Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Asaygan Fort


By 1850, King Mindon began to build fortifications along the Ayeyarwaddy River to prepare for the expected skirmishes to come with British troops. In 1885, three forts were built in a triangle in attempt to trap oncoming British soldiers, and were considered the last line of defense before the royal capital of Mandalay. Asaygan was one of these three, designed in the shape of a semi-circle, with walls nine feet high with holes for rifle fire (except for the south-facing wall). In the end, however, the forts were never used because the King and Parliament ordered its troops not to resist when the British did eventually come; indeed, when the advancing Colonel White arrived to disarm the populace, he was given a dinner by the newly surrendered Burmese commander. Sir Herbert White writes in A Civil Servant in Burma, “The fall of Mandalay had been so sudden that it had not yet been realized in rural places, and the forces of opposition had not yet been organized. Very soon the turmoil began. It was then long before officers were able to travel without escort in Upper Burma.”

The inexorable march of tropical greenery has invaded even the innermost fortifications, but amidst this one can find some old cannons and the original walls. On the Sagaing side there are tombstones of British soldiers who died in some minor skirmishes in 1885 in spite of the overall peaceful surrender of Burmese forces.

Obviously, this fort is not really related to Buddhist practice in any way. So unless one is a history buff, it may not be worth the detour, and there are certainly no conducive sites for a sitting. But if one does go, the crows can be quite bad here during the cool season, so a laser is recommended. Admission to the fort is free.