Pegu Town

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This article has been extracted from



Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Pegu Town

Head-quarters of Pegu District, in the Pegu Division of Lower Burma, situated in 17 20' N. and 96 29' E., on the railway, 47 miles north-east of Rangoon. The town stands on the banks of a river bearing the same name, and partly on a ridge which forms the extremity of a long spur of the Pegu Yoma. Its population at each of the last four enumerations was: (1872) 4,416, (1881) 5,891, (1891) 10,762, and (1901) 14,132. Its increase during the past thirty years has been steady, though it seems probable that it will in the future owe its reputation rather to its antiquity and historical associations than to its commercial importance. The majority of the inhabitants are Buddhists. Pegu, doubtless, originally derived its importance from the fact that it was situated at the highest navigable point of a perennial river, which is easily reached from all points of the rich rice plain on the east, and which flows directly past Rangoon, the principal port of the country. In far distant times the rising ground where the town now stands was almost certainly situated on the sea-coast; and the legend goes that Hanthawaddy (a term originally applied to a considerable tract of country in the neighbourhood of Pegu) was the name given to the spot where the geese (hintha) like the ark on Mount Ararat, first settled after the retirement of the waters.

Pegu has for centuries been connected with the Takings or Peguans, who from the commencement of the historical period till comparatively modem times were the dominant nationality in the southern portion of what is now Burma. Thaton was the earliest known Talaing capital.

It is said to have been in A.D. 573 that the Peguans established them- selves in Pegu. The town first became known to the outside world, however, in the days when the Toungoo dynasty of Burmese kings ruled in it. It is described by European travellers in the sixteenth century as of great size and magrvificence. Cesare de, Federici, who visited it in the latter portion of the sixteenth century while it was the capital of the Toungoo kings, has given a detailed description of its glories. When Alaungpaya overran and conquered Pegu in the middle of the eighteenth century, he employed every means to efface all traces of Talaing nationality, destroying every house in the town and dis- persing the inhabitants. His fifth son Bodawpaya, who succeeded in 1781, pursued a different policy, and in his time the seat of the local government was for some time transferred from Rangoon to Pegu. The town figured in both the first and second Burmese Wars. In the second War it was twice captured, and was the scene of a good deal of fighting.

The present town consists of two portions, the areas within and with- out the four walls by which the old town was encompassed. In general plan and configuration it may be compared more closely to Ava than to any of the other royal residences. On the top of the walls, which are about 40 feet wide, are built the residences of the European officials, and under the shade of the mango and other fruit trees which stud the slopes there is a delightful retreat from the surrounding heat and glare. Between the western face of the old fortifications and the river are the bazar and main portion of the native town, while in the centre of the enclosure, towering to a height of 324 feet, is the golden cone of the Shwemawdaw pagoda, one of the most remarkable buildings in Burma, and an object of greater veneration to the Talaings than even the Shwedagon pagoda at Rangoon. The shrine owes nothing to its site, but in symmetry of design and beauty of structure it is perhaps unrivalled. Along the roads in this part of the town are the principal Government buildings and private houses, the courthouses, municipal office, circuit-house, and school, while across the river stretches an iron double-girder bridge. This was originally intended for Akyab town, but fortunately for Pegu it was found too short for the purpose for which it was required there. Farther to the west, beyond the railway, and about a mile from the river, is a gigantic recumbent image of Buddha called the Shinbinthalyaung, one of the most interesting monuments in the Province.

The management of the town has, since 1883, been vested in a municipal committee. Between 1890 and 1900 the income of the municipality averaged Rs. 48,000 yearly. In 1903-4 it was Rs. 1,14,000. Fees from bazars and slaughter-houses yield about half of the receipts, while direct taxation, including levies on account of conservancy and lighting, produces nearly Rs. 20,000. The expenditure, which during the decade averaged Rs. 51,000, amounted to Rs. 1, 01,000 in 1903-4. The chief objects on which money is expended are edu- cation (Rs. 4,000), conservancy (Rs. 16,000), public works (Rs. 22,000), hospital (Rs. 20,000), and general establishment (Rs. 8,000). The principal problems that the committee has to solve are the provision of a water-supply, the setting on foot of an adequate scheme of con- servancy, and the improvement of the drainage system. The first of these is very difficult. The water of the river is not fit for drinking purposes, and that obtained from shallow wells, sunk in different places, has, on analysis, been found impregnated with noxious germs.

An attempt was made to form a reservoir in a portion of the old moat, and to this end several houses were expropriated from sites on its banks ; but this scheme was doomed to failure, owing to the discovery of impurities in the moat water. The town, which has in many parts a subsoil of laterite, and slopes gently down to the banks of the river, has a good natural drainage, but this requires much artificial assistance in the congested portions near the bazar. The masonry drains at present existing are inadequate, and a considerable outlay will be needed for their extension and improvement.

The bazar claims notice as being the hive round which the native inhabitants swarm from the first break of dawn until long after midday. The main portion of the building consists of five sheds, with brick walls and shingle roof of little architectural value. It is perhaps due to their proximity to the river that these buildings have escaped for so many years destruction by fire. Next to the bazar the favourite rendezvous is the bank of the canal which has been constructed to join the main Sittang Canal near Thanatpin. The traffic along this waterway is so great that, in their efforts to crush competition and continue a mono- poly, the principal launch-owners have even conveyed passengers without charge, In the carrying trade by steam-launch, by Chinese sampan, and by the long Chittagong boat, which is now so popular in the delta, the Burman has practically ceased to compete. The town possesses no industries of importance. Pottery and silver-work are turned out, and two small rice-mills are at work. By no means the least important institution in the town is the hospital, with 36 beds. It is built in three blocks, one for the public generally, a second for the offices and storerooms, and a third for members of the military police.

Personal tools