Carving in gable of Pyatthat over the South Gate in the West City Wall, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a pyatthat over a gate in the west city wall of Mandalay in Burma, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Burma Circle, 1903-07. The photograph was taken in 1903 under the direction of Taw Sein Ko, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of Burma. Mandalay was Burma's last great royal capital and founded in 1857 by Mindon Min (reigned 1853-78), Burma’s penultimate king, in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy that a religious centre would be built at the foot of Mandalay Hill. In 1861 the court was transferred to the newly-built city from the previous capital of Amarapura. However the glory of Mandalay was shortlived as it was annexed by the British Empire in 1886 after the Third Anglo-Burmese war, renamed Fort Dufferin and a military cantonment was built inside the walls. The original city was built as a fortress in the form of a perfect square with the palace at the centre. Its battlemented walls faced the cardinal directions and were each nearly two kilometres (1.2 miles) long, surrounded by a 70 metre-wide moat on all four sides. There were twelve city gates, the main gate being the central gate in the east wall which led to the Great Hall of Audience in the Royal Palace, and five bridges spanning the moat. The gateways and many bastions were crowned with tiered wooden spires or pavilions known as pyatthats, a characteristic symbolic feature of Burmese royal and religious architecture which demarcate sacred space. All the pyatthats had five tiers, with the exception of the pyatthats over the central gateway in each wall which had seven tiers because they were used by royalty. This view shows a seven-tiered pyatthat over one of the central gateways. The eaves of the spire are decorated with elaborate ornamental woodcarving. Burma has an ancient tradition of woodcarving. The artform was used in many contexts but the most beautifully carved and intricate examples were generally found as applied decoration on palaces, monasteries, pagodas and associated buildings.