Yangon (Rangoon City)

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'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.



[In 1908] Capital of Burma and head-quarters of the Local Government, situated in 16 46' N and 96 n' E., on both sides of the Hlamg or Rangoon river at its point of junction with the Pegu and Pazundaung streams, 21 miles from the sea The greater part of the city the town proper, with its main suburbs of Kemmendme and Pazundaung lies along the left or northern bank of the river, which at this point, after a southerly course through level paddy-fields and along the city's western side, turns towards the east for a mile or so before bending southwards to the Gulf of Martaban. Behind the array of wharves and waiehouses that line the northern bank rise the buildings of the mercantile and business quarter, and thence the ground slopes upwards through a wooded cantonment to the foot of the slight eminence from which the great golden Shwedagon pagoda looks down upon the town and harbour. On the south bank of the Rangoon river are the suburbs of Dala, Kamakasit, Kanaungto, and Seikgyi, a narrow strip of dockyard premises and native huts on the fringe of a vast expanse of typical delta paddy-fields These mark the southern limit of the city. To the west the boundary is the western bank of the Hlamg , to the east the Pazundaung and Pegu streams hem the city in , to the north the municipal boundary mns through the slightly undulating wooded country into which the European quarter is gradually spreading.


The population of the city at each of the last four enumerations was as follows (1872) 98,745, (1881) 134,176, (1891) 180,324, and (1901) 234,881. After the three Presidency towns and the cities of Hyderabad and Lucknow, Rangoon is the most populous city in the Indian Empire. Its rate of growth is, as the census figmes show, considerable, The actual increase between 1891 and 1901 (54,557) was little less than that of Madras, a city of moie than double its population, while the growth between 1872 and 1901 (136,136) is exceeded only by that of Calcutta among all Indian cities. A large portion of the increase is due to immigration from India. The number of persons born in India resident in the city was 65,910 in 1891 and 117,713 in 1901 (of whom only 16 per cent, were women). Nearly two-thirds of these foreigners came from Madras, and about one-fifth from Bengal. The Chinese colony has incieased from 8,029 in 1891 to 11,018 in 1901. Of the population in 1901, 83,631, or more than one-third, were Buddhists, but the Hindu aggregate (82,994) was almost as large. Musalmans numbered 43,012, and Christians 16,930, of whom about one-half were Europeans and Eurasians, the number of native Christians being 8,179. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the American Baptist Mission labour in the city. The VVesleyans, Presbyterians, and other Piotestant denominations are also represented, and there is a large Roman Catholic mission.


Rangoon has been the administrative head-quarteis of the Province ever since the second Burmese War added Pegu to the Indian Empire. It was never, however, a royal capital, and its impoi- tance as a mercantile centre is of comparatively recent development.

According to Talamg tradition, the fust village on the site of modern Rangoon was founded about 585 B.C. by two brothers, Pu and Ta Paw, who had received some of Gautama's hairs from the Buddha himself, and, acting on his instructions, enshrined them in the famous Shwe- dagon pagoda. Punnanka, who reigned m Pegu from A.D. 746 to 761, is said to have refounded the town, and called it Aramana, and it was not till later that it regained its original name of Dagon. The Talamg records relate how it was occupied by the Burmans in 1413 ; how Byanyakm, the son of Razadint, was appointed governor , and how Shinsawbu, his sister, in whose memory a national festival is celebrated each year, built herself a palace here in 1460. After this, however, the town gradually sank into a collection of huts. Dala, now a suburb on the right bank of the Hlaing, and Synam on the opposite side of the Pegu river, are repeatedly noticed , but of Dagon little or nothing is said.

In the wars between the sovereigns of Burma and Pegu, Dagon frequently changed hands; and when in 1753 Alaungpaya (Alompra) drove out the Taking garrison of Ava (then the Burmese capital), and eventually conquered the Talaing dominions, he came down to Dagon and repaired the great pagoda. Alaungpaya for the most part lebuilt the town, gave it the name of Van Kon (' the end of the war ') or Rangoon, which it has ever since borne, and made it the seat of a viceroy. Until 1790 it was the scene of incessant stiuggles between the Burmans and Peguans. In that year the place was captured by the latter, but the using was speedily quelled by Bodawpaya,

About this period the East India Company obtained leave to establish a factory in Rangoon, and the British colours were hoisted over it In 1794 differences arose in Arakan and Chittagong between the East India Company and the Burmese government, and in the following year Captain Symes was sent on an embassy to Ava, one of the results of his mission being the appointment of a British Resident at Rangoon in 1798, Symes thus describes Rangoon as he saw it :

' It stretches along the bank of the nvei about a mile, and is not moie than a third of a mile in breadth. The city or myo is a square surrounded by a high stockade, and on the north side it is fuithei strengthened by' an indifferent fosse, across which a wooden budge is thrown. In this face there aie two gates, in each of the others only one. On the south side, towards the north, there aie a numbei of huts and three wharves with cranes for landing goods. A battery of 12 cannon (six- and mne-poimdeis) raised on the bank commands the liver, but the guns and carriages aie in such a wretched condition that they could do but little execution. The streets of the town are nairow and much inferior to those of Pegu, but clean and well paved The houses are raised on posts from the giound All the officers of the government, the most opulent merchants, and persons of con- sideiation live within the foit ; shipwrights and persons of inferior rank inhabit the suburbs.'

In the first Burmese Wai (1824) Rangoon was taken by the British During the early part of the campaign strenuous effoits were made by the Burmans to recapture it ; but it was occupied, though not without heavy losses from sickness, as well as from casualties in action, till 1827, when it was evacuated in accordance with the teims of the Tieaty of Yandabo. In 1840 the appearance of Rangoon was described ab suggestive of meanness and poverty. In 1841 king Konbaung Mm, better known as prince Tharrawaddy, ordered the town and stockade to be removed about a mile and a quarter inland to the site of Okka- laba, and to be called by that name. The royal older was to a certain extent obeyed, the principal buildings and government offices were placed in the new town, and were there when the British force landed and captured Rangoon in April, 1852, on the outbieak of the second Burmese War From this time onwards the place has remained in possession of the British, its history being one of marvellous develop- ment, but, with one or two exceptions (such, for instance, as a not that occurred in June, 1893), devoid of striking incidents. The city was separated from Hanthawaddy District, of which it formed part, in 1879.

The principal pagodas are the Shwedagon to the north-east of the cantonment, said to contain the lelics of no less than four Buddhas, namely, the water-strainer of Krakuchanda, the staff of Kasyapa, the bathing robe of Konagamaru, and eight hairs of Gautama , the Sule pagoda, a more ancient but less pretentious shrine in the centre of the business quarter; and the Botataung pagoda on the river face in the south-east of the town.


Rangoon is famous for its carveis in wood and ivory, and for the beauty of its silver-work, which mostly takes the shape of embossed bowls An art exhibition is held annually, and is no doubt helping to stimulate an inteiest in art among native workers. Many beautiful specimens of wood-carving are to be found in the shrine of the Shwedagon pagoda

The factories are for the most part concerned with the preparation of the three principal exports : rice, timber, and oil. Of rice-mills, where the paddy brought from the surrounding rural areas is husked and otherwise prepared for the market, there are about fifty, and of saw- mills about twenty. The petroleum refinery deals with the produce of the earth-oil wells of the dry zone of Upper Burma. The total number of factories in 1904 was 99


About five-sixths of the maritime trade of Burma passes through Rangoon, and a history of the commerce of the Province is very little more than a history of the progress of this single port Since Rangoon became an integral part of the British dominions, its trade has inci eased by leaps and bounds In 1856-7 the value aggregated only a crore. By 1881-2 this figuie had risen to n crores, and by 1891-2 to 19 crores In 1901-2, m spite of a more stringent tariff than m the past, it had mounted up to close on 26 crores, while 1903-4 showed a fuither advance of nearly 6 crores on the figures for the previous >ear. Under practically all the main heads of import and export the growth has been steady Imports of cotton piece-goods, which in 1881-2 were valued at 6| lakhs, were valued at nearly 15 lakhs in 1901-2. Provisions have risen in value from 3 to ii lakhs within the same period, coal from i to 3-^ lakhs, tobacco from 2 to 4 lakhs, spices from 2| to 4-| lakhs. Among exports the development has been even more marked The staple produce of the country is rice. The value of exports in this single commodity amounted in 1901-2 to 9-| crores, compared with 6 croies in 1891-2 and 3^ crores in 1881-2. Next in importance comes teak timber, with a growth in value from 22 lakhs in 1881-2 to 91 lakhs in 1901-2, followed by oil, which has risen from 2 lakhs in the former year to 81 m the latter, Cutch is the only important export that has shown a falling off in recent years.

The following table shows, in thousands of rupees, the actual figures of imports and exports (excluding Government stores and treasure) for the three >ears selected, and for 1903-4 .


During the same period the customs revenue rose from 44 lakhs in 1 88 1-2 to 60 lakhs in 1891-2, to 91 lakhs in 1901-2, and finally to over a crore in 1903-4. Owing to the increasing employment of vessels of large burden, the number of ocean-going steamers entering Rangoon has not risen to an extent proportionate to the growth in trade and tonnage, the figures for 1881-2 being 931 vessels with an aggregate capacity of 655,000 tons, while those for 1903-4 were 1,190 vessels with a capacity of 2,005,000.

Rangoon has entered upon an era of prosperity which shows no immediate prospect of waning. The port is administered by a Port Trust constituted undei the Rangoon Port Act, 1905, which supervises the buoying and lighting of the nver, and provides and maintains wharf and warehouse accommodation. The receipts of the Trust in 1903-4 aggregated nearly 18 lakhs. Rangoon is the terminus of all the lines of i ail way in the Province. S taitmg from Phayre Street station, the lines to Prome and Bassein pass westwards between the municipality and the cantonment, and thence northwards through the suburb of Kemmendme. There are frequent local trains along this section of the railway, and seveial stations within the limits of the city. The mam line to Mandalay and Upper Burma runs generally eastwards from the terminus through the suburb of Pazundaung, and, skirting the mills that line the Pazundaung creek, passes north-east- wards into Hanthawaddy District There are So miles of roads within city limits, of which about 60 are metalled. A steam tramway runs east and west through the heart of the business quarter, as well as northwards as far as the Shwedagon pagoda. It is now being electrified. A railway on the eastern side of the city is used for bringing the earth required for the reclamation of the low-lying swampy area near the banks of the river.


Rangoon city consists of the municipality, the cantonment, and the port For the purposes of judicial and general administration it is a District of Lower Burma, m charge of a Deputy- Adm j n j stration Commissioner who is District Magistrate, and who is assisted by a Cantonment Magistrate, two subdivisional magistrates, and other officials. The Chief Court sits in Rangoon. It is a Court of Session for the trial of sessions cases in the city, and hears appeals from the District Magistrate. There is a bench of honorary magistrates consisting of twenty-three members On the civil side, the Chief Court disposes of original civil cases and of civil appeals Petty civil cases are disposed of in the Small Cause Court, in which two judges sit, There is a good deal of crime in the city. The Indo-Burman com- munity is addicted to theft, and acts of violence are not uncommon, while the proximity of the port appeals to make the temptation to smuggle irresistible to certain classes.

The administiation of the Rangoon Town Lands is at present con- ducted under the provisions of the Lower Bui ma Town and Village Lands Act of 1898. Since 1890 the Town Lands have been managed by a special Deputy-Commissioner, under the control of the Com- missioner of Pegu and the Financial Commissioner For revenue pui poses the whole area comprising the Town Lands is divided into eight circles. The le venue collections in the District approximately average Rs. 31,900, the whole of which is credited to Imperial funds. The giound icnts, togethei with piemmms and the sale pioceeds fiom lands and building bites, avei aging in the past mthei moie than 3 lakhs, arc credited to a special revenue head, from which a contribution of Rs. 1,85,000, diminishing each year by Rs. 25,000 till extinguished in 1908-9, is paid to the Rangoon municipality to be expended on works of utility. The balance is used to finance a scheme for leclaiming and laying out on sanitary lines the low-lying areas of the city. A few acres of rice land are assessed at Rs. 2 an acre, but other lands ordinarily pay a land revenue rate of Rs. 3 an acre The revision of the rate is under consideration. Other sources of non-municipal revenue within city limits, besides customs and land rate, are excise and income tax. The former brought in about 14 lakhs, and the lattei (which has been in foice in Rangoon since 1888) more than 6^ lakhs in 1903-4.

The Rangoon municipality covers an area of about 31 square miles, with a population in 1901 (inclusive of the lesidents of the port) of 221,160. It was constituted on July 31, 1874. The committee con- sists of 25 members, of whom 19 aie elected by the ratepayers and 6 are nominated by Government. Various taxes are levied at a pei- centage on the annual value of lands and buildings within municipal limits namely, the 8 per cent, tax foi geneial purposes, the 7 per cent, scavenging tax, the 4 per cent water tax, and the i per cent, lighting tax. The scavenging tax is charged at the rate of 4 per cent, in areas not served by the municipal drainage system. As elsewhere, market tolls are a fruitful source of municipal income in Rangoon.

During the ten years ending 1900 the ordinary income of the munici- pality (excluding special loans) averaged 1 7 lakhs, and the ordinary ex- penditure 15 lakhs. In 1903-4 the ordinary income was 24 lakhs, the principal sources being 14 lakhs from rates, and 3 lakhs from markets and slaughter-houses. The gross income in 1903-4 was 46! lakhs, including a loan of 15 lakhs. The ordinaiy expenditure during that year was 21 lakhs, and the gross expenditure 55 lakhs. Of this total public works and conservancy absorbed 3^ lakhs each, water-supply 23 lakhs, and hospitals and education about a lakh each.

The cantonment lies to the north of the city. It formerly comprised most of the European residential quarter \ but building operations have now been extended outside its limits, mainly in the dnection of what is known as the Royal Lake, an ar Uncial stretch of water lying to the north-east of the city, and the cantonment boundary itself is now being curtailed The population in 1901 was 13,721. There is a canton- ment fund administered by the cantonment committee. Its income m 1903-4 was Rs. 84,000, derived largely from house and conservancy lates. The expenditure amounted to Rs. 82,000, demoted in the mam to conservancy and police

The city is at present lit with oil lamps, but electric lighting will probably be introduced at an early date.

The drainage system consists of gravitating sewers which receive the sewage from house connexions and carry it to ejectors These dis- charge their contents automatically into a main sewer, through which all the night-soil and sullage water are foiced into an outfall near the mouth of the nver, immediately to the south-west of Monkey Point Batteiy to the east of the city. This system has been working since 1889 with most satisfactoiy results The water-supply for Rangoon has till recently been drawn from an aitificial reservoir about 5 miles from the city, called the Victoria Lake, from which water is carried by a main pipe to the city and supplied at low pressure Water is also pumped up to a high-level reservoir on the Shwedagon pagoda platform about 100 feet above Rangoon, whence it is supplied to the city by gravitation. This arrangement has piovided drinking-water to the city for the past twenty years 3 but the supply having been found insufficient, a large reservoir lake has been constructed at Hlawga, about 10 miles beyond the Victoria Lake, which is calculated to supply all requirements for an indefinite period.

The city contains several handsome buildings. Among the most conspicuous are the new Government House to the north-west of the cantonment area, the Secretariat buildings to the east of the business quarter, and the District court buildings facing the river in the centre of the city. The new Roman Catholic cathedral, which is approaching completion, promises to be a very handsome structure. The Jubilee Hall, at a coiner of the biigade parade ground in the neighbourhood of the cantonment, is one of the more recent additions to the aichi- tecture of the city. It is used for public meetings and for recreation purposes. The town hall, m which the municipal offices are located, adjoins the Sule pagoda in the business quarter. The Rangoon College, the General Hospital, and the Anglican cathedral are grouped

VOL. XXI. P together and merit notice. A new hospital, a Provincial Museum, new currency buildings, and a Chief Court are being constructed There are several public squares and gardens, and a picturesque park (Dalhousie Park) surrounds the Royal Lake referred to above.

Rangoon is garrisoned by British and Native infantry and by two companies of artillery. There are three volunteer corps.

Before June, 1899, the Rangoon police weie under the orders of the Inspector-General of Police, but a Commissioner has now been appointed for Rangoon and the police placed directly under his charge. For police purposes the city is divided into three subdivisions, each in charge of a Superintendent. There aie 10 police stations and 10 outposts The total strength of the force under the ordeis of the Commissioner of Police and the Superintendents is 14 inspectors, 9 head constables, 57 sergeants, and 727 native constables, besides 17 European constables and one European sergeant

Rangoon has a laige Central jail with accommodation for 2,518 native and 80 European prisoners, in charge of a whole-time Supei- intendent, who is an officer of the Indian Medical Service. The principal industries carried on in it are caipentry, wood-carving, coach- building, weaving, wheat-grinding, and printing A considerable portion of the printing work for Government is carried out by the jail branch of the Government Press.


The following are the chief educational institutions in Rangoon . the Rangoon College and Collegiate School, established in 1874, administered by the Educational Syndicate from

Education. 00^111 ^ ,

1886, and placed in 1904 and 1902 respectively

under the direct control of Government , the Diocesan Boys' School, founded in 1864, for the education of Europeans ; the Baptist College, opened in 1872 as a secondary school, and in 1894 affiliated to the Calcutta University, St. John's College (S.P.G.), founded in 1864, and affiliated as a high school to the Calcutta University , St John's Convent School for girls, started in 1861 ; the Lutheran Mission School for Tamil chilaren, opened in 1878, and St. Paul's (Roman Catholic boys') school, opened in 1861

In 1903-4 there were 27 secondaiy schools, no primary schools, 206 elementary (private) schools, and 19 training and special schools. The number of pupils in registered schools and in the two collegiate establishments was 8,031 in 1891, 13,514 in 1901, and 17,166 m I 93~4 (including 4,123 females). The expendituie on education in 1903-4 was borne as follows : Provincial funds, Rs. 90,700 , municipal funds, Rs. 71,500, fees, Rs. 2,04,300; and subscriptions, Rs. 11,500.

The chief epidemic and contagious diseases prevalent in the city are small-pox, cholera, and enteric fever. Small-pox appears to be intro- duced annually from the neighbouring Distucts, where it is always rife Cholera is endemic along the banks of the river and cieeks, and is, no doubt, closely related to an impure drinking-water supply Enteric fever occurs spoiadically throughout the city and suburbs. It is probably due to defective drainage and defective water-connexions. Since 1905 plague has been epidemic.


The most impoitant medical institutions are the Rangoon General Hospital and the Dufferm Hospital, a new and handsome building recently erected in the north-west coiner of the city. In connexion with the Geneial Hospital, there are a contagious diseases hospital and an out-dooi dispensary at Pazundaung. A lunatic asylum is situated close to the Central jail, in charge of a commissioned Medical officer, and a leper asylum is maintained outside the city.

[Capt M Lloyd, District Gazetteer (1868).]

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