Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Damazedi Bell Historical Sources III

Here’s some more on the design of the Damazedi Bell from Mon chronicle sources:

"..his majesty went down to Rangoon to perform meritorious works. He had the heir-apparent and the queen go on the scales, and gave their weight in gold to be beaten out into gold leaf the size of a wall, and had the Rangoon pagoda covered over. His majesty had them design and cast a great bell of one hundred and eighty thousand viss weight of bronze. The mouth of the bell was eight cubits, and its height twelve cubits. He cast also a small bell of five hundred viss weight to strike in offering to the Buddha, on the upper platform of the pagoda. They paid up in Rangoon as the contribution of the Rangoon people, five viss of gold and five thousand viss of bronze" (Halliday (1923) "History of Kings", p. 103, reprint: Halliday, Robert and Christian Bauer (ed) (2000) The Mons of Burma and Thailand: Volume 2. Selected Articles, White Lotus: Bangkok)

It’s also worth reading Harvey’s description and interpretation of events surrounding the bell. As for the casting of the bell, Damazedi’s queen "Shinsawbu had extended the Shwedagon glebe lands as far as Danok, and finding this excessive Damazedi reduced them; in compensation he measured his weight and the weight of his queen in gold four times and dedicated that amount to overlaying the pagoda with scroll work and tracery. (Furnivall (1915) "History of Syriam," Journal of the Burma Research Society, p. 56) He also dedicated a great bell there…He made the usual offerings to the Shwemawdaw [in Pegu], including padeitha trees, and two huge copper bells.

As for the destruction of the bell and the plundering of other religious wealth, Harvey notes that the Portuguese Fillipe de Brito "did wrong in undertaking a regular campaign of pillaging shrines; thus he removed precious stones from the images, melted down the gold, beat it into leaf, and sold it (Hmannan III.118, i.e. he’s relying of the Burmese Chronicle for this fact). He would even melt down the bronze bells of pagodas to save the expense of importing metal for founding cannon."