Discover the Bell That Reveals Buddhist and Myanmar History

The King Bayinnaung Bell Inscription shows donations made for Buddhist religious merit and documents the multilingual relations within the kingdom in Myanmar in the 16th century.

By UNESCO Memory of the World

King Bayinnaung Bell, view 3 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

Why Is the King Bayinnaung Bell Inscription Important?

The King Bayinnaung Bell Inscription, donated by King Bayinnaung at Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan in 1557, documents the donations made for Buddhist religious merit and are inscribed in three languages: Myanmar, Mon, and Pali. It’s likely the only trilingual bell inscription in the world.

King Bayinnaung Bell, view 2 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

What's on the Bell?

Recorded on the Bell are the names of the donors, their endeavor for the country, their meritorious deeds, prayers, etc. They also include the achievements of Bayinnaung, such as military campaigns for reunification of the disintegrated country and of his renovation works of ruined pagodas and monasteries.

Shwezigon Pagoda Festival, view 2 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

End of Animistic and Superstitious Practices

Bayinnaung ruled his country and people with justice, kindness, and compassion. As noted on the inscription, he eliminated animistic and superstitious practices, such as slaughter and sacrifice of animals and offering of intoxicant liquor to the spirits, by royal order.

King Bayinnaung Bell, view 4 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

Trilingual Bell Indicates External Relations

The Myanmar, Mon, and Pali language alphabets are derived from the Asoka Brahmi scripts and letters. Some of them are very similar to Khamar alphabets. Therefore, the Bell inscription proves relations between Myanmar and other countries such as India, Thailand, Lao, and Cambodia.

King Bayinnaung Bell, view 5 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

King Was the Conqueror of the Ten Directions

This Bell is the only contemporary record in Burmese that calls Bayinnaung the "Conqueror of the Ten Directions," a title by which he is widely known in Mon and Thai languages.

Shwezigon Pagoda Festival, view 1 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

King Bayinnaung and Theravada Buddhism

Bayinnaung supported Buddhist monks in caring out their mission of spreading Theravada Buddhism and Buddhist culture throughout his kingdom. He also provided religious assistance to Sri Lanka to revive Theravada Buddhism there by sending Myanmar Buddhist delegations. 

King Bayinnaung Bell, view 1 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

Bell of Justice

The Bell was hung at the palaces so that anybody who had a complaint could ring it and ask for justice from King Bayinnaung, who upon hearing the ringing of the bell of justice would examine the complaint. 

Shwezigon Pagoda, view 2 (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

Shwezigon Pagoda Still Houses the Bell

The Bell is in the Shwezigon Pagoda in the ancient city of Bagan. The Pagoda is a prototype of Myanmar stupas and consists of a circular gold leaf-gilded stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. The Pagoda is believed to have enshrined a replica of the Tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha.

Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan

Bagan panorama view (16th century) by King BayinnaungUNESCO Memory of the World

History, Language, and Technological Innovation in Myanmar

The King Bayinnaung Bell inscription proves not only historical and language accounts, but also technological evidence to the casting of the bronze bells in 16th century in Myanmar.

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UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme is an international initiative launched to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and willful and deliberate destruction.
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