Prome Town

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Prome Town, 1908

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.

Head-quarters of the District of the same name in Lower Burma, situated in 18 degree 49' N. and 95 degree 13' E., on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy, at the mouth of the Nawin, 161 miles by railway from Rangoon. The population, according to the last four enumerations, was as follows: (1872) 31,157, (1881) 28,813, (1891) 30,022, and (1901) 27,375. Of the population in 1901, Buddhists numbered 24,200, and Musalmans and Hindus about 1,400 each. The number of Buddhists was approximately 3,000 lower than in 1891, whereas that of the Indian religions was about the same. It will thus be seen that the diminution in the past decade, for which various reasons have been assigned, is confined to the indigenous population. The town is well laid out, having been almost entirely destroyed in 1862; and is divided into several quarters, Nawin on the north, Ywabe on the east, Sinzu on the south, and Shweku and San- daw in the centre. In a line skirting the high river bank are the municipal school, the courthouses, the church, and the telegraph office. The Strand road traverses the town from north to south,, and from it well-laid roads run eastwards into the urban areas. North of Sinzu is the famous Shwesandaw pagoda, and in the Nawin quarter are the markets. The municipal water- works, opened in 1885, supply the town with water from the river.

The date of the foundation is not known. The original capital of the kingdom of Prome was Tharekhettra, 5 or 6 miles inland. This was the ancient city, no doubt, which the early histories state was destroyed by the Talaings in the eighth century ; and it was probably after the reigning dynasty had gone northwards to retrieve their shat- tered fortunes in Pagan that the remnant of the Pyus chose as their capital the existing town of Prome, destined in after time to be one of the chief centres round which the early peoples of the country struggled for the mastery in Burma. Prome was the scene of warlike operations in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and its occupation and defence and the subsequent defeat of the Burmans near the town by the British in 1825 were among the conspicuous incidents of the first Burmese War. In the second Burmese War it was captured and occupied temporarily by Commander Tarleton, and three months later in the same year (1852) General Godwin's advance up the river placed the town in the occupation of the British, out of whose hands it has not passed since.

The principal industries are the manufacture of silk cloth, large gilt boxes for palm-leaf books, and lacquer-ware. A saw-mill and a rice- mill are at work in the town, but no other factories. Cotton, both local produce and imported from Upper Burma, is partially cleaned at Prome before export to Rangoon. The through trade has decreased since the opening of the Toungoo-Mandalay railway, goods being no longer sent for transhipment to the same extent as formerly.

Prome was constituted a municipality in 1874. The income during the ten years ending 1900 averaged Rs. 1,23,000, and the expenditure Rs. 1,20,000. In 1903-4 the receipts were Rs. 1,48,000, the chief sources being tolls on markets and slaughter-houses (Rs. 63,000), house and land tax (Rs. 12,000), and water rate (Rs. 17,000). The expendi- ture in the same year was Rs. 2,43,000, the chief heads being drainage (Rs. 16,000), conservancy (Rs. 40,000), and roads (Rs. 19,000). The amount devoted to the water-works was Rs. 82,000.

The municipality maintains a high school with 360 pupils, and in 1900 new school buildings were erected at a cost of Rs. 32,000. The annual municipal contribution towards education is Rs. 7,000. The hospital, maintained largely from municipal funds, has accommodation for 42 in-patients. Four beds are specially set apart for eye-diseases, which are exceptionally prevalent in Prome.

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