Sat Dan Cave and Sat Dan Lake
In Kayin and Mon States where there are plenty of natural limestone-mountains, caves such as ‘Bayintnyi Cave’, ‘Yathaypyan Cave’, ‘Kawtgone Cave’, ‘Waepyan Cave’ and ‘Sat dan Cave’ are the famous tourist attractions for those from home and abroad. In those caves wonders of nature, Buddhist cultural heritages and antiques can be viewed. Most of the caves are the cul-de-sac ones with no exits at the ends. Some are the ones with both entrances and exits.
To the Sat dan Cave
Out of the natural caves in Kayin State, the Sat dan Cave has both entrance and exit. Its entrance is the widest and its length in the cave is the longest, among all the caves there. In Eastern Poe Karen Language, the Sat dan Cave is called ‘Htant Kamart Khamite’. ‘Htant’ is meant for a cave, ‘Kamart’ for a lake and ‘Khamite’ for the ‘Kant Eit’ tree. That’s why it means a lake near to the lake where ‘Kant Eit’ trees are growing. The Sat dan Cave is situated at the southern end of Zwegabin Mountain Ranges, to be exact, in the village of ‘Kawt-War-Hsu’ of ‘Kawt-Mu-Tar’ village tract, 20 miles far from the south of Hpa-an town. As the surrounding area of the mountain is at the lower level, water usually inundates around the foot of the mountain in rainy seasons.
A study tour group comprising of post-graduate diploma trainees of Yangon University visited the Sat dan Cave via ‘Ein-du’ village on the motorway, east of ‘Zwegabin’ mountain. The study group proceeded to ‘Kawt-War-Hsu’ village, 5 miles far from Eindu along the red earth road. After passing the villages—‘Kawt-Seinban’, ‘Ahtet’, ‘Lar-LaMein’ and ‘Kawt-Thein-Khee’ the study tour group reached the foot of the Sat dan Cave, at the end of the wide lake.
The Sat dan Cave is accessible through several routes, via ‘Ein-du’ village, 13 miles far from Hpa-An, or Hpa-an—DonYin motorway in the west of Zwegabin mountain or ‘ShwePyi-Taw-Kin’ branch road after passing Jai (Zar-Tha-Pyin) Bridge for those who come from Mawlamyaing. In rainy seasons, we can go by road in the west of Zwegabin Ranges, and we can reach the Sat dan Cave by boat, on arrival at the village of ‘Kawt-Tha-Loe’ 10 miles far from ‘Hpa-an’.
Now, being the rainy season, the open space where motor vehicles coming to the Sat dan Cave used to park in summer is being inundated with water. The lake covering 20 acres, which is situated at the southern part of the mountain is nearly always flooded with water. The lake is joined to ‘Hsin-Hai-Taung’ called ‘HtantBai-Nart’ and ‘Inn-Gyi—the Lake’ in the south. Local people used to say that the said Lake had been the one in which the Buddha-to-be King Sat dan Elephant took pleasure by playing in this lake. So, the Sat dan Lake had been named after the King Sat dan Elephant.
At the threshold of the stairways at the entrance of the Sat dan Cave, two white elephant statues with 12 feet each in height can be found. Those white-elephant statues were inaugurated on the full moon day of Tabaung, 1339 ME. Two signboards which read in Myanmar/English Bilinguals ‘These caves are parts of our national heritage, hence the need to preserve them,’ had been erected nearby. Also, on the signboards ecosystem of limestone, benefits which result from the limestone mountain and causes which can ruin limestone-mountains were described with color photos.
We have to climb up along the 3-tired stairways floored with enameled plates to the entrance of the Sat dan Cave, which is 50 feet high above the ground. The entrance of the Cave is about 100 feet in width and it is 70-100 feet in height. The Cave faces east, so it gets light and sunshine which makes the Cave dry and clean. In rainy seasons, as there is leakage of some water in the Cave, it is humid in it, or otherwise in summer seasons.
Buddha Images on Clay Tablets of the Sat dan Cave
At the side of the mountain and the entrance of ‘Kawtgone’ and ‘Yathaypyan’ Caves, Buddha Images are mostly found. Likewise, in the Sat dan Cave as well miniature Buddha Images on clay tablets can be found to have been donated on the interior wall of the Cave at the upper right corner of the cave entrance of width. Some Buddha Images on clay tablets of the Sat dan Cave had come off to destruction. Now, two big empty spots can be seen 20 feet high from the ground, at the north of the Cave, in which clay images seem to have been pasted on the wall. The upper spot is estimated at 6 feet in length, and the lower one at nearly 8 feet. At a conservative estimate, there will be some 1000 of Buddha Images of 2 and a half inches each in height, in those spots.
After inspecting the broad entrance of the cave around, we can enter the cave so that we can go out from the exit of the cave. At the end of the 19th brick stairway at the south-west corner of the Cave, we started to get into the cave. In rainy seasons, the whole inner part of the Cave is wet with water, and the ground surface is smooth. Previously, the path in the cave was completely dark. Yet, roads had been paved newly and lights had been installed. From the entrance of the Sat dan Cave to its exit, it is 4 furlongs long.
The acid which contains in rainwater erodes the limestone mountain. Over a long time, stalagmites and caves had been caused along the cracks. Underground current water as well as caused underground springs. Limestone-mountains situated near to sea coasts caused caves due to the lapping of sea waves and touching with saline water constantly. Similarly, the erosion of underground water usually causes caves. Most of the natural caves are tunnels that go into sides of mountains. Depending upon situations of locations human beings in the Stone Age used to have lived in convenient Caves while animals and beasts lived in some caves.
Caves and their surrounding areas
In the natural limestone caves in Kayin State, millions of bats live. Bats are biological species that control the ecosystem of the surrounding areas of the caves. In the Sat dan Cave, there are seven kinds of bat species and thirteen kinds of invertebrate animals living. Bats feed on crop-destroying insects in agricultural farms of the surrounding areas. Simultaneously, they help crops to pollinate and spread seeds. Feces of bats are excellent natural fertilizers and it is also the feed for some living things residing in the cave and the lake.
While going through the cave, we saw bats resting in groups whenever we looked at towards the roof of the cave with the help of the torchlight as we heard bats making high pitched squeaks. Due to the flashlight of the torchlight, bats suddenly flew, but in a very short period, they went back to their original places. We saw some colored images of palms on the wall somewhere in the cave. Those are not the murals drawn by people in the Stone Age which were found in the ‘Pyadarlin Cave’. They are graffiti scrawled by those who came into the cave, by coating their palms with yellow soil on the floor of the cave and pressing it onto the wall.
No evidence was found that the Sat dan Cave had not been a place Stone Age people resided, though the water was available easily there. ‘Pyadarlin Cave’ situated in ‘YwaNgan’ township, southern Shan State could be found out to be a place where Stone Age people lived, according to the result by using half-life period method over some pieces of charcoal, ashes and left-over found in the cave. It will have yet to make research as to whether Stone Age people lived in the Sat dan Cave or not.
We saw the light, which comes through the roof of the cave, shining along the route while passing into the cave. In some places, fluorescent tubes were found to have been installed. At the time when we arrived, we had an experience of groping in the dark for nearly one hour as there was no electric light. At the end of the Cave, we saw the light coming through the roof of the cave suddenly, we could not see even the stairways.
At the exit of the Sat dan Cave, we saw water drops leaking continuously from the roof. Though we cannot know how many years it has been dropping like this, we saw many potholes on the floor of the cave. When we walked down along the stairways from the exit of the cave, 3 boats were found to have been moored at the shoreline of the lake of great width. We can see around the Cave by boat, and we can hire the boat for the return trip.
While going across the Lake, we essentially had to pass the ‘Htun-Htunt-Phan’ tunnel, in which King Sat dan Elephant used to play for fun. ‘Htun-Htunt-Phan’ is situated at 300 feet far from the south of the Sat dan Cave, and 200 feet high above the ground. The tunnel goes straight through from the entrance to exit. Being in the rainy season, water nearly touched with the roof of the cave. If passengers are sitting in the boat, the heads will hit against the roof. So, we had to lie down close to the hull of the boat. As the water surface is only 2 and a half feet far away from the cave’s roof, the ferry driver lying with face upward in the boat had to push the roof of the cave with hands, up to the other end. It has been learned that the lower tunnel is 30 feet deep and 150 feet long. While crossing the tunnel, bats were seen clinging to the cave’s roof.
Htun-Htunt-Phan is situated in the north of the Lake. At 450 feet far from the south of the Lake is Hsin-Hai-Taung, which is called ‘Htant-Bai-Nart’ in Kayin language. It is 200 feet high. At the height of 30 feet between the two mountains, there is an entrance of the cave measuring 30 feet in width.
While crossing the wide lake after passing ‘Htun-HtuntPhan’ Cave the boat was rowed slowly. As the water is too shallow at some places, boatmen moved their boats by pushing the lake bottom with the bamboo pole. As the lake water was so clear that duckweeds growing at the bottom of the lake were seen, as were lotus and hyacinth on the surface of the lake. Aquatic creatures are living in the lake. In 2014, it was designated as the sanctuary, and catching fishes and other creatures living in water were strictly prohibited. It is pleasant and peaceful to travel in a boat in the lake with the green Sat dan Cave in the background.
As the region of the Sat dan Cave with a rarity of damages to the natural environment can control the ecosystem very well, it became a famous tourist attraction for travelers from home and abroad. Limestone-mountains adjust the connection of the currents of the watersheds. And, the underground currents are also filling water resources. By maintaining the favorable ecosystem of the Sat dan Cave, the natural caves will last for many years, with the progress of the tourism industry.