Carving in eaves and hips, Theatre Hall, [Mandalay Palace]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of carvings decorating the roof of the Theatre Hall in the Nandaw (Royal Palace) at Mandalay in Burma (Myanmar), from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Burma Circle, 1903-07. The photograph was taken by an unknown photographer in 1903 under the direction of Taw Sein Ko, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of Burma at the time. Mandalay was Burma’s last great royal capital and was founded in 1857. The palace stood in a square enclosure at the centre of the walled city. Following Burmese tradition, the palace was built on an east-west axis, with the public state rooms on the east front, and the private women’s apartments for queens of various rank towards the rear on the west front. The Theatre Hall was situated on the south side of the palace where the women’s quarters began, and was the setting for performances of drama and dance, known as pwe, watched by the royal family and their guests. This view shows ornamental wood carving on the eaves of the hall’s tiered corrugated-iron roof, a symbolic form demarcating sacred space which was restricted to royal and religious architecture. Motifs include flowers, foliage, flame-like "nat-saw" (pointed) designs, horn-like shapes known as saing-baung which were stylizations of the haunches of a wild ox, and the dominant upright prow-like element derived from the breasts of peacocks. Burma has a long tradition of woodcarving, at which its artisans excel both technically and aesthetically, and both the interior and exterior of the Royal Palace were lavishly decorated with carvings, some of which came from the palace at the former royal capital of Amarapura. The original palace at Mandalay was completed destroyed by fire during Allied bombing raids in 1945 during the Second World War but has since been partially reconstructed.