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Boo Phya, or Pumpkin Pagoda, bank of the River, Pagân

Boo Phya, or Pumpkin Pagoda, bank of the River, Pagân

Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)

Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink

Date: 1855

Shelfmark: WD540(26)

Item number: 54026

Length: 328

Width: 484

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Drawing

Watercolour with pen and ink of a view of the Bupaya (Pumpkin) Pagoda on the riverbank at Pagan (Bagan) from 'A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre’s Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855' by Colesworthy Grant. This album is made up of 106 landscapes and portraits of Burmese and Europeans documenting the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878).

The mission took place after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 and the annexation by the British of the Burmese province of Pegu (Bago). It was despatched by the Governor-General of India Lord Dalhousie on the instructions of the East India Company, to attempt to persuade King Mindon to sign a treaty formally acknowledging the extension of British rule over the province. The mission started out from Rangoon and travelled up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital at Amarapura, stopping en route at various locations. In addition to diplomatic duties, the mission aimed to obtain accurate information about the country, culture and people of Burma, and to this end Grant was sent as official artist and Linnaeus Tripe as photographer.

Grant (1813-1880) had come to India in 1832 where he lived in Calcutta and travelled to Rangoon in 1846. In recognition of his skill, he was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King. Together with a privately-printed book of notes, his drawings give a vivid account of the journey and a number were used for illustrations to Henry Yule’s ‘A Narrative of the mission sent by the Governor General of India to the Court of Ava in 1855’ published in 1858.

More than 5,000 stupas and temples still stand on the plain at Pagan, an abandoned city on the east bank of the river which was the royal capital of an extensive Burmese kingdom between the 11th and 13th centuries. The Bupaya was built in c.850 by King Pyusawti and is a stupa, a solid domed structure enshrining Buddhist relics. It takes its name from the bu or gourd plant, and is traditionally connected to the legend of Pyusawti. This recounts that the young hero vanquished Five Great Menaces ravaging the city of Pagan. One of these was the invasive growth of gourd plant vines. In reward he was given the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage and on acceding to the throne built pagodas at each of the places where he had triumphed over the Menaces. The temple was completely destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1975, but has since been rebuilt.

Grant identified the boats in this view as follows: 'The English Vessels at anchor are the Steamer ‘Bentinck’ and Flat ‘Sutlege’, which conveyed the members of the Mission; and in the rear the Steamer ‘Nerbudda’ and Flat ‘Panlany’, having on board a Company of Her Majesty's 84th Regiment, fifteen of the 8th Irregular Cavalry with their horses, and twenty five Seamen of the War Steamer ‘Zanobia’, as escort, together with other followers of the Mission. The cabin boat made fast to the ‘Nerbudda’ Steamer, bearing the royal flag of Ava, conveyed one of the Burmese Officers of the Deputation.'

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