When you visit to any pagoda in Myanmar, you will hear the peaceful sound of the pagoda bells come through the breeze.Bells are two kinds, some small bells hanging with the shape of banyan leaf inside, that can be seen hanging under the Hti (umbrella of stupa) are mostly made of bronze, silver and gold, and also offering around the planetary posts. Another kind is the bigger one hung on the pagoda platform what the people can strike it. Buddhist people strike it mostly three times to share their merits of praying or donation. Another person those who hears the sound of the bell says three time of “Thadu” which means “well done’’ in Myanmar language. And that person who says “Thadu’’ gets the same merit of the person who shared.
There has many big bells all around in Myanmar since the old days, nearly 89 tons of Mingun bell in Mingun, located in Sagaing Region, known as the largest bell in Myanmar now, it was casted since 1808 by King Bodawpaya for Pahtodawgyi Pagoda what we can see even from Ayarawaddy River. By size, it is the third largest in the world but the largest two from Russia which cannot be rung. So Myanmar people can be proud of Mingun bell as the largest ringing bell in the world.
The other historical bell in 16th century is the bell of King Bayintnaung, a famous king of Mon who built Hamthawaddy Palace (Kanbawzathadi) in Bago, that king donated 3.3 tons weight of the bronze bell at the Shwezigon pagoda in Bagan since 1557. On the bell, we can see all the records of the King’s donations, the names & the years of his conquer and year of building Kanbawzathadi palace were carved.
Another famous bell from Shwedagon pagoda donated by King Singu casted in 1778, known as King Singu bell. It is 24 tons weight, and was carved the Burmese horoscope and records of donation on it. That bell had been tried to carry off from the Shwedagon pagoda in 1824 by British troops and got it on board of a ship. But, the vessel turned over, and the great bell was capsized into the mud at the bottom of Yangon River and local people willingly saved it back and replaced it after three years.
Another large bell of 42 tons bronze bell in Shwedagon Pagoda was donated by King Thayawaddy since 1841, known as Thayawaddy bell.
A different type of the bells which give the sweet song is triangle gong (Kyay Si in Burmese language), the big sizes are used in the pagoda at the donation counter to share the good deeds of the donor. The small sizes are used at home for Buddhist prayers to share their merits after praying. And also it was used to inform the food donors to be ready when the monks are coming to their street for accepting their donations.
Buddhist people believe that their donation of the small pagoda bells can give good sound as the same reflection of their offering. Some hotels and restaurants use the small bells and triangle gongs as decoration.
So, we can identify the bells are not only represents for music and culture but also very important ones in religion and tradition of Myanmar.