Bago vs Maha Ceti

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By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
Translated by
Than Tun Aung

Bago, the royal palace of Hanthawady where King Bayintnaung reigned over, is an ancient city full of ancient heritages.

Bago City is located between 17° 14’ and 17° 50’ of north Latitude and between 96° 24’ and 96° 41’ of east longitude. The 1,121.66 square-mile area of Bago is close to Waw and Thanatpin townships in the east, Hlegu, Taikkyi and Thayawady townships in the west, Kawa Township in the south and DaikU and Letpadan townships in the north.

Among 78 temples and stupas, Shwemawdaw, Kyaikpun, Shwethalyaung, Seinthalyaung, Myathalyaung, Maha Ceti, Koethein Koethan and Daesunpa pagodas are very famous in Bago Township. Likewise, Kanbawzathadi Palace, built in Nandawya Ward of Bago, is an eminent historical replica.

According to the archive papers in the Hanthawady era, a 312 years long period starting from king brothers Thamala and Wimala to King Teiktha was set as the First Hanthawady era, the 186 years period from King Byeenya Oo to King Thushintakaruppi as the second Hanthawady era and the 58 years period from King Tabinshwehti to King Nanda as the third Hanthawady era.

Toungoo era and Bago

In Myanmar history, the Toungoo era was set from 1485 AD to 1600 AD when King Mingyi Nyo, King Tabinshwehti, King Bayintaung and King Nanda reigned over, and historians named such period as the Second Myanmar Empire.

After deteriorating Pinya and Sagaing city-states which emerged after Bagan era, Upper Myanmar revitalized itself centring in Inwa while Lower Myanmar set Hanthawady as a focal point with strong power.

King Mingyi Nyo established Ketumati City on full moon day of Tazaungmone, 872 ME, and King Tabinshwehti reigned over the city from 6th waxing of Nadaw, 892 ME to 1st waning of Kason, 912 ME. After King Tabinshwehti, Bayintnaung became king who established Kanbawzathadi Palace where he came to the throne on 3rd waning of Tabaung 929 ME, according to the New Twinthin History.

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Maha Ceti

Among pagodas in Bago, Maha Ceti built by King Bayintnaung is the highest and largest apart from Shwemawdaw Pagoda.

Travellers who come from Yangon must turn left before the railway overpass of Bago. If they are beyond Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha image, they can see Maha Ceti in Mazin A Ward, west of Bago. The precinct of Ceti is on the 60 acres of land. The 333 feet high and 1,500 feet circumference of Maha Ceti is rounded by the square shape walls. Maha Ceti, Shwemawdaw and Hinthagon pagodas are stretching in a straight line.

The Glass Royal Palace History mentioned building of Maha Ceti by King Bayintnaung in 921 ME in detail. King Bayintnaung allotted funds of K400 to four Mon counsellors of the court namely Byeenya Law, Byeenya Dala, Byeenya Param and Byeenya Kyan Htaw and four Myanmar counsellors of the court namely Thiri Zeya Nawrahta, Thiri Zeya Kyawhtin, Naymyo Kyawhtin and Nanda Kyawhtin to carry out land preparations for construction of the pagoda.

While building the pagoda, King Bayintnaung taking a position in the royal hall, west of the pagoda, controlled construction tasks. The foundation for the pagoda was launched on 5th waxing of Waso, 921 ME and cornerstones were laid on 2nd waning of Waso. The Ceti was surrounded by Zawtikayon Monastery and 40 encircled monasteries. (Prisons of war taken to Bago set fire to all monasteries in Nataw, 926 ME.)

Royal families conveyed sacred relics to be enshrined at the Ceti to Maha Ceti from the royal palace on 14 waxing of Nataw. On the day, Queen Rajadevi gave birth to Raja Dhatukalya princess. Two days later, the reliquary of the pagoda was closed.

According to the Glass Royal Palace History, a total of 21,194 sacred relics were kept in the ruby ceti at first and enveloped by the gold ceti, alloy of gold and copper ceti, silver ceti and bronze ceti. Other 63,380 pieces of sacred relics were also kept in golden, silver and alloy caskets. Moreover, first episode each of treatises of Abhidhamma, Suttanta and Vinaya were described on gold and silver leaves to be enshrined.

The gold statue and that of father, mother, queen, princess, prince and grandprince were enshrined in the Ceti. The enshinement ceremony took place on 15 November 1559 AD. From then onward, enshrinements were held at the 100 elbows high Ceti six times within five months.

On 2nd waning of Pyatho, 922 ME, King Bayintnaung donated his headdress to the pagoda after holding the umbrella hoisting ceremony. A park was built in front of the Ceti with the name of Tavatimsa. The royal hall was dissolved and four Zetawun monasteries and 100 encircled monasteries were built in the precinct of the Ceti. Four main monasteries were decorated with mural paintings on 550 plots of Jatakas. The king donated 53 viss and 5.25 ticals of gold to gilding Thudhamma public rest houses in the precinct of the Ceti. Three tier-roofed buildings were renovated as monasteries. The umbrella of the Ceti fell on the ground in the strong earthquake in 925 ME. So, four counsellors of the court were assigned to re-hoist the umbrella atop the Ceti. Those counsellors of the court hoisted new umbrella atop on the Ceti on 29 January 1567 AD.

In 932 ME, King Bayingnaung donated cash equal to 35 viss and 30 ticals of his body weight to the fund of Maha Ceti as cost for gold. In 940 ME, the umbrella fell down again in shake of the earthquake, and three years later, King Bayintnaung passed away.

After King Bayintnaung, umbrellas of Maha Ceti fell down four times in earthquakes. So, King Nanda hoisted new umbrella atop the Ceti in 950 ME, King Anaukphetlun in 977 ME, King Thalun in 995 ME and King Minye Kyawhtin in 1059 ME, according to the stone inscription on brief history of Maha Ceti in Bago.

Disappeared Ceti

A strong Bago earthquake which shook on 5th waxing of Kason, 1192 ME caused collapse of Maha Ceti from the bell shape structure. Damaged Ceti remained unchanged under bushes for 150 years without repairing. One more earthquake in 1250 ME caused body structure of the Ceti again and the Ceti was set aside from the public scene.
Starting from 1268 ME, Maha Ceti reappeared in the public scene thanks to efforts of broker U Kalar from Yangon, U Lu Haung, U Lu Gyi, U Bo Thet, U Nge and U Tun Win from Bago together with Bago dwellers. In 12 February 1979, a new umbrella could be hoisted atop the Ceti.

Currently, Maha Ceti is one of tourist destinations in Bago. Not only local Buddhist people but also Buddhists from Thailand often pay homage to the Ceti.

The victorious land can be seen in right side at the entrance to the Ceti. Such plot is under preservation in successive eras with erecting signboard bearing the victorious land of King Bayintnaung. Maha Ananda laterite temple in replica of Bagan Ananda temple can be seen in northwest of the platform.

Historical Maha Ceti built more than 450 years ago suffered from impacts of natural disasters and destructions of invaders. In 962 ME, Ngazinka took the umbrella donated by King Nanda from the Ceti to Thanlyin.

In 1188 ME, rebel leader Nga Sap Nge persuaded more than 300 Mon, Shan and Yun people who came down from servants donated by King Anaukphetlun to Maha Ceti to Thanlyin. Then, more than 60 persons including old servants of the Ceti came to Bago from Thanlyin and took out jewellery items from the umbrella.
Thanks to maintenance and safeguarding of generous people, historic stupas and temples can be seen now across Myanmar. Among them, Maha Ceti in Bago is an ancient, historic pagoda.

References:
Glass Royal Palace History
Myanmar Encyclopaedia Volume VI
New Twinthin Maha History (Volume II), (Maha Sithu U Tun Nyo)
Search of old Bago history (Maung Yin Hline, Pyinma Myaing)

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