Amarapura, three tombs of kings, and Bodaw Phaya
By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
Amarapura established in the Konbaung era which lasted from 1752 to 1885 AD has been distinct as an old royal palace of Myanmar till today. Heritages in the Konbaung era such as U Bein Bridge, Pahtotawgyi, Naypukhan Buddha Image, Kyauktawgyi Buddha Image, Shwekyetyet, and Shwekyetkya located in Amarapura Township are crowded with travelers. However, most of the travelers do not notice the tombs of three kings in the Konbaung era in Amarapura.
Amarapura City became a royal palace in the Konbaung era two times—once in the reign of King Badon from 1783 to 1823 AD and another in the time of King Thayawady from 1837 to 1857 AD.
At present, Amarapura is included in Mandalay District of Mandalay Region, sharing a border with Mandalay. Amarapura Township on 80.11 square miles of land is formed with two towns as Amarapura and Myitnge, two wards, and 170 villages from 42 village-tracts.
The township shares border with Patheingyi and Pyigyidagun townships in the east, TadaU and Sagaing townships in the west, Singaing Township in the south, and Chanmyathazi Township in the north.
Amarapura, the native of Pariyatti treatise compiler venerable Ashin Janakabhivamsa and venerable Mogok abbot U Vimala who established a large number of Mogok meditation centers across the nation, is famous with masterpieces of silk industries and weaving production.
King Badon who established Amarapura City
King Badon called Bodaw Phaya, as well as Maung Waing, was one of the sons of King Alaungmintayar. After assassinating nephew King Sinku, King Badon came onto the throne in Inwa on 11 February 1782 and became the sixth king of the Konbaung dynasty.
King Badon drove golden and silver stakes in seven sites for the city, moat, royal palace, Shwegu, monastery, Pitakat chamber and lake on 20 December 1782 to establish the royal palace in Htipaungka area rounded by Taungthaman Lake, Dokhtawady River, Shwetachaung canal, Tatthay Lake and Aungpinle Lake. Starting from 14 January 1783, seven royal buildings were constructed simultaneously. The royal city was formed with 12 gates, 35 turrets, and tier-roofed building on four wings.
King Badon exited Amarapura City from U Hnein Gate on the east wing on 1 June 1783 and went around the city clockwise to occupy it. The king ruled the city as the longest reign in the Konbaung dynasty. The king took Raja consecration at the royal palace in Amarapura on 17 May 1783.
Professor of History Department Sayagyi Dr. Than Tun reviewed Inwa was the best royal palace in upper Myanmar. The move of the royal palace from Inwa to Amarapura caused crises and hardships to the State and the people.
With farsightedness, King Badon ordered to enumerate a State census to address all issues of the country. After collecting number of the households across the nation, data on areas of towns and villages, and several towns and villages were ordered to put them on record on the toddy palm leaves.
Thanks to the census of King Badon, everybody knew there were 1,831,457 population in the mainland and 170,000 in Rakhine and Taninthayi regions, totaling 2,001,467 across the nation.
Record-breaker King Badon (Bodaw Phaya)
King Badon called Bodawphaya, as well as Maung Waing, could break various records mentioned in Myanmar history, according to the book with the title of Searching Konbaung. King Badon in the longest-lasting reign in the Konbaung era passed the ordinary life for 38 years and ruled the country from the royal palace for 37 years. Number of queens, lower grade queens and royal relatives were abundant, breaking records. The king had had 54 queens and wives and 137 offspring in addition to 500 royal relatives.
King Badon possessed the widest area of Myanmar along with the Konbaung era. He contributed to casting the largest bronze bell named Mingun Bell and built the massive Mingun Stupa which was not completed. When he became king, he accepted the longest honorary title with 33 letters in Myanmar language— Thiri Pavara Vijaya Nantayasa Tribhavanaditaya Dhipati Pandita Maha Dhammarajadhiraja.
In classifying the two portions of the Konbaung era, the first one was set from ascending the throne of King Alaungphaya to the time of King Badon till his demise. Veteran journalist U Nyo Mya remarked that the second portion comprised the time of ascending the throne of King Bagyidaw to the time of King Thibaw captured away. The first portion for 66 years in 133- year Konbaung era glittered as the sunrise period and the second portion for 66 more years was similar to the sunset period of the Konbaung era.
Three graves of kings
The mausoleums of three kings in the Konbaung dynasty buried in Amarapura can be seen as urn pagodas. King Badon (1782-1819 AD) passed away on 5 June 1819, Saturday, and his grandson the crown prince buried the remains of the king at the site, northeast of the court in the royal palace on 7 June.
The grave of King Bodawphaya took a position, north of Shwesakar Pagoda southeast of the old royal palace in Amarapura. Anyone can pay a visit to the grave along the circular road of Taungthaman Lake or through the gate to the military unit from the southern gate of the walls. In the 80 by 80 feet precinct of the pagoda based on the 50 feet diameter structure is not the urn pagoda of King Badon. Only the grave with a tier-roofed building at the southwest corner of the platform is for the king. A stone plaque bearing salient points of the king was erected in front of the tier-roofed building.
After King Badon had passed away, his grandson King Sagaing (1819-1837 AD) ascended to the throne. The dethroned king passed away on 15 October 1846 under the care of his younger brother King Thayawady. The remains of King Sagaing were cremated inside the compound of Amarapura Royal Palace.
The brick tier-roofed pagoda of King Sagaing is located on the circular road of the lake in front of Shwelinpin Pagoda in Pyatthatkyi Village, southwest corner of Amarapura Royal Palace. The tier-roofed building of the king faces Taungthaman Lake, in the same direction of the place where his first queen Nanmadaw Mei Nu was killed into the water. However, some experts assumed Nanmadaw Mei Nu was killed at Thayettabin graveyard in Amarapura.
A sitting Buddha image was kept in the pagoda with three arches based on the 20 by 20 feet brick structure in the 40 by 40 feet precinct. A stone plaque bearing the salient points of King Sagaing was erected beside the entrance to the tomb tier-roofed building.
King Thayawady (1837- 1846 AD) who dethroned King Sagaing passed away on 17 November 1846, one month later the event which King Sagaing passed away. His son King Bagan cremated the remains near the time signal drum, northeast of the court.
The tomb of King Thayawady can be seen in the centre of the ancient Amarapura royal palace. Some experts assumed that as the tomb of King Thayawady close to the northward of present Basic Education High School of the military unit was similar to the tombs of royal families in Yadanabon era, the king’s tomb might be rebuilt. Historical researcher Yan Naung Soe (writer Ya Naung, Dwe) wrote the original tomb was supported by four posts on the brick structure with the use of tier-roof.
King Mindon established Yadanabon Mandalay Royal Palace in the late Konbaung era and moved his throne from Amarapura. As such, Amarapura remained an ancient royal palace. Ancient buildings including pagodas and stupas built by King Badon and King Thayawady in their reigns still exist in Amarapura. As heritages and Myanmar cultural evidence in Konbaung era as past images of Myanmar history were preserved in Amarapura, ancient edifices in Amarapura including tombs of three kings in Konbaung dynasty is proving the high value of Myanmar history.