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Myanmar Regatta Festival


The royal Naval Expedition of A.D. 1841 via the brimful Ayeyawaddy River and also by land as recorded in the Great Royal Chronicle of the Konbaung Dynasty Vol. III was a grand flotilla and parade combined with 15,000 men, 320 war elephants, some 500 steeds and over 1,000 boats, barges, and water crafts of all sizes and kinds.
In accordance with the precedence of Myanmar kings, King Tharyawaddy was escorted by Six battalions in the Vanguard commanded by Six Lords of the Right and Six battalions in the Rearguard commanded by Six Lords of the Left and several Ancillary Services attending the Royal Person on the left, on the right, in the front and in the rear. The battalions included foot soldiers, cavaliers, elephanteers, charioteers, equestrian lancers, swordsmen, gunners, and artillerymen. Each battalion consisted of 800 men, and thus twelve battalions amounted to 9,600 men. With 5,400 men in the Ancillary Services added, the total strength of 15,000 men marched with the King’s naval expedition. A land force consisting of over 320 war elephants, the Royal Mount, and other elephants assigned to the Chief Queen, Royal Brother, Royal Sons and Daughters, Cavalry Units, Infantry Units, Gunners and Artillery also marched by land to escort the King.

But to-day it is not possible to reproduce the exact magnitude and grandeur of the original armada. On a scale permissible by the space of Mingala Kandaw Gyi Lake and the duration of the ceremonies, arrangements were made to represent the magnificence of the Royal Expedition and the organization of the Royal Flotilla. With twenty seven barges and boats of reduced size and over 600 actors taking part, the historic event is re-enacted within the given space and given time to provide the viewers with a glimpse of what the great event would have actually looked like in its days.

The royal pageant is followed by a procession of racing boats participating in the heats, carrying their oarsmen and flags. Later there is a presentation of the traditional Inle boats rowed by leg, carrying young damsels taking food offerings to the monastery.

King Thayawaddy (A.D. 1837-46) a great grandson of King Alaungpaya the founder of the Third Myanmar Empire, refused to recognize the Yandabo Treaty of 1826, which his elder brother King Bagyidaw had been forced to conclude as a result of Myanmar’s defeat in the first Anglo-Myanmar War 1824-26. He planned to redeem by diplomacy or by war the two provinces, Rakhine and Taninthayi, which his brother was forced to cede to the British by the said Treaty. His naval expedition to Dagon in 1841, though officially declared to be a royal pilgrimage to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, was, because of its military, character, looked upon by the British as a move to fight for the liberation of the lost territories. Building of a new town Aung Myey Yan Hnin (The Victorious Ground that wards off the Enemies) and construction of war canoes and fortresses, and his arms deal with the French seemed to confirm the British suspicions. Being alarmed by the exaggerated reports, the British Governor-General of India alerted his forces. The King returned to his Capital in peace after a sojourn of nearly six months in Yangon leaving many works of religious and historical significance.

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