The Shwedagon Pagoda (Golden Pagoda) lies in the heart of the city of Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma) and dominates the skyline. With four relics of Buddha enshrined within, this is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese.
If you are in Yangon you should visit this pagoda at least twice in a day, one in the morning and one in the night time. Both times you will be enraptured by its splendor and grandeur.
In the Northwest corner there hang a bronze bell, of immense proportion and weight and craved with intricate Burmese scriptures. They said that if you tap the bell three times with a four-foot wooden beam your prayers will be answered, if your prayers are sincere, your wish hurts nobody and that your wish must be ethically and morally virtuous. So don’t ever think that by doing a Knock-Three-Times on the sacred Bell (and not on the ceiling, a song popularized by Tony Orlando back in the early 70s) your girl friend or boy friend will come running into your waiting arms or that you don’t have to work and money will just rain down on your lap.
It just don’t work that way.
So when Calvin travels with me to Yangon, we will be at this Northwest corner giving it a go and hoping that our prayers will be answered and answered soon enough. I don’t know about the dear son of mine, perhaps his prayers are already answered but I am still day-dreaming about my wish in spite that I have done a Knock-Three-Times on the great Bell for the umpteen times.
There is a legend behind this great Bell. And as legends go, there are always a lot of variations, some myths and mysteries magnified, some romances and heavenly stories added, some said that it weighed 50 tons and some said it weighed 100 over tons, through the years as it gets narrated.
One version goes like this, and I pronounce myself guilty that I am adding some lore to the legend.
The might of the British Empire spread throughout the East in the early 19th century when the sun was at its zenith for the Queen. They had annexed Greater Burma and they occupied Shwedagon Pagoda, stomping the holy ground with their boots on, which the Burmese treated it as sacrilege, as no footwear was allowed in the holy compound. They saw the Bell hanging there and thought that on Her Majesty Service this one could be melted down and turned into ammunition. So they stripped off the Bell unceremoniously, transported it down river by small skiffs tied together, to a waiting mother ship berthing out at sea.
But Providence had it that before it could be off-loaded to the Schooner battle ship a great gale force developed and the skiffs sank, together with the great Bell. For a long time the Royal British Navy tried to rig it up from a depth of more than 200 ft deep but to no avail. The Bell was just too heavy. Sediments were settling on the Bell day by day as it dug deeper into the sea bed.
The Burmese were very hurt when the British took away their Wishing Bell. So senior monks and abbots conferred and they came out with a plan to retrieve the Wishing Bell. They approached the Brigadier of the Garrison Force in Rangoon to let them have the Bell and restored it to its rightful place if they could salvage it.
One could only imagine that the Brigadier barked like a mad dog with rabies raging in its head when he was being confronted.
“Well, well, you stupid pygmies Burmese want to pull the Bell from the bottom of the sea.” The Brigadier ranted, raved and foamed white on the reddish lips of his mouth, his strictly manicured mustache twitching on his upper lip as he spoke. Beneath his damp sweaty right armpit, he held a wooden baton truncheon as if he wanted to hit hard on whoever happened to be nearby to vent his anger.
“Keep it if you dig it out, and now be lost with you stupid lot and don’t bother me again.” The Brigadier continued to bellow.
The monks then ordered the gathering of a large stock of small sticks of bamboo poles, cutting each of the bamboo stick off above the notch so that the little air that trapped inside would be buoyant. Then, they gathered a group of pearl divers, whose lungs were so well developed as the gills of a fish that they could stay underwater for prolonged period.
Some pearl divers knew the exact location of the Bell in the uncertain sea. Pieces of bamboo were tied round the Bell and as the Bell tilted, these bamboo poles were inserted into the Bell.
In less than a month, the Bell was floating freely on the open sea.
The Might of the Goliath British Empire was just being humbled by little David, whom the British described them as stupid pygmies Burmese.
If you are in Yangon, pay a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda and don’t miss the Wishing Bell. You might be lucky.
Acknowledgment courtesy from http://www.mir.com.my/leofoo/Burma2005/index3.htm