- By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
I left my home town more than 40 years ago. The last time I went there was more than 11 years ago. My home town Kyaiklat was in Ayeyawady Region Pyapon District. Kyaiklat also had a well known Pali name Dhamma Pala. Dhamma means “teachings of Buddha” and Pala means “maintaining or preserving.”
During the colonial era, Ledi Sayadaw U Nyanadaja wrote his famous poetic prose Nwa-myitta-sa (Affection to cow) encouraging Buddhists not to kill cattle and eat beef and later he led a successful beef boycotts. Ledi Sayadaw came to Kyaiklat on Myanmar Era (ME) 1264 (1902) and preached about non-killing and consumption of beef. The entire town folks follow the Sayadaw’s sermon according to the town’s other name of Dhamma Pala resulting in municipal cancelling cattle slaughterhouse license in Kyaiklat because there was absolutely no consumption of beef.
Kyaiklat was also made famous by its town folks consisting of Maha Gita (Great Classic Music) U Pyone Cho, movie director U Thukha, writer Dagon Taya and musician Sein Bo Tint.
Collapsing pagoda or Kyaiklat
According to Ministry of Home Affair’s records and Myanmar encyclopedia, Kyaiklat starts as a village established in 1840 by ethnic Mons who migrated from Bago Region and other parts of Ayeyawady Region. There was a 9 yard high pagoda on the river bank west of the village. Due to river bank erosion the pagoda collapsed into the river. In Mon language, Kyaik Loid means collapsing pagoda and as time goes by the word became Kyaiklat and that was where the name of the town came from.
All had accepted the fact that the name Kyaiklat came from the word literally meaning collapsing pagoda but there were several versions on which pagoda that collapsed. The first was between No. 6 road and No. 7 road on Bogyoke Street in the present day Kyaiklat Town. The second was in Ward 5, formerly known as Pho Taw Gon. Both had pagoda that had collapsed.
Finally on the eastern most part of Kyaiklat, at a river confluence that was locally called “Chun Htate” also had a pagoda that had collapsed. This was where boats to Maubin, Dedaye, Twantay, Pyapon, Bogale, Wakema and Mawlamyinegun anchored to wait for tide and wind.
Whichever pagoda was the source of the town’s name, the name Kyaiklat inarguably came from the word “collapsing pagoda.”
Kyaiklat region in the history
In 1861, the village became a town and town commissioner Mr Maxwell and secretary U Sein Htoo plotted the town plot. It was a small town that was only 1.22 mile wide situated on Pantaput Creek in the delta area of Ayeyawady River. Kyaiklat Township covers an area of 274.312 sq. mile and had six wards, 87 village tracts with 421 villages. It was bordered by Dedaye Township in the east, Wakema and Mawlamyinegun townships in the west, Pyapon Township in the south and Maubin Township in the north.
In 1875 Kyaiklat Township and Maubin Township were included in Thongwa District. When Pyapon District was formed in 1903, Kyaiklat came under it. Kyaiklat town committee was formed in 1900 and municipal board was formed. On 27 May 1905, the municipal authorities designated Kyaiklat as a town officially.
Kyaiklat Township despite being surrounded and crisscrossed with creeks and rivers was 16.53 ft. above sea level and was rarely flooded or inundated. However, heavy winds and storms in 1972, 1976, 2006 and 2008 causes numbers of deaths to people and livestock as well as causing some material damages.
The region receives more than 100 inches of rain annually, paddy was the main agriculture product while coconut, betel nut, banana and mangoes were also produced. As it was a top rice producing township, the township had 43 major rice mills as well as 202 small scale rice hullers or rice huskers. Rice produced was sent to Yangon and central Myanmar.
Kyaiklat Township annually produces more than 20 million Tins (1 Tin = 40.9148 liter) of paddy, both monsoon and summer, while 79 fish ponds also produced more than 1 million Viss (1 Viss = 1.63293 kg) of fishes.
Kyaiklat Town was a town stretched in an east-west direction with four main roads laid in the east-west direction. The four were Strand Road (now Bogyoke Road), U Sandar Road, U Pyone Cho Road and Maxwell Road. U Sandar was a well known traditional medicine doctor. U Pyone Cho was Maha Gita U Pyone Cho. Maxwell was the town commissioner that plotted the town plot.
According to figures released in March 2017, Kyaiklat Township had a population of 192,392 with the majority being Bama and Kayin.
Prior to 1997, Kyaiklat Township residences used waterways for transport. Travel was by boats and ships. By waterway, Yangon was 48 miles, Maubin was 16 miles and Mawlamyinegun was 45 miles away. In 1997 Yangon-Maubin-Kyaiklat-Bogale road was built and ever since, waterways were used only for transporting goods while people mostly travelled by road.
The township had one technical science school, nine high schools, 29 middle schools and 179 primary schools. Kyaiklat Town had a 50-bed hospital while the township had one station hospital and 41 rural health clinics.
Of the total of 523 pagodas in the township, Tilawka Marazein, Sandamuni and Standing Buddha Image in Kyaiklat Town were the most famous. Sandamuni Buddha image was sculpted on 1st Waxing of Nattaw ME 1281 (22 November 1919). Donor U Tun and Daw Su from Shwe Tha Chaung Village on the opposite bank of the river brought over sculptors from Mandalay to sculpt the Buddha image. The sculpting of the Buddha image took about a year. After the donors passed away, the Buddha image was renovated three times with the last renovation conducted on 9 September 1997.
The 27 ft high Standing Buddha Image on the other hand was sculpted from a single teak log with a diameter of 14 ft 3 inches. The teak log was found drifting in a creek in 1885 and two donors, U Kan Htoo and U Kya Phu fetched wood sculptor U Lun and his team from Mandalay to sculpt it into a standing Buddha image. The process was said to have took about four years. The Standing Buddha Image was placed in Shan Kyaung monastery compound.
In addition to the pagodas, Kyaiklat also had a unique drinking water pond. The pond situated to the south of Kyaiklat was 2,000 ft. long and 750 ft. wide. The pond was dug during the colonial period by the town people and there were no record of the exact year on which it was dug. The entire town folks came out to help again in renovating the pond’s embankment in 1971 and the pond was still in use as a drinking water pond.
Kyaiklat Town given the name Dhamma Pala by Seventh head of Shwekyin Religious Order (Sect) was a peaceful town in Ayeyawady Region. It now had become a place of visit for Yangonites who made a day return visit by car. Kyaiklat town folks who were working or migrated to other towns usually came back to their home town on National Victory Day. This was a new tradition that started several years back probably due to the roads that made travel faster and more convenient.
There were significant changes and development in the roads and buildings of my home town when I went back there after not returning for more than 11 years. But the tradition and habit of offering morning meals by ward morning meal donor groups during the rain retreat months remained unchanged. Town folks were still using the water from the big drinking water pond. Religious examinations traditionally held in Pyapon District’s four towns of Pyapon, Kyaiklat, Bogale and Dedaye were still held regularly. The tradition of venerating U Shin Gyi or Lord of the Sea or Conqueror of the Seas, was held in three parts in Kyaiklat starting from the month of Tabodwe.
Kyaiklat town established as a Mon village in 1840 was now 179 years old.
While visiting my peaceful home town, I made a silent prayer for the town to produce more valuable sons and daughters for the country. When I head back to Yangon, the sun was close to set for the day.
(Translated by Handytips)