John Murray (Firm).

A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon online

. (page 77 of 87)
Online LibraryJohn Murray (Firm)A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon → online text (page 77 of 87)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


with these he will find his difficulties reduced. Without them he will find
it difficult to see much of the country, or even of the larger towns.
He will do well to provide himself with some books about Burma. Of
recent books the best is undoubtedly T?ie Burman^ His Life and Matums^
by Shway Yoe (J. G. Scott), published by Macmillan in 1882. But tiiis
is unfortunately out of print, as is also Yule's E^nhasay to Ava (Smith,
Elder, 1858), a work which will be found very useful if the traveller can
obtain a copy of it Captain Forbes' Bwnna (Murray) is also a useful
book, and Bishop Bigandet's Legend of Oaudama (Trubner), is invaluable for
students of Burmese Buddhism. l/Tider the Shadow of the Pagoda^ by Mr.
Cumming, contains some capital sketches of Burma and the Burmese. For
more detailed information reference may be made to Colonel Spearman's
Gazetteer of British Burma (Government Press, Rangoon), also unfortunately
out of print, and to the Administration Report of the Province for 1892-93,
and the Burma Census Report issued by the Burma Administration in 189*2.
Notes of a Tour in Burma^ by Dr. Oertel (Government Press, Rangoon 1893)
will be of interest, especially to the archaeologist, and contains a number of
photographs of various parts of Burma. For historical information the
traveller should obtain Phayre's Utstory (Triibner). Free use has been made
of several of the above works, and especially of Shway Yoe, in the following
pages.

Pagodas and MonaBtaries. — ^The pagodas and monasteries form the chief
objects of interest throughout Burma, and as they are mostly built on very
similar plans a general description of tlieae two classes of religious buildings

Digitized by VjOOQIC



INTRODUCTION 419

will be useful. The following description is taken in the main from Shway
Yoe. The Pagodcu, while differing in various minor details, consist almost
invariably of a solid pyramidal cone rising with a gradually diminishing
rounded outline, surmounted by a ti or '' umbrella" spire, a construction
formed of concentric rings of beaten iron lessening to a rod with a small
vane on the top. From the rings hang little bells with flat elongated clappers,
which are caught by the wind and maintain day and night a melodious ringing.
They are usually built upon more or less elevated platforms, and are erected
over relics of Gaudama. In almost all the larger pagodas there are arched
wings on each face serving, as it were, as antechapels, and each containing
a figure of Gaudama, while the surrounding platform is frequently studded
with minor temples, image houses, altars for the deposit of offerings, large
bells, flag-posts, images of strange monsters, and other curious objects. These
pagodas are to be found in every village in Burma ; capping the hills and
frequently in out-of-the-way places, contributing everywhere to the pictur-
esqueness of the country. There is good reason for this multiplication of
fanes. Ko work of merit is so highly regarded as the building of a pagoda.
The builder is regarded as a saint on earth, and when he dies he attains the
holy rest. It avails little to repair a previous dedication, unless it be one
of the great world shrines at Rangoon, Pegu, Prome, or Mandalay. Hence
old pagodas are seldom repaired, but new ones are constantly springing up.
Outside every village in Burma, however small, there stands also a monastery
or pongyi kyaung^ where the monks pass their tranquil lives and supply a
simple education to the children of the village. Ordinarily the monastery
is built of teak, but in many places brick buildings are now being erected.
The shape is always oblong, and the inhabited portion is raised on posts or
pillars some 8 or 10 ft. above the ground. They are never more than one
story high, for it would be an indignity to a holy monk to have any one over
his head. A flight of steps leads up to the verandah, which extends all along
the N. and S. sides and frequently all round the building. The steps are
usually adorned with carvings or plaster figures of nats or ogres. From
the raised floor rises the building with tier upon tier of dark massive roofs
capped at intervals with tapering spires or pyathcUs. The buildings are in
many cases ornamented with the most elaborate carving. The interior
accommodation is very simple. It consists, in the main, of a great central
hall divided into two portions, one level with the verandah where the scholars
are taught, and the other a raised dais 2 ft or so above the level of the rest
of the building. Seated upon this the priests are accustomed to receive
visitors, and at the back, against the wall, are arranged images of Gaudama
interspersed with manuscript chests, small shrines, fans, and other religious
implements, and miscellaneous gifts of the pious, heaped together ordinarily
in very careless fashion. There are occasionally dormitories for the monks,
but, as a rule, they sleep in the central hall, where the mats which form their
beds may be seen rolled up round the pillows against the wall. In many
monasteries there is a special room for the palm leaf scribes, often detached
from the main building, as are the cook-room and the bathing-houses. In
one corner is usually a tJiein, a building for the performance of various rites

Digitized by VjOOQIC



420



BURMA



India



and ceremonies, and more particularly for the examination and ordination of
priests. The traveller will find it perfectly easy to visit and closely inspect
as many pagodas and monasteries as he pleases. The pagodas are open to all,
and at the monasteries he may be generally certain of a friendly welcome from
the priests, provided he can speak Burmese or is accompanied by any one
acquainted with that language. The priests are treated with great respect
by the people of the country, and are invariably addressed as paya or lord.
Any one who desires to visit a monastery will do well to bear in mind that
the monks are accustomed to be treated with deference.

Pwes. — The traveller should make a point, before leaving Burma, of seeing
something of the Ptoe^ the national amusement of the people. Pwes are of
three kinds, the Zat ptoCf which consists of acting, singing, dancing, md
clowning ; the Vokthwe pwe^ in which a similar performance is gone through
by marionettes ; and the Yein pwe, a kind of ballet, with music and song,
performed by a considerable company of young men or maidens, as tl|e case
may be. Yein pwes are usually performed only on special occasions, in
honour of some high official, or at a great pagoda feast, but zat pwes and
yokthwe pwes are of constant occurrence on nearly all moonlight nights in
every large town, and the traveller should have no difficulty in seeing both
forms of entertainment, either in Rangoon or Mandalay. The performances
take place in the open air, last all night, and usually for several nights ii
succession, and are free and open to all, the actors being paid by the giver of
the entertainment. The majority of the audience stay the whole night, saj
from 8 P.M. till sunrise, but an hour or two of the performance will prohaUj ,
satisfy the English traveller. A full description of the different kinds of pwe i
is given by Shway Yoe in chapter xxix. of The Burman. I



RANGOON.

Arrival. — It may be taken for granted
that the traveller, either from England
or from India, will land at Rangoon,
and it will therefore be convenient first
to describe the principal objects of in-
terest in that cify, and then to mention
a few of the principal tours which can
be made thence to other parts of the
province.

Rangoon if. is the capital of the
province, and the seat of the local
government. In 1852 it was a mere
fishing village. In 1894 it is a city of
about 200,000 inhabitants, having a
trade larger than that of any IncBan
port save only Calcutta and Bombay.
The value of the private sea-borne traie



of Rangoon in 1892-93 was over Rs- 1
186 millions. Twenty years ago it |
was under Rs. 46 millions. DoiiBgl
the same period the population I
increased from about 90,000 to ab(
200,000 souls. The principal o\^
of interest in and around Rangoon i
be classified as follows : —

1. The pagodas and monasteries.

2. The Bazaars and native shopa

3. The rice, timber, and oil worbi|

4. The public buildings.

5. The cantonments and lakes.

6. The remains at Syriam.

(1) PAGODAS AND MONAST
There are numerous pagodas m 1
about Rangoon. The Shtoe Bttgeiki
the SuU deserve special mentioi^



d by Google



\



JolmllarCJuilamanr 8, Co. tSa^



Digitized by VjOOQIC



RANGOON



421



great Shwe Dagon Pagoda is the

most venerable, the finest, and the most
universally visited of all places of
'worship in In do China. Its peculiai*
sanctity is due to the fact, that it is the
only pagoda known to Buddhists, which
is credited with containing actual relics,
not only of Gaudama, but of the three
"Bnddhas who preceded him in this
world. Hence it attracts countless
pilgrims, not only from all parts of
Burma, but also from Cambodia, Siam,
Corea, and Ceylon. It is situated
about 2 m. from the Strand, and may
be reached either by steam tramway
(chiefly used by natives) or by ticca
gharry. The stately pile stands upon
a mound, partly natural and partly
artificial, which has been cut into two
rectangular terraces one above the
other ; each side, as in the case of all
pagodas, facing one of the cardinal
points of the compass. The upper
terrace, which has been carefully
levelled and paved and repaved by the
pious, rises 166 ft. from the level of
the ground, and is 900 ft. long by 686
wide. The ascent was by four flights
of brick steps, one opposite the centre
of each face — but the western face has
been closed by the fortifications built
by the English conqueror to dominate
the town and secure the pagoda, where
there was so much desperate fighting
in the Burmese wars. The southern
ascent is that most frequently used.
At the foot are two gigantic leogryphs,
built of brick and covered with plaster.
From them up to the platform the long
stairs are covered by a rising series
of handsomely-carved teak roofs, sup-
ported on huge wood and masonry
pillars. The heavy cross-beams and
the panelling are in many places em-
bellished with frescoes, representing
scenes in the life of Gaudama and his
disciples, and with hideously curious
representations of the tortures of the
wicked. The steps themselves are ex-
ceedingly primitive and dilapidated,
consisting in some parts of broad stone
flags, and in others of simple sun-dried
bricks, worn by the feet of myriads of
worshippers. On either side beggars
congregate, exhibiting, in many cases,
horrible leprous sores. There are also



numerous stalls, at which gold leaf,
flowers, and other ofl^erings, may be
purchased, besides a considerable
variety of other articles. The stairs
debouch on a broad, open, flagged
space which runs all round the pagoda,
and is left free for worshippers. From
the centre of this springs, from ' an
octagonal plinth, the pagoda itself. It
has a circumference of 1355 ft., and
rises to a height of about 370 feet, or
a little higher than St Paul's Cathedral
It is profusely gilt from base to summit,
and is surmounted by the usual gilt
iron work ti or "umbrella," on each of
whose many rings haug multitudes of
gold and silver jewelled bells. This ti
was presented by Mindon Min, the late
king of Burma, and was placed on the
summit at a cost of about £50, 000. It
was constructed by voluntary labour,
and subscriptions in money and jewels,
with which the vane and uppermost
band are richly studded, flowed in
from all parts of Burma. A few years
ago the whole pagoda was regilt, and
the U was then lowered to the plat-
form, and replaced, renovated, and
with many costly jewels added. At
the comers of the basement are some-
what Assyrian-like figures of Manot-
thiha — creatures with two bodies and
one head, half lion, half man, with
huge ears and ruffled crest — and all
round about are stone figures of lions
displaying an ample show of teeth be-
tween their grinning lips. The tale is
that long years ago a king's son, who
had been abandoned in the forest, was
found by a lioness and suckled by her.
When the prince grew to man's estate
he left his foster-mother, and swam a
broad river to escape from her. The
tender mother's heart burst when he
reached the other side, and she died ;
and, in remembrance of her love, lions'
figures are placed at the foot of all
pagoda steps, and round the building
itself.

The four chapels at the foot of the
pagoda are adorned by colossal figures
of the sitting Buddha, and in the
farthest recess, in a niche of its own,
is a still more goodly figure, the thick
gilding darkened in many places by
th« fumes of thousands of hunting

Digitized by VjOOQIC



422



BURMA



India



tapers and candles. Hundreds of
Gaudamas, large and small, sitting,
standing, and reclining, white and
black, of alabaster, son-dried clay, or
wood, surround and are propped up on,
the larger images. High stone altars
for the offering of rice and flowers
stand before the lions, interspersed
with niche altars for burnt -offerings.
On the outer edge of the platform are
a host of small pagodas, each with its
ti; Uizaungs, image-houses overflowing
with the gifts of generations of pilgrims ;
figures of Buddha in single low stone
chapels ; tall posts (called tagundaing),
flaunting from which are long cylind-
rical streamers of bamboo framework,
pasted over with paper depicting scenes
from the sacred history, and often in-
scribed with pious invocations from
the offerer, or surrounded by the sacred
Jientha (Brahminy goose), the emblem
of the Talaings, or the kalaweikt the
crane of the Burmese. Interspersed
among these are multitudes of bells of
all sizes. The bells are hung on stout
crossbeams, and beside them lie deers'
antlers and wooden stakes with which
the worshipper strikes them as he
passes, and so calls the attention of
nats and men to his acts of piety. In
the N.E. corner, covered by a gaily
decorated wooden shed, hangs a bell
of enormous size, inside which half a
dozen men can stand. It was pre-
sented by King Tharrawaddy in 1840,
and is said to weigh 42^ tons, and to
be the third largest bell in the world.
It bears a long inscription recounting
the merits gained by the monarch who

g resented it. The bell has a curious
istoiy. After the second Burmese
war tne English made an attempt to
carry it off to Calcutta as a trophy,
but by some mishap it was sunk to
the bottom of the Rangoon river. The
English engineers failed to raise it.
The Burmans after some years begged
that the sacred bell might be restored
to them, if they could recover it. The
petition was granted with a sneer ; but
they set to work, got it out, and
carried it in triumph to the place
where it now hangs. It would be
impossible to describe in any detail
|he myriad objects of interest which



are gathered on the pagoda platfcvm ;
but the traveller should not fail to
examine the magnificent carving at
the head of the eastern ascent, nor
that on the canopy of the colossal
recumbent figure of Gaudama on the
western face of the platform. The
carving and inlaid glass work on all
four of the chapels attached to the
pagoda itself deserve notice, the carving
over the eastern chapel being particu-
larly curious, inasmuch as it appears
to be illustrative of the capture of the
pagoda by the English. The British
soldiers with their rifles, and theii
officers each holding a telescope to his
eye, are clearly recognisable on the
highest tier, while on a lower tier the
defeated Burmese show little sign of
despondency. In the N.E. comer of
the platform will be found the graves
of certain ofiicers killed in the second
Burmese war. To the W. of the plat-
form is the Government ArsenaL At
the base of the pagoda hill are many
monasteries embowered in groves of
palmyra palms and shady trees, and to
the S. is a small convent of nuns, not
far from the Rest-House built by the
King of Siam for pilgrims from his
dominions.

The platform is never deserted.
Even long after midnight the voice
of the worshipper may be heard in
the night air chanting his pious
aspirations, while on feast days the
laughing, joyous crowd of men and
maidens in their gay national dress
makes the platform of the Shwedagon
one of the finest sights in the world.
The visitor should, if possible, take an
interpreter with him, and should pro-
vide himself with a few rupees. He
can then, if he pleases, have his fortune
told by one of the numerous sayaSj
who are always to be found on the
platform ; or he can buy for a rupee
or two one of the (Quaint triangular
gongs used by the religious mendicants
to attract the attention of the pious,
or supply himself with gold lea^
prayer flags, flowers, or snecimens of
the curious marionettes and other toys
which are offered for sale on the steps
and on the platform.

Buddhists fix the date of the erection

Digitized by VjOOQIC



RANGOON



423



of the Shwedagon pagoda at 588 b.c.;
but state that the site was sacred for
cycles before, since the relics of the
tliree preceding Buddhas were found
interred when the two Talaing brothers,
Pic and Tapaw, came with their
precious eight hairs of Gaudama to the
sacred hill. The original pagoda is
said to have been only 27 ft. high,
and to have attained its present height
by being repeatedly cased with an
outer covering of bncks several feet in
thickness. The shrine has remained
unaltered in size and shape since 1564,
and probably will never be altered
again. At all times and at all dis-
tances it looks imposing and sublime,
like the religion whose followers have
built it. It looks best, perhaps, on a
blight moonlight night, and the
traveller is advised, if practicable, to
pay a visit to the platform by night
as well as by day. For the above de-
scription of the pagoda the compiler is
mainly indebted to Mr. Scott (Shway
Yoe).

The Sule Pagoda close to the Strand.
This pagoda is well worth a visit,
and the traveller will do well to
ascend the platform and examine the
many curious shrines and figures with
which it is adorned. Among others
will be found a representation of the
Sule Naty the spirit after whom the
pagoda is named, the legendary
guardian of the hill upon which the
Shwedagon pagoda is erected.

The Rangoon Monasteries are very
numerous. They are none of them
of any special interest, and the travel-
ler will probably be satisfied by paying
a brief visit to two or three of them.
Some of the most picturesque are at
Kemmendine, near the rly. sta., and
a visit to them may be combined with
an inspection of the images of Gaudama
in process of manufacture hard by,
and of the shops of the kalaga makers,
which are also at Kemmendine. The
kalaga is a kind of blanket, usually
red, covered with strange figures in
appliqu^ work. KaZagas can some-
tmies be purchased ready-made, but
must usually be ordered beforehand.
They make quaint and handsome



portUres or hangings. There are other
larse monasteries in Godwin Road,
and at Pazundaung (see Index, *' Mon-
asteries ").

(2) The Bazaars and Native Shops.
— The bazaars are a great institution
throughout Burma. They are large
markets, usually the property of the
State or of the Municipality, in
which much of the retail trade of the
country is carried on. They are idso
the ae&t centres of gossip among
the jBurmese. A visit should be
made to the Municipal bazaars on the
Strand Road and at Kemmendine, and
to the Swratee bazaar in China Street.
At the bazaar in Strand Road speci-
mens of thb silks and lacquer work
for which Burma is famous can be
purchased. Apart from the bazaars,
the native shops are not of special
interest At GoanamaVs, in Merchant
Street, tolerable specimens of various
forms of native art may be purchased
at fairly reasonable prices ; but the
traveller who desires the best, or who
wishes to see the articles in process
of manufacture, should go to Godwin
Road for silver work or wood carving.
He will find several shops on the W.
side of the road. For silver work
Maung Shtoe Von and Ma/u/ng Po
Thet are about the best. But these
men maintain little or no stock of
articles for sale. The traveller must
order what he wants and be content
to wait some time before he gets it.
The usual charge for embossed silver
bowls is doubk the weight of the
finished bowl in rupees ; out for the
finest work even higher prices are
charged.

(3) The Bice, Timber, and Oil Works.

— It will be worth while to pay a visit
to one of the great rice mills. Those
oi Messrs. MohrBros,, at Kemmendine,
and of Messrs, Bulloch Bros., at
Pazundaung, are two of the largest, and
permission to visit them can generally
be obtained without diflBculty at the
head ofiices of the firms. Messrs.
Mojcgregor's Timber - yard at Alon
should also be visited. Elephants
are employed there to staok the



d by Google



424



BURMA



India



timber, and it is interesting to observe
tbe intelligence with which they
perform the task. The oil -works of
Messrs, Finlayy Fleming, wnd Co,, at
Pazondaung, are also worth seeing.

(4) The Public Buildings. — Rangoon
cannot at present boast of many fine
public buildings. The Court Houses
and Post and Telegraph Offices and the
Sailor's Home are on the Strand, and
a fine pile of buildings has recently
been erected, at a cost of seven lakhs
of rupees, in Dalhousie Street, for the
accommodation of the Secretariat and
other public offices. This is at present,
undoubtedly, the finest building in
Bangoon and deserves a visit. In
front of it will be noticed the " Ser-
Tices Memorial," a drinking fountain
erected by members of the various
civil services of the Province in memory
of their comrades who were killed or
died during the 8rd Burmese war. The
names of the officers commemorated
are inscribed on the shields surrounding
the fountain. In China Street is the
new Cathedral, and in the Eemmen-
dine Road the new Oovemment House,
a handsome three -storied building,
erected at a cost of six lakhs of rupees.
The architect of these three buildings is
Mr. Hoyne Fox, an engineer of the
Public Works Dept. The Rangoon
College and the Oeneral Hospital,
situated on either side of China Street,
are spacious teak buildings of no special
architectural merit. Travellers inter-
ested in the progress of education in
the East would do well to pay a visit
to the college and also to St. John's
(S.P.G.), ^mmendine (behind the
Gymkhana), St. Paul's (Roman Cath. )
near the new public buildings, and the
Baptist Institutions at Alon. The
Bernard Ftee Library attached to the
Rangoon College contains an interesting
collection of ancient Pali and Burmese
palm-leaf manuscripts, and the Phayre
Museum close by may be considered
worth a visit. The museum is sur-
rounded by the Horticnltural Gardenf*,
in which a small collection of wild
beasts forms a gi-ent attraction for the
Burmese. In these gardens stands
»Uo 9, statue to Sir i^thur Phayre,



first Chief Commissioner of Bnrmi.
The only other statue in Rangoon is
one of H.M. the Queen Empress,
erected in 1895, in Dalhousie S()Qare.
In the N.K comer of the Parade
ground the '^ Jubilee Hall" is nov
in process of erection. Lastly among
public buildings may be mentioned
the Jail in iB.il Road, one of ths
largest in the British Empire, having
accommodation for over 8000 jorisoners.
Permission to inspect the jail may be
obtained by application to the Saper-
intendent. Many dififerent industries
are conducted by the prisoners, and in
the jail salesroom specimens of their
handicraft may be purchased.

(5) The Cantonments and LaJces.—
These afibrd pretty rides and drives,
but the traveller who can obtain no
better means of conveyance than a ticca
gharry will probably not care to drive
far. He should, however, take at least
one drive in Cantonments, say along
Godwin Road, past the Parade groimd
and Race Course, then to the 1. past the
Pegu Club to the Prome Road, then
along Prome Road to Halpin Road (the
" ladies' mile "), along Halpin Road to
the Gymkhana, thence ).iast Government
House alonff Eemmendine Road to the
Great Pagoda, and thence through the
Cantonment gardens and bade by
Voyles Road to the town.

Another drive which should on no
account be omitted is round the Boyal
Lake and through Dalhousie Park.
Those who are prepared to go further
afield oan obtain a very pretty drive
by going along the Prome Road to
the Victoria Lake, which supplies Ban-



Online LibraryJohn Murray (Firm)A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon → online text (page 77 of 87)