TOBY

Yangon Walks 1. The Strand Road

Strand Road Yangon

Strand Road Yangon

Dagon  to Yangon.  The former Mon settlement of Dagon was renamed “Yangon”  (which can be translated as “End of Strife” ) by the victorious King Alaungphaya to celebrate the end of Mon insurrection against Burmese rule in 1755. Yangon,  including the teak wood stockade, covered an area of seventy-five acres and lay roughly between the Sule Pagoda to the north and the Strand to the south, Mogul Street/Shwe Bontha Street to the west and Judah Ezekiel Street/Bo Aung Gyaw Street to the east. Although there were few Europeans there were Armenians, Moguls, Parsis, Hindus, Jews, Chinese, and other foreigners. Following the 1824-26 Anglo Burmese War, the British occupied the town for two years. The war of 1852 saw Yangon become a British possession, and eventually the capital of Burma.

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Mandalay Palace – the old royal capital of Burma (Part 2) – the reproduction buildings.

King Thibaw and Queen Supalayat - statues at Mandalay Palace

King Thibaw and Queen Supalayat – statues at Mandalay Palace

The palace followed the pattern of it’s predecessor palaces in Burma, 12 gates named for the signs of zodiac, and square in shape, this royal  residence was the largest (in acreage) ever constructed in Burma. Some of the original buildings were of considerable antiquity – even though the palace was built in 1858, many of the wooden structures were dismantled and reassembled royal buildings previous sited in Innwa ( Ava) and Amarapura – former royal capitals. This was also the custom of the court and even the citizens of the former capitals  – if the monarch moved then they had top move as well. –

From the battlements the western approach road inside the palace leads towards  the reproduction  royal buildings. When this site was the royal palace this was the approach to the rear of the palace complex as the buildings originally faced east  (the most auspicious direction in Burmese belief).

 

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A trip around Mawlamyaing ( Moulmein) including Thanbyuzayat and Kyaikkami (Amherst).

Kiplng's PagodaIf you are staying in Mawlamyine and get up early, you can have a fruitful visit by driving south to to various locations near the city and then return to explore the the sites of old Moulmein itself.

After the first Anglo Burmese War the British took the territory of Tenessarim  and the Arakan, which were put under the direct rule of British India as provinces, and the  capital became Moulmein ( Mawlamyine) .

There are many old buildings, if you know where to look. Burma is changing fast and even this former  back-water is humming with energy.

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Battle of the Sittang Bridge -19 February to 23 February 1942

 

Buddha Hill, Sittang Bridge

Buddha Hill, Sittang Bridge

It was a decisive victory for Japan . Field Marshal Sir William Slim, who took Burma command soon after the battle called it “the decisive battle of the first campaign” and this it  is often remarked on as a key event in the loss of Burma for the British. It resulted in the immediate loss of moral to both military and civilians alike, which, together with very obvious mismanagement of the battle (resulting in approximately two thirds of the British Indian forces being left on the wrong side of the bridge once it was blown) led to key changes in British command. Burmese nationalist rejoiced.

It was the inevitable result of the conflicting strategies of General Hutton, who wanted defence in depth of all major areas, and of his subordinate, General Smyth V.C. who wanted tighter defence of strategic locations, all governed by General Wavell’s overall lack luster authority. Read more

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Battle of the Taukkyan Roadblock 7th March 1942.

Taukkyan cemetery

Taukkyan Commonwealth War Cemetery

This short battle near the present Commonwealth war cemetery north of Yangon in Burma was costly to the retreating British, but a lucky escape for the main garrison which could have been  killed or captured, if the Japanese had not strictly followed their orders to capture Rangoon ( Yangon), and avoid other actions or objectives.

The previous commanders in the field for the British, Smyth and Hutton, had been replaced following the debacle of the Sittang Bridge and General Harold Alexander had taken command. Following General Wavell’ orders, he did nothing to save Rangoon. When he took command it was too late anyway.

The situation was already a disaster – thousands of civilians fleeing north east to India – easy prey to dacoits ( bandidts), and now the military garrison of Rangoon followed

 

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The battle of Shwedaung – the retreat of 1942

 

The Buddha with the Golden Spectacles, Shwedaung The battle of Shwedaung was a series of grim incidents during the British army’s retreat north in   March 1942.  When the British garrison evacuated Rangoon the majority headed towards Pyay (Prome). They were harried all the way by the advancing Japanese, especially from the air.

There were a series of incidents which led up to this battle – the British had  their armour and and trucks “glued” to the roads (  trains had ceased to operate) whilst the Japanese exhibited far more maneuverability  – their shock troops were lightly armed and could move fast across mountain and stream.However the allied press making the best of this dreadful situation.

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Mandalay – the old royal capital of Burma ( part 3) – some other structures

King Mindon's Sabbath Hall, one of his favourite retreats to hear the Buddhist scriptures

King Mindon’s Sabbath Hall, one of his favourite retreats to hear the Buddhist scriptures

There are several buildings in the palace which survived wartime destruction  but most are  off limits to foreigners as the former Mandalay Palace is still a military garison, and some of the original barracks of the former British garrison of Fort Dufferin are still used. The Japanese, when they occupied the base, spent much of their time using prisoners to  create a network of tunnels which are still used as storage areas.

The palace is unique in Burmese monarchy’s former palaces in that it contains tombs – royal tombs, which previous to King Mindon’s reign was thought unlucky to have within the “royal compound”.

The tombs are also an example of the complex nature of the relationships within the royal family. In the future we may have more access to the buildings of the palace. Today we shall look at the tombs of deceased royalty Read more

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Mandalay Palace – the old Royal capital of Burma ( Part 1) The wall and the gates

Mandalay Hill from the south

Mandalay Hill from the south

Mandalay was established in 1857 on the orders of King Mindon on the apparent prophesy that a new capital would come into existence on the 2,400th anniversary of Buddhism. In reality Mindon wished to move from the unlucky capital  Amarapura  from which since 1825 the Burmese monarchs had seen their fortunes decline, especially after two unsuccessful wars against the British.

Indeed, Burmese kings frequently changed the locations of their capital city, much to the inconvenience of their subjects. Amarapura had been the capital during the periods 1783–1821 and 1842–1857. Now it was Mandalay.

The capital was founded on Brahmin and  Buddhist principals, and a perfect match with these was made  with  Mandalay Hill being behind the proposed palace. In Beijing (Peking) they had to build a hill according to Feng Shui for the “Forbidden City”.

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Battles for Bago ( Pegu) 1942 and 1945

 

Kyait Pun Zaytawon Monastery, Bago

Kyait Pun Zaytawon Monastery, Bago

In March 1942 there was a large garrison of British Indian troops in Bago (Pegu), one of the largest remaining since the 17th Divison had been scattered and decimated at the Sittang Bridge disaster. A decision has been made not to contest Yangon(Rangoon) which was quickly evacuated and the Pegu garrison evacuated the city to join the Yangon troops heading north. The  Pegu troops included infantry and armour which met the Japanese at the towns of Paya Gyi and Hlegu , where they  were successful against the Japanese Ha-Go tanks and “sticky bomb” molotov cocktails, and they pushed through the road block erected to join the retreat north. It was a tactical victory to the British Indian troops – rare during this period.

By April 1945 the advancing allied troops had swept away much of the resitance of the Japanese who were in disorganised retreat towards the Sittang  and Salween rivers – hoping to get to Thailand.

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Atumashi (Incomparable) Monastery in Mandalay Burma

The decorated entrance of the Atumashi Monastery

The decorated entrance of the Atumashi Monastery

King Mindon entrusted the Atumashi monastery and the monastic establishment to Pakhan Saydaw U Nandasarasirisadhammadhaja  Mahadammarajaguru as abbot.

The king visited to monastery in state and dedicated it by making a libation to the main Buddha image on 30 May 1877.

The monastery was adorned with carved figurines and floral designs, and the building was finally completed in 1878.

After the British took Mandalay it was used as a garrison church and then as a barracks.

It then suffered an even more dreadful fate.

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