Tavoy Town

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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.

Tavoy Town

Head-quarters of the District of the same name in Lower Burma, situated in 14° 5' N. and 98° 12' E., on the left bank of the Tavoy river, 30 miles north of its mouth and 7 from the sea- coast on the west, from which both town and river are separated by a low range of hills. The town is low-lying, and all except the central portion is liable to be flooded at high tides. On the west it is flanked by the river, and towards the south-west rice- and timber-mills extend from the centre of the town along the bank for a distance of about 2 miles. To the north and south stretches the valley of the Tavoy river ; to the east a narrow strip of plain land separates the urban area from the outlying spurs of the hill system, of which the Nwalabo peak is a prominent feature. Tavoy is well laid out, with three main thoroughfares parallel to the river. All the Government buildings are in the centre, except the jail and military police barracks, which are situated on higher ground to the east. The town is well wooded throughout and abounds in gardens. The houses of the people are mostly of timber, with roofs of dani, the leaf of the Nipa palm. The large open square which formerly existed in the centre of the town has been built over, and there are no traces of the old fort.

The present town of Tavoy was founded in 1751, but it is probable that the province had earlier capitals. The remains of what must have been important cities have been found in various parts of the District, and the ruined site of Old Tavoy or Myohaung has been traced a few miles to the north of the existing town. Comparatively early in the first Burmese War a force was dispatched to seize the southern portion of Tenasserim ; and in 1824 Tavoy was occupied without resistance, and has never since passed out of the possession of the British. The town attained its existing dimensions in 1896, when the Letwegyun and Kyaukmaw circles of the Tavoy township were transferred to the Tavoy municipality. Its present area is about 8 square miles.

The population of Tavoy town in 1872 was 14,469. In 1881 it had fallen to 13,372, in 1891 it was 15,099, and by 1901 it had risen to 22,371 persons. The increase during the past decade (numerically greater than that of any other town in the Province except Rangoon) is somewhat remarkable, in view of the fact that there has been nothing in the shape of railway enterprise to promote trade and attract the rural population into municipal limits. Between 1872 and 1881 there was a decrease in population of over a thousand ; but since 1881 the prosperity of the town has, if growth 01 population is any real guide, been steadily on the increase. The 22,371 persons enumerated in 1901 consisted of 231 Christians, 375 Hindus. 88 1 Musalmans, no Animists, and 20,774 Buddhists. There has been an increase under each religion since 1891, fairly evenly divided. In the steady growth of its Buddhist population Tavoy differs from all the larger towns of Burma.

The trade of Tavoy, which is not of great importance, is carried on chiefly with the ports of Rangoon, Mergui, and Calcutta, and with the Straits Settlements. The principal exports in 1903-4 were rice, valued at 8 lakhs, sent for the most part to the Straits, and silk waistcloths, valued at 3 lakhs, to Rangoon. Other goods were salt (Rs. 62,000), timber (Rs. 58,000), and dani leaves for thatch (Rs. 39,000). The principal imports, mainly from Rangoon, were raw silk, valued at 5/2 lakhs ; tobacco and piece-goods, each a lakh and a half; and sugar, kerosene oil, twist and yarn, and til seed, each about a lakh in value. It is interesting to note that the trade of the port, though not large, is growing. The total value of imports and exports of foreign and coasting trade, which in 1 890-1 was 15I lakhs, had risen in 1 900-1 to 41/2 lakhs, and in 1903-4 to 36 lakhs.

Silk-weaving is the main industry of the town, and there were 995 looms in Tavoy in 1903. The manufacture of pottery, cotton-weaving, and gold- and silver-work are also carried on. The five rice and timber mills employed 140 male adults and 30 female adults in 1904. The out-turn from the rice-mills is exported mainly to the Straits, whereas timber is sent to Rangoon and Calcutta. Tavoy has a municipality, which was constituted in 1887. The receipts and expenditure of the municipal fund during the ten years ending 1901 averaged Rs. 30,000. In 1903-4 the income was Rs. 39,000, of which one-third was derived from the house tax and one-third from market dues. The expenditure was Rs. 33,600, the chief items being conservancy (Rs. 13,000), hos- pital (Rs. 5,600), and education (Rs. 3,000). The port limits, which were defined in 1875, extend to Tavoy Point at the mouth of the river. The income of the Port fund in 1903-4 amounted to Rs. 3,700.

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