Primped, Pruned and Peaceful in the Heart of Rangoon

Steve Tickner The Irrawaddy

RANGOON — Maha Bandoola Garden in downtown Rangoon sits opposite the well-known Sule Pagoda and has recently been renovated to provide a tranquil, shady oasis for visitors during the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, which Burma will host in December for the first time in 44 years.

Since its re-opening last month, the park has already become a popular venue for local residents to escape the commercial capital’s growing hustle and bustle. Its dominant centerpiece is a 150-feet-tall obelisk commemorating independence from British rule in 1948. The obelisk replaced a large statue of Queen Victoria that took pride of place when the park was known as Fytche Square and the country was ruled by Britain. The garden itself is named after Gen Maha Bandoola, who led Burma against the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War.

The obelisk is surrounded by eight statues of mythical lion creatures known as “chinthe.” These creatures also appear on the local currency and are a familiar figure in Burmese culture, frequently seen guarding the gates and entrances to the nation’s pagodas and temples.

Since the renovation, the space now features wide, well-manicured lawns and gardens, and a modern children’s playground.