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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Ava

AVA, the former capital of the Burman empire, lies in 21 52 N. Iat, and 96 1 E. long. It is situated on the Irawadi, which is here 3282 feet broad, and which, making a bend out of its ordinary course, flows past the city on the north. On the east it has the river Myt-nge, a rapid stream 450 feet broad, which flows into the Irawadi close under its walls. From this river a canal has been dug, through which its waters flow on the south-east angle of the city, and are again brought into the same river. On the south flows the deep and rapid torrent of the Myt-tha, an offshoot of the Myt-nge, which, falling into the Irawadi, forms the defence both of the south and of the west face of the town. It is divided into the upper and lower, or the lesser and the larger town, both of which are fortified.

The brick wall that surrounds the city is 15 J feet in height and 10 feet in thickness, on the inside of which is thrown up a bank of earth, forming an angle of 45 degrees. There is a ditch round the outer wall which is inconsiderable, and in the dry season fordable in every part. The lesser town is chiefly occupied by the royal palace, the hall of justice, the council chamber, the arsenal, and the habitations of a few courtiers of distinction. A strong well- built wall of more solid construction than the outer wall of the city, and about 20 feet high, encloses the square in which these buildings are situated, and on the outside is a teak-wood stockade of the same height. The ditch which surrounds the lesser town is, moreover, deeper and broader than that of the city, and when full is not to be forded. There are, however, three causeways across, which com municate with the adjacent country. The circumference of the city, excluding the suburbs, is about 5J miles, but over this exten sive area the houses are but thinly scattered ; some quarters are, indeed, wholly destitute of habitations, and have the appearance merely of neglected commons. In general the dwellings of the inhabitants are of the most miserable sort, being mere huts thatched with grass. "Wretched as are such habitations to European eyes, the poorer classes are perhaps as well lodged here as in any other parts of Asia. Their sleeping-places are elevated 2 or 3 feet from the ground. Some of the houses of the chiefs are constructed of planks, and tiled ; but there are not, according to Mr Crawford, more than half-a-dozen edifices built of brick and mortar. Ava, like all the other Burmese towns, is adorned with numerous temples, of which the gilded spires, rising aloft, present on a distant view of the place a splendid and imposing appearance, which is far from being realised on a nearer inspection. The largest of these temples contains two distinct edifices, one ill the ancient, the other in a modern form ; the former containing an image of Gautama, not of marble, as Symes supposes, but of sandstone. It is in a sitting posture, and is 24 feet in height. The head is 8 feet in diameter. There is another very large temple, and a third named the "Beautiful." The one called Maong-Eatna is of great celebrity ; it is the one in which the public officers of the government take, with the most solemn forms, the oath of allegiance. The temple called Maha-mrat-muni had an addition made to it some years ago, of which Mr Crawford mentions that the numerous and richly- gilded pillars and splendid ceiling exceeded anything that was to be seen without the palace. Ava contains eleven markets or bazars, composed of thatched huts and sheds, which, however, are well supplied with all that is necessary for the wants of the people. Besides native commodities, there are exposed in these markets the produce of China and Lao, with British cottons, woollens, glass, and earthenware. The Burman monasteries are mostly built of wood ; and of those composed of more solid materials, a few ancient ones are nearly all that are to be seen. The only exception is a monastery, built some years ago by the queen, adjoining the palace an unshapely fabric of immense size, but a very conspicuous object.

This former capital of the Burman dominions compre hends, according to the political divisions of that empire, the town of Sagaing, on the opposite shore of the Irawadi, and the town of Amarapura, 4 miles to the east. The town of Sagaing extends along the Irawadi for more than a mile and a half, but is of inconsiderable breadth. It consists of mean houses thinly scattered among gardens and orchards, the principal trees in the latter consisting of fine old tamarinds. Over the site of the town and its environs are scattered innumerable temples, some of them old and ruinous, others modern. On the river face it has a brick wall about 10 feet in height, with parapet and embrasures like that of Ava, and extending for above half a mile along the river. Amarapura is a large place, and was formerly the capital; but Ava, which was twice before the capital, was again made so in 1822. It continued to be so till 1853, when the present king, on his accession, transferred the capital to Mandalay. To each of the towns of Ava, Sagaing, and Amarapura, are attached dis tricts, the two former of which extend 12 miles along the liver, and are of equal breadth. The district of Amara pura is of equal size, so that Ava must be considered as not only the name of the former capital, but of a large district, which includes an area of 288 miles, containing, according to the most accurate estimate, 354,200 inhabi tants; but the city of Ava is not supposed to contain more than 50,000 inhabitants, and, according to Mr Craw ford, half that number would be nearer the truth. The place, taken altogether, affords few indications of industry or commercial enterprise.