Photos of Mon State - homeland of the Mon, Myanmar

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Mon State - homeland of the Mon

The first identifiable civilisation of Myanmar was that of the Mon people, who probably originated in eastern India and migrated between 3000 to 1500 BCE, settling first in southern Thailand around the 6th century CE and then moving into the Irrawaddy delta, southern Myanmar. They converted to Theravada Buddhism and used the Indian Pali script. In the 9th century they founded the cities of Bago (Pegu) and Thaton and dominated all of southern and south eastern Myanmar.

Gate to Golden Rock
 
View in Kyaiktiyo
 
Stupa on a rock
 
Path to Golden Rock
 
Buddhist meeting hall
 
View, Golden Rock
 
Plaza at Golden Rock
 
Golden Rock stupa
 
Gate to stupa
 
Shrine on the plaza
 
Attaching gold leaf
 
Ringing a bell
 
Stupa and terrace
 
Carrying tourists
 
Kinpun village
 
Village of Kinpun
 
Selling eggs
 
Paya of Thaton
 
''Chinthe'', Thaton
 
Bus station, Thaton
 
On the Thanlwin river
 
Limestone mountains
 
Ferry on the Thanlwin
 
A crowded boat
 
Getting aboard
 
Village with stupa
 
Riverside village
 
Hilltop stupa
 
Village on Thanlwin
 
Stupa on the Thanlwin
 
Village along railroad
 
Thatched houses
 
House on the river
 
Children sellers
 
Huinpale railway station
 
Girl selling water
 

In 1824 the British conquered Lower Burma in the First Burmese War and Mon assisted the British, who promised leadership after Burmese defeat. Mons who lived in Siam (Thailand) returned, but the promises were never fulfilled. When Burma was at the threshold of independence in 1947, the Mon demanded self-determination, but this was refused, the Burmese army moved into areas claimed by Mon nationalists and a civil war followed with Mon separatists. The Mon also fought the Karen over control of border crossings into Thailand. In 1974 Mon State was formed out of areas in the Thaninthayi (Tenasserim) and Bago (Pegu) Divisions, partly to neutralise separatist demands. Although a cease fire has existed since 1995 and the Mon Unity League was founded in 1996, the Tatmadaw (army) has continued to operate in the area and there have been accusations of massive human rights violations.

Mon State now has an area of 12,150 km² and a population of almost 3 million, with 500,000 in Mawlamyine, the state capital. The Thanlwin (formerly called Salween) River is still an important route for large ferries between Mawlamyine and points north. The best known site in the state is probably the balancing boulder stupa, Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock), an important pilgrimage site. The small stupa is 7.3 metres high and sits atop a large boulder, covered in gold leaf. A road, quite steep in parts, leads up a hill, though an elaborate gate and past various religious buildings to a marble floored plaza, with religious iconography and commerce easily mixing. Only men may walk up to the boulder and apply gold leaf to it; according to legend, the boulder is so delicately balanced because a hair from the Buddha is in the stupa. Visitors who are unable or unwilling to walk up the road may be carried in a chair, attached to wooden poles and hauled up by four men.

About halfway between Mawlamyine and Kyaktiyo is Thaton, which was the capital of a Mon kingdom with the same name that ruled Lower Burma between the 9th and 11th centuries. Nowadays not much is left of the ancient Thaton, as a modern town has arisen in its place. It has a monastery with a gilded stupa, in front of the bus station.