The Pyatthats on City Wall, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a series of pyatthats on the city walls of Mandalay in Burma, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Burma Circle, 1903-07. The photograph was taken in 1903 by an unknown photographer 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 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 there from the previous capital of Amarapura. Its glory was shortlived however 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 Nandaw or Royal 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 multitude of bastions were surmounted with tiered wooden spires or pavilions known as pyatthats, a characteristic symbolic feature of Burmese royal and religious architecture demarcating sacred space. The eaves of the pyatthats were decorated with elaborate ornamental wood carving. This is a view looking along one of the city walls, with pyatthats at intervals. All the pyatthats had five tiers, such as the one in the foreground of this image, with the exception of the pyatthats over the central gateway in each wall, which had seven tiers because they were used by royalty. The walls and the moat were all that remained following the complete destruction of the palace and other buildings by Allied bombing raids in 1945 during the Second World War.