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New bell rings the changes in Myaungmya

The Mingun Bell in Sagaing division, photographed in 1873. (PHOTO: CPA Media/ www.picturesfromhistory.com)

The price of land in the Irrawaddy delta town of Myaungmya has increased by up to 1,000 percent recently, and much of the boom has been attributed to the building of a 333-tonne bronze bell which many locals believe will quickly become a major tourist attraction.

Local residents in Myaungmya told DVB that the price of land close to Myatseintaung Hill, the site where the giant bell will be housed after its construction, have gone up by about tenfold. “The present landowners are asking for about 15 million kyat (US$15,000) for a 40×60 plot of land that was previously priced at around 150,000 kyat,” said Myaungmya resident Thar Nge.

“Many investors think they are buying valuable land,” he warned, “but some of the plots fall within an archaeological zone where building houses is not allowed.”

Kaung Khant, a real estate agent in Rangoon, said house and land prices across the country were constantly being manipulated by land speculators buying up land in areas with potential development and growth with the intention of reselling them at higher prices soon after.

However, a lawyer in Myaungmya said the hike in local land prices was because “cronies” from Rangoon were aggressively buying land ever since the town announced earlier this year it was to build the bell.

Burma has a long history of giant bells due to the traditional of erecting bronze bells at the entrance to Buddhist temples. The Great Bell of Dhammazedi, built in 1484 by King Dmammadezi of Pegu, is believed to be the largest bell ever made. It was originally placed in Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon but was stolen by a Portuguese warlord called Filipe de Brito e Nicote in 1608. The weight proved too much for De Brito’s boat and it sank to the bottom of the Rangoon River where it is still believed to lie.

Perhaps the most famous giant bell in existence is the Mingun Bell which rests at a monastery in Sagaing division on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River. It is 12 feet high and weighs a precise 199,999 pounds.

Funded by local donations, the proposed Myaungmya bell is estimated to cost some 7 billion kyat ($7 million), and when completed will weigh more than three times the Mingun Bell.

Members of the local bell-casting committee have reportedly said they plan to hang it in Myaungmya’s Myatigon pagoda when it is complete.