Popa Geo Park

  • MaungTha(Archaeology)
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The rocky volcanic plug of Mt. Popa.  Photo: Chan Tha (Meikhtila)

To lessen many natural disasters including global warming , and to protect the environment and conserve forests and wildlife, measures are being taken with the creations of many garden cities across the country.
Myanmar Geoscience Association has tried to create a Geo Park near the Mount Popa where there are many lush forests, wildlife and biodiversity. With emergence of the Geo Park, lush forests, national resources and associated existence of biodiversity education and preservation are regularly maintained for sustainable development. So said geologist U ThanTun and the secretary of Myanmar Geoscience Association.
The creations of Geo Parks in Khakaborazi national park in Kachin State,PutaO, Hukawny Valley, Indawgyi, Twinn Mountain in Sagaing Region, Mount Zwekabin in Karen State and the Lampi island Marine National Park in Taniintharyi Region are planned. But Myanmar Geoscience Association has given the Mount Popa in Mandalay region as a top priority.

The history of Mount Popa

Mount Popa is situated in Kyaukpadaung Township and lies at the northern edge of the Bago Range, 31 miles away to Bagan and 37 miles away from the Ayeyarwady River.
According to map descriptions, the location of Mount Popa lies at 20. 52’N and 90.14’E. The history of Mount Popa is greatly associated with worshipping. It is also known as an enjoyable place for Mahagiri brother and sister who are easily seen in every Myanmar household. After all, Mount Popa is a lush spot in Myanmar dry zone which has produced a lot of alchemists. According to Myanmar legends, Myanmar people have worshipped the statutes of Maung Tintay and his sister since AD 904.
Since the king of Pyu Min Hti Min, Bagan kings have initiated a climbing festival annually and Mount Popa has been regarded as a sacred site. Nat-worshipping in Myanmar has started in Bagan Era and
Mahagiri worshipping is the earliest in the history of Nat-worshipping. Nat-worshipping was believed to have continued up until Yadanabon Period. It continued to exist even when King Anawrahta brought Theravada Buddhism to Bagan. Almost in every Myanmar household, there are the statutes of Min Mahagirinats; Mount Popa is famous for personalities such as Bow BowAung and Bo Min Gaung who practice many ways of escaping from sufferings.

Popa as it is

There are two parts in Popa mountains: Mount Popa and TaungKalat which slopes towards the west; The TaungKalat is belived to be a part resulting from volcanic eruptions. Mount Popa is 4981 feet above the sea level; TaungKalat is 2417 feet high and named after its shape like a small circular tray with a stem.
The TaungKalat has a lot of pagodas , religious edifices and nat-figures and shrines for nats. The pilgrims climb along the stairways joyfully from the base to the top. The rungs of 777 along the stairways were built by Great Hermit U Khanti; but now 43 rungs were added in order for the pilgrims to climb to the top comfortably.
The emergence of Mount Popa from the ground was estimated by geologists some 15 million years ago. The crater is somewhat like a circular tray which tilts towards the west, letting the climbers to believe the east and south sides are a litter higher.
That is why when one observes from the west side, one can see two peaks; from the north side, one peak can be seen. Mount Popa is surrounded by many mountain spurs.
Mount Popa was believed to be an active volcano by geologists some 250,000 years ago; eruptions left main one dead. The crater is about a mile wide with a trench in 2625 feet deep down. During a period of
explosions a lava flow spread to the north; evidences of lava are easily seen these days. Anyathian culture flourished in early stone age in Chauk, Yenanchaung and Nyaung-oo regions in Myanmar. According to historian Dr. ThanTun, the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady was the present day Mount Popa a million years ago. Again American archaeologist Dr. Movius predicted Popa region used to be dwelled by stone-age inhibitants. They used these rocks as weapons. At the same time fossils are found in Singaung and Sin-un regions.
Stone-age dwellers were afraid of the sun, volcanoes and mountains and so Mount Popa was regarded as a sacred place. When languages came into existence, Mahagiri(big mountain In Pali) emerged as a solitary peak, thereby leading to a story of Min Mahagiri. According to a palace history, a loud explosion occurred in the middle of the Ayeyarwady, creating a big lake in the region of Po-U-Maung; two rivers of Samon and Samyeik flowed; Mount Popa emerged out of the ground and the water near Seiketra went dry. Pyi cities like Seriktra, Beikthano and Hanlinn flourished very far away from Mount Popa and their records were hidden in Mount Popa. Cities collapsed leading to the emergence of Bagan Era, with Popa with playing an important role in history books. There are no connection of descriptions between Mount Popa and Bagan Era.

Popa Geo Park

Besides holidaying, MountPopa could become an attraction for researchers on archaeology, geology, history, botany and forestry. Geological survey on rock formations, biodiversity survey on monkeys,
birds and butterflies and researchers on medicinal plants are bound to visit Mount Popa for study tours. Mount Popa garden, with a square miles of 49.63 wide, was established in 1983. It has a plantation of 350 kinds of medicinal plants. 70 species of birds, 10 kinds of mammals including monkeys and wild cats and many other kinds of birds and plants are found to be roaming and flourishing.
At the foot of Mount Popamonkeys,boas, deer and mouse deer are found grazing. Hill stations are built by the Ministry of Forestry in the crater in which one can go down to the depth of 2800 feet. To the
east of Mount Popa lies Meikhtilar and Mahlaing townships; to the west Nyaung-OO and Chauk townships; to the south NatmaukTownship; to the north borders with TaungthaTwonship. From these towns, easy transportation is available to Mount Popa.
Popa region is famous for tourists and academics, both domestic and abroad. If Popa Geo Park is established to the standard of national levels, it would be not only beneficial for conservation of the
environment and biodiversity but also for the livelihood of local inhabitants.

Translated by ArakanSein

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