No. 73. Amerapoora. Palace of the White Elephant.
Photographer: Tripe, Linnaeus
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, taken at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). In 1855 a British mission was sent to King Mindon Min of Burma to negotiate a settlement regarding Pegu, annexed by the British following the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. Linnaeus Tripe was the official photographer on this mission, his pioneering architectural and topographical views of the country are an important photographic record. Amarapura, on the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) river, was twice the capital of the Burmese kings of the Konbaung dynasty: from 1782 (the year of its foundation by King Bodawpaya) to 1823 and again from 1837 to 1860, after which Mandalay, 11 km to the north, became capital. Amarapura was the site of the first British Embassy to Burma in 1795, and played host again to Tripe's Mission. The white elephant is associated with the legends of the Buddha's life and occupied great symbolic significance in the hierarchy of the Burmese court. Sinbyudaw or Lord White Elephant was ritually bathed and anointed and treated with great reverence with a white parasol held over it wherever it went. In reality albino elephants were a pinkish grey in colour rather than pure white. Tripe wrote of this palace, 'The white elephant is the same Crawfurd saw in 1826; it is now fifty years old: it has its guards, four white and eight gold umbrellas, officers of state, regalia, &v., &c.'