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.
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”.
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.
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.