Monday, January 14, 2008

12. The elephant Bagamat's mahout refuses to do him harm

On arriving back at his stockade, Rajadhirat summoned Nga Pyan, the former mahout of the elephant Bagamat. Rajadhirat knew that no other elephant could even challenge this elephant. Bagamat had once been a Mon elephant before being captured by the Burmese. Rajadhirat asked the mahout how this dangerous elephant should be dealt with.

Nga Pyan put forward two plans. The first was for him to head a quartet of she-elephants on which warriors of noble blood who were expert with the spear would be mounted. When they came upon Bagamat, Nga Pyan would call out the elephant’s name

Recognizing his former mahout’s voice Bagamat would not attack them. Then it would be just a matter of disposing of whoever was riding Bagamat and then he, Nga Pyan would take over.

The alternative plan was to enter into the Burmese encampment by stealth late at night and hammer spikes into the elephant's feet, pinning the elephant to the floor so that it could not move or leave the stockade.

King Rajadhirat decided on the second plan and rewarded Nga Pyan for his good ideas. He also selected Bawgati and Mapaing to accompany him on this mission. On the night when the raid was to take place, Nga Pyan peeled three lengths of sugar cane for Bagamat. The party successfully sneaked into the stockade past the dozing Burmese troops.

When they entered the shed where Bagamat was tethered, the elephant recognized the scent of his old mahout and stood quietly. Nga Pyan offered the sugar cane he had brought to Bagamat. He then spoke to the elephant:

"I have come with the king's order to nail your feet to the floor but now that I when I see you, I cannot do that. If you love me, your two brothers and your mother, when the Burmans try to harness you for the coming battle do not let them, go on a rampage within this stockade and then come home to me. My life will be spared only when you come back to me."

Bagamat nodded his head, tears welling up and rolling down his cheeks.

Bawgati and Mapaing remarked that the king had sent them because he was planning to joust on elephants the next day as he did not want Bagamat to be on the other side and if it was not to be done as the king had instructed, the responsibility should be solely on Nga Pyan. Then they left.

Meanwhile, Rajadhirat kept vigil through the striking of the third watch of the night ( ie, about 3 am), waiting for the news of the raid's outcome.

When Nga Pyan and party reached their camp at the stroke of the third quarter of the night, they were asked by the king whether his orders had been carried out. Nga Pyan related to the king what had actually occurred. The king was furious and slapped Nga Pyan:

" I had plans to raise you to noble status (thu-kaung pyu) if you had accomplished your mission. I'll have you and your family burned if your elephant does not come back."

(Slightly edited version of U San Lwin’s translation, 144-145; the Burmese of Banya Dala’s Razadarit Ayeidawpon, 319-320)