Toungoo Town

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Toungoo 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° 55 N. and 96° 28' E., on the Ran- goon-Mandalay railway, 166 miles from Rangoon and 220 miles from Mandalay, close to the right bank of the Sittang river, which separates it from the western spurs of the Karen Hills. The town, which is well wooded and picturesque, is regularly laid out, and contains a good bazar, courthouses, jail, hospital, and Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Baptist churches and schools for Karens and Burmans.

Near the railway station and close to the railway line is a solidly built square brick fort, a relic of the days when Toungoo was an important post on the frontier of Lower Burma. Up to 1893 Toungoo was a canton- ment of some importance, but as the country quieted down the troops were withdrawn, and it has ceased to be a military station. On the west, inside the old wall, is a sheet of water about 3/2 miles in length and half a mile in breadth ; and surrounding the town is the old fosse. 170 feet wide, full of water in the rains. The site of the town is slightly higher than the surrounding country, which is open and partially cultivated, and during the rainy season becomes an extensive marsh. The Sittang is of no great width at Toungoo. It is not, however, bridged, though the construction of a bridge is in contemplation.

Toungoo is a corruption of the Burmese taung-7igu or ' hill spur.' The history of the town is bound up with that of the kingdom of Toungoo, at one time independent but afterwards a dependency of Pegu. In 1 510 Mingyinyo moved his capital to where Toungoo now stands from a site some 6 miles distant to the south-west. Of the pagodas marking the original city only brick ruins remain. During the second Burmese War the town was occupied without opposition by a column from Martaban in 1853.

The population of Toungoo at the last four enumerations was as follows: (1872) 10,732, (1881) 17,199, (1891) 19,232, and (1901) 15,837. The decrease between 1891 and 1901 is due, to a large extent, to the abolition of the cantonment. Of the total in 1901, Musalmans numbered 2,098, Hindus 1,635, and Christians 626. The Karen-speaking population is only 207.

The town is not noted for any particular industry. Cotton- and silk- weaving are carried on as domestic industries, and metal-work of all kinds is done. There are two saw-mills, a rice-mill, a distillery, and a tannery. The town is an important railway centre.

In addition to the usual officials, there is a Superintending Engineer in charge of the Toungoo Public Works circle. Toungoo was consti- tuted a municipality in 1874. During the ten years ending 1901 the receipts and expenditure averaged between Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 76,000. In 1903-4 the income amounted to Rs. 84,000, the chief items being Rs. 41,600 from markets, Rs. 10,600 from the house and land tax, and Rs. 7,600 from the lighting tax. The expenditure in the same year was Rs. 99,000, including conservancy (Rs. 24,500), hospitals (Rs. 10,000), and roads (Rs. 11,000). A scavenging tax has been imposed recently.

Toungoo is well provided with educational institutions. The American Baptist Mission maintains two Karen and one Burman school, and the Roman Catholics and Anglicans maintain schools for both boys and girls. In addition to the missionary seminaries, the town contains a vernacular middle school, and the municipality contributes liberally towards education. The town hospital is situated on rising ground near the railway, with accommodation for 68 in- patients.

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