By Maung Tha (Archaeology)
Mekkhaya, an eminent, ancient city among various towns and villages across Myanmar, is located in Singaing Township of Mandalay Region. Singaing beside Yangon-Mandalay Highway is 413 miles from Yangon and 21 miles from Mandalay.
Stone age and Pyu era objects were found in Singaing Township, which is 15 miles from the east to the west and 13 miles from the south to the north. Ancient Mekkhaya City and guard cities took positions in Singaing Township.
The ancient city was built on Kyaukse plain at the confluence of Myitnge and Zawgyi rivers.
New Twinthin Myanmar History mentioned three brother kings arrested Bagan King Kyawswa (1287-1298 AD) in 1298 AD. Eldest Yazathingyan reigned to Myinsaing City, younger Athinkhaya to Mekkhaya City and youngest Thihathu to Pinle City. Ancient Myinsaing City is located 19 miles south from ancient Inwa City in TadaU Township of Mandalay Region and ancient Pinle City, five miles southeast of Kume of Myittha Township. Mekkhaya City was established in 1304 AD.
Mekkhaya in Bagan era
King Anawrahta of Bagan set up cities at different levels for recruiting soldiers ranging from ten to lakh numbers for defending the State. Moreover, 43 guard cities were established for checking entrance and exist of people as well as for levying tax over commodities. At that time, Mekkhaya was one of the guard cities together with Taohn and Myittha in Singaing Township.
In reign of King Anawrahta, Mekkhaya was a guard city to mainly block important Myitnge valley where enemies might enter Kyaukse plain. King Anawrahta built Taohn guard city, two miles from Myitnge River and northwest of Mekkhaya, so as to raise security measures.
Ancient Mekkhaya City was built with double walls. The existing outer wall was two furlongs wide from the east to the west and 2.5 furlongs long from the north to the south. The city was rounded with a 56 feet wide moat. The eastern wall was equipped with Mingala Gate. U Kalar History mentioned Mekkhaya City was included on the list of cities to recruit 100 soldiers to Inwa Royal Palace. Its area was 470 tars. The government set ancient Mekkhaya City as ancient cultural zone in January 2009.
Shwesikhon Pagoda and Royal Palace built together with Mekkhaya City not longer existed there. More than 50 ancient pagodas have been renovated in the city. Travellers can observe mural paintings at some stupas and temples.
Two stone plaques in Mekkhaya
As evidences of Stone Age humans residing in Mekkhaya area, rough and finished stone weapons were found from the ancient city. Similar stone weapons were also found around pagodas in Yazagyi precinct, northwest of the ancient city and Shinpin SeikU pagoda. Some pieces of Neolithic age were also gathered at the site, one furlong north of Epya Village at the entrance to ancient Mekkhaya City.
Results of research conducted by researcher cum writer Taik Kyi (Singaing) mentioned that a stone plaque of Sikhon monastery and another plaque bearing records of donation by mason among 22 ancient stone plaques are located in ancient Mekkhaya City.
Sikhon monastery’s stone plaque was firstly carved in the reign of King Badon. It was carved for three times in respective eras. The stone plaque, 6.5 feet high, three feet and one inch wide and six inches thick, was found near the northern arch to King Yan Naung’s tomb in the compound of ancient Mekkhaya City on 23 April 2008. The plaque related to Mekkhaya Shwesikhon Pagoda was made of schist.
Thihathu, governor of Pinle City, established Pinya City in 1313 AD and passed away in 1322 AD. His son King Uzzana succeeded to the throne and built seven Sakar monasteries—Zabuka, Weluwun, Einneint, Zetawun, Kalakyaung, Taungsun and North. He finished construction of Pinya Shwesikhon Pagoda built by his father. He handed over the throne to his younger brother five elephant winner Kyawswa in 1344 AD and left the secular in Mekkhaya.
King Uzzana built 135 feet high Mekkhaya Shwesikhon Pagoda which enveloped Muhtaw Pagoda of King Thiri Dhamma Thawka with 150 feet high of lower structure. As the pagoda was damaged into a brick pile, it was renovated in 1370.
The stone inscription of Sikhon monastery carved by King Uzzana in 687 ME comprised 20 lines. Among them, first six lines bore the land plot and slaves for services of the pagoda donated by King Uzzana and nine more lines mentioned the record of toddy palm plants donated to the pagoda in 716 ME.
The stone inscription with last five lines was carved by King Uzzana’s grandson who was governor of Mekkhaya. It was a record on donating 270 pei of land to the pagoda.
According to the stone inscription, the precinct of Sikhon Pagoda is surrounded by the creek in the east, Wutgyi in the west, Kyaukse in the south and Kyetsugyaing in the north. A small stone plaque bearing a record of donation by a mason in Bagan era can be seen at Myoyoe Pagoda called No 43 ancient building in Mekkhaya area. One square foot of stone plaque bore 10 lines of inscriptions carved in the reign of King Tayaphya (1322-1336 AD). It was a record of donation carved by Bagan citizen mason who offered candle lights to the pagoda dedicating to the Nibbana.
Two Mekkhaya princes
Two princes governed Mekkhaya City. The first prince compiled English-Myanmar dictionary.
As Maung Pyoe in childhood name, Prince Mekkhaya was born of King Badon and Queen Thiri Maha Yadana Devi in 1153 ME. His sister was Myittha governor Shwe Nan Myint. The prince was conferred on Minye Kyawswa title in 1159 ME, Thadoe Minhla Kyawswa title in 1164 ME and Maha Thiri Dhammaraza title in 1168 ME. In the reign of King Sagaing, he was named Malun Prince due to governing Malun.
He learned English from British merchant Mr Roger. He compiled English-Myanmar Dictionary from 1830 AD to 1835 AD.
The dictionary with 468 pages was printed by Baptist Press in Kolkata of India in 1841. First Mekkhaya Prince passed away on 1 July 1848.
Second Mekkhaya Prince was son of King Mindon. After Prince Kanaung was assassinated, he managed factories of Prince Kanaung. The prince was killed on 31 January 1879 when an issue of the royal palace happened to give a throne to Prince Thibaw.
A bell donated by governor of Mekkhaya was hung at Phalinpoe Monastery in Singaing. Abbot of the monastery Bhaddanta Pannabala donated to pagodas in ancient Mekkhaya City on 27 November 2004. At present, the bell is hung at the stand in the ancient city.
Mekkhaya dolomite relief
Buddha images were carved of earth, brick, concrete, wood, stone, gold, silver and alloy metal as well as dolomite in Myanmar in successive era. There are five dolomite images across the nation—three at the national museum and one each in ancient Mekkhaya City and Tamok Shwegugyi Pagoda. Mekkhaya dolomite relief is displayed at the museum of Shweyaungtaw Pagoda.
Dolomite is CaMg(CO3)2 in white, pink and brown colours. Dolomite reliefs can be seen in India. But, dolomite reliefs were carved on large plaques in India and small ones in Myanmar. The museum showcases documentary photos of ancient objects in Stone Age and Pyu era and pagodas in ancient Mekkhaya City before renovation.
Significant, ancient Mekkhaya City shows part of Myanmar history. Equipment of Stone Age and Pyu era found in the city prove ancient city Mekkhaya has flourished the stone age, Pyu, Bagan, Pinya, Inwa and Konbaung eras. (Translated by Than Tun Aung)