on a square plinth of solid masonry, and appears to be a hybrid between the Shwezigon and Ananda Pagodas of Pagan, which afford so many prototypes for Buddhist religious edifices throughout the country. It is adorned with all the appurtenances of a finished place of worship, namely, circuit walls, stair-cases, leogryphs, ornamented arches, etc. The following comparison between the known dimermsions of the two buildings will be of interest :—

Mingun Pagoda Pondawpaya.
Ft. Ins. Ft. Ins.
Height of masonry plinth 104 6 2 9
Length, of one side 240 0 10 0
Sikhara 6 7
Surmounting stupa 6 0

        The Mingun Pagoda was shattered by an earthquake in 1838 and Yule describes it, in his Mission to the Court of Ava, as a perfect geological phenomenon."


        The Museum will house the interesting relics found in the relic-chamber of the Shwebawgyun Pagoda, which was built in 1763 A.D., by King Naungdawgyi, the eldest son of Alompra, the founder of the last Burmese dynasty, which was subverted by the British in 1885 A.D. The exhibits of the Museum re-awaken an interest in the foreign relation of Burma in the 18th century. Ava was conquered by the Talaings in 1752 A.D. ; Alompra proclaimed himself King in the following year; and for ten years, the Burmans and the Talaings were engaged in incessant fighting. In these wars, the belligerents were still armed with bows and arrows and firearms decided the fate of battles. These weapons of precision were supplied by the Agents of the English and French East India Companies, which, having made peace after an open war of five years in the Carnatic, transferred their rival aspirations to Burmese soil. The French had a factory at Syriam, and the British established themselves at Negrais and Bassein. The presience of the latter in selecting the winning side in all disputes among native rulers in India and Burma, and the East generally, is truly remarkable, and is one of the chief contributory causes of the expansion of British domninion over-sea. The English supported the pretensions of Alompra, who was an upstart of no royal lineage, against the claims of the King of Pegu, who had unlimited resources at his disposal and, in the end, they were quite justified in their choice.

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