Sacred Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda-hill (Part I)

Pagoda 72In the vicinities of the sprawling metropolitan commercial city of Yangon, stand many green creations of nature in the forms of woodlands, forested hill ranges, aquatic bodies of lakes and wetlands where Yangonites, under the stress and strain of daily urban life can escape to, at least for a day, to recuperate the health of their body and mind. One of such idyllic natural resorts is the sacred Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda hill not far from the old capital Hamsavadi Pegu.
Within Bago Township, about 3 miles to the west of Win-bei In Village, lies a not too high hill range on which an ancient pagoda called Dei-Sun-Pa stands prominent and majestic. From Yangon to Win-bei In [ဝမ်းဘဲအင်း] a good motor road runs 64 miles and 5 furlongs or rail train takes 61 miles.
Approximately two miles to the east of Win-bei In village is a well-known water reservoir called Moe Yun Gyi, which originally was a vast natural depression into which all streams from the west flowed thus turning it into a big natural aquatic body. Among all species of watery plants and reeds and grasses around this lake is a kind of wild paddy that thrived profusely, the grain of which birds, buffaloes and cattle fed. Legendarily this wild paddy came to be called nat sapa [နတ်စပါး] paddy given by benevolent nat-spirits. Winged creatures of all kinds make the lake their habitat and in winter birds from the icy north come there for hibernation. Among them paddy birds, wild water ducks and geese, Muscovy ducks, whistling teal or tree ducks, [dendrocygna javanica], mei nyo [Indian purple moor hen], Hintha [Brammany duck]. Most of these creatures belong to the duck family. Therefore the lake came to be called Win-bei In.
One Myanmar chronicler-writer of early British colonial day Hmawbi Saya Thein Gyi gave a background history of this lake in his writings. He says that “King Maha Thiha Thura Dhammaraja of Nyaung Yang dynasty reigned in the capital Inwa. His younger brother, the lord of Yamethin, Prince Min Ye Kyaw Htin moved to the south and set up a temporary residence on the site in the vicinity of the present day Moe Yun Gyi Reservoir to the east of the present day Win-bei In village. Seeing different types of wild ducks rollicking in the lake, he felt nostalgic of his native capital Inwa and the Win-bei In near it. So he named this lake “Win-bei In”, as it resembled the Win-bei In of Inwa and the same name he gave to the nearby village.”
His elder brother Maha Thiha Thura Dhammaraja reigned only one year, for at the age of 28 years, he passed away. So the younger brother Lord of Yamethin Prince Min Ye Kyaw Htin succeeded the throne on the 12 waxing moon of Tabaung [March] in Myanmar Era [M.E 1034, 1672 A.D.]. He assumed the Regnal title “Thiri parawati bawana Thiha Sura”. While he was at Inwa he used to reside at his resort palace at Win-bei In lake of Inwa. So people called him Win-bei In San Min. [The king who resided at Win-bei In palace].
In the Gazetteer of the District of Rangoon, Pegu Province published in 1868, by Rangoon Central Government Press, geographical archaeological and historical accounts are given on pages 9-11. According to them, “the first dynasty of Pegu was founded by two brothers Tha-ma-Lah and Wee-ma-Lah. The elder brother Tha-ma-Lah reigned 12 years and died in 1164 A.D. In Bagan, King Na-yah-thein-gah was reigning. When Wee-ma-lah succeeded the throne, in Bagan, King Na-ya-Padae was on the throne.
King Tha-ma-Lah [သမလ] and queen Ka-pee-htaw [ကပိထော်] had a son and daughter. The son was named Ah-tha-kone-mah [အဿကုမ္မာ] and the daughter Yin-main-ta-loh [ရင်မိန်တလို့]. King Wee-ma-lah [ဝိမလ] married his sister-in-law Ka-pee-htaw. Ka-pee-htaw thought that Wee-ma-lah could cause Ah-tha-kone-mah to be murdered. So she sent her son across the river Dee-bay [ဒီဘေး] where today stands Kyeik-ka-thah [ကျိုက်ကသာ ဘုရား] pagoda. The guardian goddess of the river took care of Ah-tha-kone-mah. His mother also sent a hunter to look after her son. Young Ah-tha-kone mah grew up among wild buffaloes. He could walk on their horns easily.
After ten years of his succession to the throne, King Wee-ma-lah was challenged by invaders “Kullahs” [ကုလား] or foreigners who came with seven ships. They were tall and strong built. They reclaimed the island where they had previously settled otherwise they would fight for it. Wee-ma-lah was asked to a single combat with their leader. Wee-ma-lah agreed to send a man to fight the combat within a week. When Queen Ka-pee-htaw knew about it she told Wee-ma-lah about her son Ah-tha-kone-mah who had grown up into a strong man walking on the horns of wild buffaloes. Wee-ma-lah sent his messengers to call him.
On arrival of Ah-tha-kone-mah at Han-tha-wa-dee, which happened to be on the day fixed for the combat he and the Kullah leader proceeded to the battlefield. The Kullah leader was armed with a large spear, the handle of which was seven cubits in length, and the spear-head the length of a plantain-tree leaf. Ah-tha-kone-mah was also armed with a spear of the same size. On meeting, they aimed at each other, but without knowing where to strike. Ah-tha-kone-mah at last had resort to a stratagem, and asked the Kullah leader why he had brought a large number of followers with him. The Kullah leader replied “I have not done so”. Ah-tha-kone-mah desired him to look and say who those were behind him. On his turning to do so, Ah-tha-kone-mah struck him a heavy blow with his spear on the neck and then killed the Kullah leader.
In consequence of Prince Ah-tha-kone-mah’s conquering the Kullah by the above stratagem, Han-tha-wadee was afterwards called Done-pai-goh [တုံဘဲကို] “Done” in Mon tongue meaning “town”. “pai” stratagem, and “goh”, conquered or in possession. It is now commonly called Pai-goo [Pegu]. King Wee-ma-lah reigned 17 years. Prince Ah-tha-kone-mah succeeded him. He was the patron and promoter of Buddha Sasana. It was he who first built Dei-Sun-Pa Pagoda. Original name given by him was Kyaik Champac [ကျိုက်စွမ္ပါ] because the hill was forested with champac flower trees [စကားဝါပင်]. Champac flowers are gold yellow, fragrant and medicinal. Champac is a timber tree. Later Dei Champac corrupted to Dei-Sun-pa.
In the book on the history of Dei-Sun-pa pagoda compiled by Ma Kywe Kywe and published by Myat Pan Wut Yi Sarpay Press in 2008, Dei-Sun-Pa was one of the Buddhist monuments mentioned in the Divine Prophesy of Lord Gautama Buddha. On pages 12-26 a detailed account of Gautama Buddha’s Divine Prophesy [ဘုရားဗျာဒိတ်] was given.
In the 8th Vasa of Gautama Buddha, [Buddhist Era 111] Saint monk Ashin Gavampati invited the Buddha for his dhamma duta [Buddha’s dhamma mission] to Thaton [Suvanna bhumi]. The Buddha with his followers saints came and delivered his teachings. On return, he gave his hair relics to the hermits and proceeded to the west. There was a vast water body out of which was a single rocky summit appearing. On it the Buddha stood and gave his divine prophesy. “In future there would emerge here 57 hillocks such as “Myin Theinna, Dei Thiha, Dei Sampa, etc. Two merchant brothers Maha Thala and Cula Thala would each enshrine hair relics in two zedis. My Sasana would flourish here. Next, two prince brothers would come from the East and they would build a capital city named Hamsavadi and reigned there. All kings of their dynasty would promote Buddha Sasana. My sacred hair relics would be enshrined in zedis built at 57 places around Hamsavadi and people would worship them to propagate my teachings.”
Thus Dei-Sun-Pa or Dei Sampa [Champac] was one of Buddhist monuments mentioned in Buddha’s Divine Prophesy which was given in the 8th Vasa. Later, where the Buddha sojourned, a zedi was built to commemorate it. It was named in Mon Language as “Kyaik Mu Hta”. Kyaik means Buddha, Mu means the edge of promontory and Hta means stand. Today, this zedi is the well-known “Shwe Maw Htaw Zedi” of Pegu.
In the Buddha Sasana year of 138, the 5th descendant of the dynasty of King Thuriya Konema, Prince Ingura reigned. During that reign a prince named Thuriya founded a city named Dannyawaddy on the summit of a high mountain projecting out to the sea. Today that old city is known as Motama [Martaban].
The 14th descendant of this dynasty was King Beina-ganga. During his reign, in the Buddha Sasana year of 238 came to Subanabhumi [Thaton] two Maha Thera missionary monks Sona and Uttara to carry out their dhammaduta mission. Due to their teachings of Buddha Dhamma, the king and his people gave up their nat-spirit worship and embraced Buddhism. There was one guru hermit named Sila. He discovered a big egg in the coastal forest. He took it to his hermitage. Out of the egg was hedged a female human of great beauty. The egg was laid by a female naga serpent whose husband a weikza-alchemist abandoned her in that mangrove. When the girl grew up she was offered to King Beina  Ganga who raised her to queen. The queen gave birth to two sons, Tha-ma-lah and Wee-ma-lah. Due to political intrigues at the court, the mother and the two sons were exiled. They went to Zin Kyaik hill where hermit Tisa resided. The queen died on the way. The two sons were taken care of by the hermit. Knowing that the two sons would become kings who would promote Buddha Sasana, the hermit taught them 18 princely arts and sciences. When they grew up to manhood, they moved by boats to the west with many followers. On the way they built religious monuments on the hill ranges. When they reached where present day Pegu is, they founded the first Hamsavadi capital. The rest of their history is already mentioned above.
Old Mon chronicles say that the first capital city Hamsavadi founded by King Tha-ma-Lah had seven auspicious sites on which 7 structures were built simultaneously. They were as follows:-
(1)    Capital City of 40,000 square tars
(2)    A moat around the city of 25 tars wide
(3)    A palace with 160 residences
(4)    Royal lake
(5)    A commemorative Stupa on the summit of Mt. Papada on which Lord Buddha stood and gave his Divine Prophesy
(6)    Nat-spirits’ shrine where propitiatory offerings were made, and
(7)    The Clock Tower [Bahosi Sin]
The ground breaking and foundation ceremonies were performed at seven sites simultaneously. Seven types of bricks were used (1) gold bricks (2) silver bricks (3) Mogyo [alloy] bricks (4) copper bricks (5) Iron bricks (6) stone bricks and (7) terra cotta bricks.
Later archaeological excavations carried out at some of the sites of old Hamsavadi and Suvannabhumi unearthed some of these seven different bricks, together with other articacts and bone, or bone ash urns together with some gold coins.
(To be continued)

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