The country with a long boat tradition Part 2

Untitled-1Regatta and Boat Races were also naval exercise and recruiting of Myanmar kings. No doubt Myanmar traditional warfare mentioned four armed forces (1) Infantry (2) Elephantry (3) Cavalry (Horses) and (4) Chariotry. Theoretically that is in line with the warfare described in Jataka stories. In practice, there was no war chariotry in Myanmar military organization. Chariots or coaches were used only for display and ceremonial purposes. Archery and flotillas of war boats were employed in fighting battles. Archery was gradually replaced by gunnery and artillery in the late 14th or 15th century whereas fleet remained as an essential force throughout. Military campaigns were led by land and water [a&tm;usnf;tm;
ESifYcsDawmfrlonf] and battles were fought on ground as well as on water. Kings of Inwa defended their capital city or attacked their enemies with army and navy. The location of Ratanapura Inwa at the confluence of five rivers [the Ayeyawady, the Samon, the Duhtawady, the Zawgyi and the Panlaung] provided a favourable location for Regatta and boat races in peace time and naval attack on enemies in war time. The same was true of Mon capital Hanthawaddy Pegu situated on the bank of Pegu River. King Razadarit [1385-1423 A.D.], Queen Shin Saw Pu [1453-1472 A.D.], King Dhamma Zedi [1472-1492 A.D.] and King Bannya Dala [1747-1757 A.D.] kept good fleets of water conveyances for both peaceful and military uses.
King Bayint Naung [1551-1581 A.D.] enlarged his armed forces by building many war boats of various sizes, equipped with modern weapons, supplied by the Portuguese. They were employed in his unifying campaigns, as well as in dispatching his envoys to foreign countries. With his magnificent fleet, he went in state to the seaport of Pathein to welcome and receive the religious mission from Ceylon [Sri Lanka] bringing a replica of the Sacred Tooth Relic and other religious gifts for him. In 1553 A.D., he built a grand new palace “Kambawza Thadi” and in 1566 A.D., he founded a new capital city “Hamsavadi”. On all such auspicious occasions royal regatta and boat races were held as public celebrations.
Command of the sea was a strategic necessity for the Rakhine Rajas if they were to hold their sway in the Bay of Bengal. So they built strong armadas of war galleons which were stationed along their seacoasts to ward off the invaders from the sea and constructed stone fortresses to defend their capitals against the besiegers. Kings Minbin [1531-1553 A.D.] and Min Yazagyi [1593-1612 A.D.] were founders of Rakhine Navy which their successors made use of. With a fleet of 200 sea going crafts as big as galleys, King Myikhamaung [1612-1622 A.D.] broke up the power of the Portuguese in his dominions. King Sandathudama [1652-1684 A.D.] repulsed the invading Moguls. The period 1550-1666 A.D. was the peak of Rakhine ascendancy in power sustained by well-armed warships.
Myanmar counterpart of King Min Khamaung was King Anaukphet Lun [1605-1628 A.D.], the second king in the line of Nyaung Yan dynasty. It was he who in the year 1613 marched from Inwa to Thanhlyin by land and water [usnf;tm;? a&tm;ESifYcsD] to break up the Portuguese stronghold under the command of the notorious Feringhee freebooter-adventurer named Philip de Brito. The king employed 120,000 men and 400 were vessels of considerable strength and Thanhlyin was captured and destroyed and its master de Brito was impaled to death.
Among the Konbaung kings, Alaungpaya [1752-1760 A.D.] Sinbyu Shin [1763-1776 A.D.], Bodawpaya [1782-1819 A.D.] and Thayawaddy [1837-1846 A.D.] were noted for their naval strength which they used for fighting as well as for display. The first three kings dispatched flotillas of war canoes loaded with men and arms to fight local and foreign wars. In September 1841, King Thayawaddy and his court came down to Yangon with 25,000 men via the Ayeyawady River, with the declared reason of worshipping Shwe Dagon Pagoda. But his ulterior motive was to alarm the British by display of his military strength. Myanmar kings held boat races at the celebrations of the victory of naval battles or military display. Winners in the boat races were recruited to serve in the navy.
In one Myanmar chronicle Konbaung Set Maha Yazawun Taw Gyi the last Royal Regatta held by the last Myanmar king was recorded as follows:-
“On the 11th Waxing moon of Tawthalin, nobles and high officials came out to the shore of the River Ayeyawaddy on the western direction of the Golden capital to make arrangements for the celebration of the annual Regatta and boat race festival.
Min Gyi Min Htin Maha Sithu, Deputy Minister and Lord of Wet Ma Sut Town took the charge of preparations for boat races. The first boat at the front had no match to compete with. So it was kept aside. Next, two pairs turned up – Lete Ywe Gyi and Let Thit Hlaw Ka Taw Gyi in one pair, and Pyi Long Ant and Ywe Gyi in another pair. They ran the race. Later the following boats came up in sequence in the racing line – 12 Hlaw Ka Taw Gyi boats, 22 Hlaw Ka Taw boats such as Paleik Shwe Khe, Asey Khan Taung Lone, Pwe Taing Kyaw, Htwet Taing Ya;  28 rowing boats such as Shwe Tone, Min San, Taung Lone Hmaing, Shwe Laung Gyi, Yin Pone, Mingala Yan Hnin, Kho Taung Shwe Khe; 29 Laung Taw boats such as Thone Lu Tauk Pa, Thone Lu Pu Zaw, etc; 45 war boats belonging to Royal Gunnery, various Hlaw Ka Taw boats belonging to the nobles ministers and high officials.
On the 13th Waxing moon, 22 ships, such as Setkya Yin Pyan the sea voyager, Yatana Yin Thar, Yatana Yin Pyan, Setkya Yan Hlwint the riverine ship competed. Finally the two rowing boats Kho Taung Shwe Khe and Mingala Yan Hnin had second round of race, because objections were raised when Mingala Yan Hnin got defeated in the first race held previous day. Royal permit was obtained. So these two boats competed again. This time Mingala Yan Hnin plucked the flower of victory. So ended the Royal Regatta and Boat races.”
For the revival of patriotic spirit and preservation of cultural heritage and national identity, the previous government the State Law and Order Restoration Council  held seven successive Regatta Festivals and Boat Races in Kandaw Gyi Lake in Yangon. They were grand displays of Myanmar traditional Yey Khin Taw [Royal Regatta Festival of Tawthalin]. Boat races were held for nearly two weeks Winners, individuals and teams were awarded handsomely. Diplomats, tourists, visitors at home and abroad and the public watched the two-week long event. Head of State and cabinet and departmental heads, both civil and military attended the events.
At international sports competitions, Myanmars won in most of water-related sports – swimming, boat race, sailing, rowing, yachting, etc. etc.
With the booming of Myanmar tourism right now State Regatta Festival of Tawthalin  should be once more revived not merely for the promotion of hotel and tourism industry but also for recapturing Myanmar’s glory and greatness of the past.

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