A Walk In Yangon
Now a bustling metropolis, Yangon has its roots deep in history.
Nestled on the eastern banks of the Yangon River it began history as a small, quiet
fishing village. In antiquity it was also known variously as Kyaik Lagun, then Okkalapa, then as Dagon. The only distinction it had then was the
shimmering and imposing sight of the Shwedagon Pagoda that towered above the village in the distance. The most important towns at that time were Bago (previously known as Pegu ) and Thanlyin (called Syriam by the British).
However, fortunes changed. In 1755 A.D King Alaungpaya, the founder of the 3rd Myanmar Empire, conquered Lower Myanmar and consolidated his Konbaung Dynasty. In the same year he also seized the small town of Dagon and to commemorate his conquest changed its name to Yangon. "Yan" in the
Myanmar language means harm, strife or enemy. "Gon" means the 'end' or 'empty
of'. So the name Yangon means "the end of strife". Also by then Bago and Thanlyin had paled into insignificance
after the fall of the kingdom of Bago. Under Myanmar Imperial rule Yangon became prominent in history as the major
commercial port for foreign trade of Lower Myanmar.
Fortunes changed again for Yangon after the 2nd Anglo-Myanmar War of 1852 A.D. When that war ended, the British gained Lower Myanmar and the country was divided into British and Imperial
Myanmar domains. The British spelled the name Yangon in the way they heard it, "Rangoon" and made it onto the administrative and commercial capital of the British part of Myanmar. They also called
the country "Burma", confusing the name of the country with the majority race the "Bama" nationalities.
With the observation from Lord Dalhousie that "the place will certainly grow in importance as a port if at all" the town was
enlarged, extending beyond the boundaries under the Myanmar kings. Dr. William Montgomerie, who was the Superintendent Surgeon in Yangon at that time, submitted a plan for the
new town, as he had once been involved in the planning of Singapore. Also Lt. A. Fraser of the
Bengal Engineers made a more detailed proposal and was entrusted with the task of building the city but he in fact followed more or less the original plans made by Montgomerie. The new plan extended the
town further along the Yangon River.
As time went on Yangon grew into a modern city with many commercial enterprises and government offices. Italso became known as the Garden City of the East. Architectural styles from Europe was copied and reproduced here in many of the government and private buildings in what is known as the colonial
architectural style. The trend continued until the time of Independence in 1948.
This brief photo essay will take you on a walk to see many of the magnificent old buildings that are still well-preserved after all these years, in spite of the ravages of time and destruction from both the Allied and
Japanese armies during World War II. Now, Yangon with its greenery and wide
avenues, and little pollution compared to other cities, seem poised to be crowned once again as the Garden City of the East.
The Shwedagon, more majestic then ever with annual donations from the adoring public, still towers like a beacon of pride over the city. Whatever the changes in the cityscape, the golden spire of the Shwedagon will always stand sentinel.