History of Myanmar
British embassy in Amarapura, Burma. By unidentified author, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris.
The beautiful country of Myanmar or Burma as it was known prior to its independence has a rather chequered history. It has been occupied by a number of kingdoms from time immemorial, and does not quite enjoy democracy in its full form despite being a republic.
Burma has had earlier settlers dating back to the 2nd century BCE. It was the Pye in the North and the Mon in the South who occupied the country and founded several cities and states by the 4th century BCE. The Mranma unified the entire Irrawady region by establishing the pagan Empire in 1044 CE The language, culture and other aspects of the country came to be defined properly for the first time ever since the early inhabitation in this region. However, local strifes and constant wars became the norm after the fall of this dynasty and Burma came to be a united kingdom once again only in 1510 CE under the Toungoo Dynasty. It became the largest empire of Southwest Asia for a short time thereafter and continued to be so for a brief time under the Konbaung dynasty which followed. The cultural ties were enhanced during this period and Burma enjoyed the title of being the most literate nation in the region during this time.
The country came under British domination gradually following the fist Anglo Burmese war in 1824. The strife was, however, complete only 1886 when the ruling king and his family were sent to India in exile. Burma then became a province of British India. The country underwent a drastic change and religion was separated from administration for the very first time. The resistance to British rule continued though and the entire area was brought firmly under control in 1890 by the British who completely crushed the old order and brought in their own civil servants to govern the province.
The economy of Burma prospered predominantly by virtue of its fertile rice fields, which were put to cultivation. However, it was the British Empire and Indian migrants who reaped the benefits and the original Burmese remained poor and deprived. Several nationalist revolutions took place during the period 1920- 1930 and the British separated it from India in 1937 in order to administer it better.
World War II provided an opportunity for the Burmese to oppose the British Dominion. The Japanese entered the area with the help of Burma Independence Army in 1942. However, the Japanese occupation was short-lived as the Burmese quickly became disillusioned with them. They successfully routed the Japanese in 1945 by joining with the Allies.
Union of Burma
The country gained total independence in 1948 but the newly formed Socialist government refused to join the Commonwealth as the antipathy for the British remained strong in the country. The next few years were not peaceful at all and the country was torn apart by political insurgencies. The military took over by toppling the government in a coup d’état in 1962. The country was officially renamed as Myanmar in 1989 and general elections were announced. The elected government was, however, not allowed to function properly by the military. Thein Sein is the President of Myanmar. At present the political difficulties continue though, and democracy is yet to take hold properly in the country. That said, Myanmar has made great strides in the right direction during the past year or two.
Regions & States in Myanmar
Myanmar is divided into seven states and seven regions. The regions are mainly administrative divisions. The states are semi-autonomous divisions home to particular ethnic groups. In Burmese, states are known as ‘Pyine’ and regions as ‘Yin’.
The state of Kachin is located in the north and north-east of Myanmar. It is known for its beautiful mountain ranges. The highest mountain in Myanmar, Hkakborazi is located here. Myiktyina is the capital city of Kachin. It shares its boundaries with the People’s Republic of China in the east and north-east and India in the west.
The Khakaborazi National Park is the main tourist attraction. This park was built in the year 1996 in Naungmung town in northern Kachin. The purpose of this park is to conserve natural forests and wildlife. The mountain ranges allow interesting trekking tours for tourists in this part of the country.
The Kayah state is known for its scenic beauty. It has a hilly topography. It is flanked by Thailand in the east, Shan State in the north and Karen State on the west and south. Natural caves and idyllic lakes add to the beauty of the landscape. The state capital is Loikaw
Mateku falls and the Lawpita Falls on Balu Chaung feature as top tourist attractions. The Lawpita Hydroelectric Power Plant is located here. It is the main power supply station in Myanmar.
The Kayin state lies in the east of Myanmar. It shares its borders with Mandalay division and Shan State in the north and Thailand and the Kayah State in the east and the Mon state and Bogo division in its west. Hpa An is the capital city.
The natural beauty of the state with its streams and waterfalls are the chief attractions. Thandaung is a well known hill station. The Donthami river bridge makes this state easily accessible from the Mon State.
The Chin state is the home to different types of Chin tribes. Located in north-west Myanmar, it shares its borders with Sagaing Division in the north and east, and Rakhine state and Magway division in the south. Hakhar is the capital city.
Tourists come to visit the heart-shaped ‘Reh’ lake close to the Indian border. Mt. Victoria Nature Park and Nat Ma Taung are the attractions of this state.
Mon state is bounded by Bago division in the north, Kayin State in the east, Gulf of Martaban in the West and Tanintharyi Division in the south. Mawlamyaing is the state capital.
Nearby attractions include the Kyaikhtio Pagoda and the Golden Rock. Zeebyuthaung the first sea-fishing cooperative village is located in this area.
The Rakhine State shares its common borders with Bangladesh in the north-west, Chin state in the north, Ayarwaddy Division on the east and the Bay of Bengal on the west and south. The capital city is Sittwe.
The famous Ngapali beach is located in this state. It is known all over the world for its clean blue sea waters and unspoilt beach. Mrauk U, the ancient city of the Rakhine Dynasty is a historical tourist attraction located here.
The Shan state saddles the middle-eastern part of Myanmar. Taunggyi is the capital city. It is bounded by China in the north east, Laos and Thailand in the south east, Kachin State in the north and Sagaing and Karen in the South.
The famous fresh water Inle Lake is located here. Kakku Pagodas and the Pindaya limestone caves are major attractions. Taungyyi Hot air balloon festival held each year in the capital city is a popular among the locals. During Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival people come to witness the boat race competitions of one-legged rowers.
Yangon region is located in the extreme eastern region of the Ayarwaddy Delta area. The Andaman Sea lies to its south east, Ayarwaddy region to its west and the Bago region in the north. This is the most economically developed regions of Myanmar. Yangon previously known as Rangoon is the main city and port of this region.
The Shwedagon Pagoda, Sule, Kabaraye, Ko Htat Gyi, Chauk Htat Gyi are iconic landmarks in Yangon. The main tourist market Bogyoke Aung Sang Market is located in this city. Yangon can easily be accessed from Thanlyin, Dalla, Bago and Twante.
Mandalay is the dry region in Myanmar. It falls in the dry zone sharing borders with Bago region in the south, Sagaing Region in the north, Shan State in east and Magway region in west. Mandalay city is the capital.
Important attractions include Maha Myat Muni Pagoda and Mandalay Royal Palace. Visiting the U-Bein Bridge made of teak pillars is a unique experience. The bridge has been built across the Taung ta man Lake in Amarapura.
This region occupies the deltaic coast of Ayarwaddy River. The Bay of Bengal lies to its northwest, Rakhine State to its north, Yangon division in the east and the Bago borders its north and east and Andaman Sea to its south. Pathein is the capital city of this region.
Ayarwaddy is famous for its beautiful beaches. The Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung Beach along the coast of Bay of Bengal are located in this region. These beaches are known for their scenic beauty.
The Sagaing region is the largest among the seven regions. It is located between the Chin State in the west and Kachin State is the north-east. Shan State flanks its eastern borders and Mandalay and Magway regions its southern borders. Sagaing is the capital city.
Across the Ayarwaddy River are the Mingun Pahtodawgyi and Mingun Bell. This bell is the largest ringing bell. Thanboddhay Pagoda in Monya is a popular tourist destination. Sagaing Hill is a place for meditation.
Magway region occupies the dry zone in Central Myanmar. It is bounded by Bago Region in the south, Sagaing Region in the north, Mandalay Region in the east, Rakhine and Chin State in the west. Magway city is the capital of this region.
The iconic landmarks in this region are the Magway Mya Thalun Pagoda and the Minbu Shwesettaw.
Bago Region is saddled between the Mandalay and Magwe region in the north and Ayarwaddy and Yangon to its south. To its east lie the Kayin and Mon State and the Ayarwaddy region and the Rakhine State to its west. Its capital is Bago city.
Bago Shwemawdaw Pagoda located in this region is famous for the famous reclining Buddha image. The Knbawza Thardi Royal Palace of the Bago dynasty is a historical landmark. Around 8 kilometers to the east of Bago division is the ancient Pyu kingdom. Bago forest is scattered with forest camps.
This region lies in the southern end of Myanmar. It has common borders with Thailand in the east and south east, Andaman Sea in the west and Mon State in the north. Dawei is the capital city of this region.
Out of 1000 islands in Myanmar coast, 800 are located along the Tanintharyi coast. The famous Myeik Archipelago is located in this region. Tourists visit this area to study the Salon tribe known for their unique water-based existence. Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy diving trips along the coastline.