by Myat Soe Phyu
Oral histories tell us that Chanthargyi stupa was built through donations by King Asoka (269 to 232 BCE), an India emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who promoted the spread of Buddhism. At that time, the land around the Chanthargyi stupa was high and lush green and nearby was the east bank of Irrawaddy River which was the life-stream of the people of Myanmar. In 797 AD, King Alongsithu renovated the stupa. Mahabizaya Thiha Thura (Eain Shae Min), the eldest son of King Bodawpayar of Amarapura, raised the existing condition of the stupa again in 1783 AD.
Later, a monk from Amarapura city built the very first monastery in the southern section of Chanthargyi stupa and taught Buddhism with his colleagues. They constructed the religious buildings such as the ordination hall (Thein), Dhamma hall and monastries in the monastic compound. Other pilgrims and devotees built the religious buildings in the compound and gave offerings to the monks.
Some historical books say there were settlements in the Mandalay region from the 11th century and this was the agricultural area which supplied food to Bagan City. It was a pleasant environment with creeks and lakes. Thingazar Chaung was the small branch of Irrawaddy River that flowed from the west of Chanthargyi stupa to Tetthay Inn (Kandawgyi Lake) in the southern part of the city. At that time, Thingazar Chaung was on average 550 feet wide and over 4 miles long, but, now it is about 100 feet wide and has been used as a channel for waste water disposal since the colonial era.
In the middle of 18th century, when king Mindon shifted his royal city to Mandalay, a new site apart from the old city of Amarapura, he made it an example of traditional town planning. He defined the four sides of the golden city and marked the western boundary as the Irrawaddy River. Therefore, Chanthargyi stupa and its monastic complex were situated within the boundaries of the golden city. Moreover, King Mindon divided Mandalay City into four sections, designing grid patterns according to the cardinal directions, and defined the quarters around the city. Chanthargyi monastic complex and its surrounding neighborhood including Thingazar Chaung were defined as Thrimalar west quarter. Some historical sources show that some of the king’s wives along with his servants lived in this quarter.
During the King Mindon period, Chanthargyi monastery became a famous Buddhist teaching monastery (Sarthin Tike) because the king was a deeply religious man. Some historical sources declare that Queen Set Kyar Dai Wi went out from the city and worshiped at Chanthargyi stupa during each Chanthargyi pagoda festival. She gave regular donations and organized the puppet show for the pilgrims who came to the pagoda festival. Also King Thibaw, son of King Mindon, worshiped annually at the Chanthargyi stupa. Many pilgrims from around the country came and joined the famous festivals of Chanthargyi stupa and they sometimes remained for a long time. So, some residential settlements began to grow in this neighborhood.
Today, the Chanthargyi monastic complex is surrounded by residential neighborhoods such as Pwekone ward, Saitan ward, Thinbawtan ward, Shwelong ward, and Alaebaung ward. Apparently, the above mentioned names of wards represent the activities and events around the Chanthargyi pagoda annual festivals. Most of settlers in this area moved and settled from other neighborhood towns and villages such as Sintkuu, Depaeying, and Seinpan among others. One of the reasons for the growing population in Thingazar Chaung Neighborhood is Chanthargyi stupa and its famous teaching monasteries in the compound.
Today, after many decades, Chanthargyi stupa stands surrounded by 26 monastries and this complex is famous as Chanthargyi Tike Kyaung, a centre for Buddhist teaching.