MANDALAY — Residents of Sagaing, a cultural sister city to Mandalay in central Burma, are gearing up to celebrate its 700th birthday this weekend.
According to the celebration committee, the four-day festivities beginning on Sunday will include the traditional Burmese dance known as a-nyeint pwe, musical performances and cultural showcases, as well as several street stalls selling Burmese handicrafts and foods.
“The opening ceremony will take place at the entrance of the town, where we will unveil a statue of King Athinkhaya Saw Yun, the founder of Sagaing Kindom,” said a member of the celebration committee.
The bronze statue of Athinkhaya Saw Yun will be placed at the center of a roundabout at the entrance of Sagaing facing Mandalay. According to the Ministry of Information, the 13-foot statue was gifted by former Construction Minister Khin Maung Myint and was cast at a cost of 35 million kyats (US$29,000).
Athinkhaya Saw Yun founded the Sagaing Kingdom in 1315, decades after the fall of the Kingdom of Bagan. The Sagaing Kingdom’s place in history as a standalone empire was short-lived, however, and came to an end in 1364 when it was sacked by Shan raiders. It would later become a fiefdom of the Ava Dynasty, and from 1760 to 1763 Sagaing briefly became the royal capital under the rule of King Naungdawgyi of the Konbaung Era.
Although the whereabouts of the royal palace’s ruins are unknown, organizers hope to use the occasion of Sagaing’s 700th birthday to encourage an appreciation for the city’s heritage, including the numerous ancient pagodas and Buddhist temples that remain standing.
“The celebration is to create awareness about conserving the ancient pagodas and to instill the younger generations with knowledge about the history and glory of the Sagaing Kingdom,” the celebration committee member said.
The opening ceremony of the celebration will show off traditional costumes worn during the Bagan, Sagaing, Ava and Konbaung eras.
The sporting grounds of Sagaing, where the bulk of the festivities will take place, is almost ready to host celebrants.
“We are going to finish the entrance decorations of the grounds today,” said Tin Tun Aung, an artist who has been involved in decorating the sporting grounds’ entrance. “It is well decorated with handicrafts and the figure of King Athinkhya Saw Yun at the top. People from near and far are already flocking to the city and, hopefully, we will receive tens of thousands of visitors during the celebration.”
The planned festivities come even as residents of Sagaing Division in several townships north of the city grapple with the aftermath of major flooding that has displaced thousands since last week. President Thein Sein visited the inundated region on Tuesday and distributed relief supplies to affected residents.