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Wingaba Lake

c.1900

2017

“In the middle of the village is a sacred tank or lake, three sides of which are surrounded by forest trees and creepers; on the fourth is the bazaar, which lined the road, with which it is level, though the rear of the buildings, supported on piles, overhung the water of the lake.”
– Robert Talbot Kelly, ‘Burma, painted and described’, 1905

The years have not been especially kind to the small lake of Wingaba. Its original, roughly horseshoe shape, is still just visible from above. Now mostly dry and grown over with green, a small patch of permanent water remains in the bottom right corner. Information on the lake is scant, but one possible explanation is that the lake would likely have been a water source for the village, but as the city grew and centralised water sources came online there would have been less pressure to maintain it. Given the amount of change, this was a pretty challenging shot to try to line up – so please forgive any discrepancy!

The horseshoe shape, then and now

Located a little north of Kandawgyi, the lake is now part of the grounds of the Dhamma Joti Vipassana meditation centre. Vipassana is silent meditation, with no communication between students, and around ten hours of sitting meditation a day. When I was there to take photos they had 150 people taking part in 10 day meditation retreat, 50 of which were foreigners. People’s reaction to the courses are varied; for some it’s a truly life changing experience, chipping away at a wall of illusion between them and the living light of reality. For others: “I want to leave and torch this place to the ground”. U Nu, the first Prime Minister of Burma, was a strong advocate of vipissana, and encouraged members of government and civil society to undergo courses.

“This is the village of Ngadatgyi-Hpya, more commonly known as Wingaba or the Labyrinth. People pass it daily in their drives, and though probably all admire the richly carved kyaungs [monasteries] which, half buried in a profusion of vegetation, fringe the road, few care to explore the winding lanes and causeways which lie behind and from which the village derives its name. It is a place of considerable sanctity, occupied mainly by hpungyis [monks] and pilgrims who have come from all over the Buddhist world to worship at the great shrine under whose shadow it is built.”
– Robert Talbot Kelly, ‘Burma, painted and described’, 1905

Wingaba is a good example of what was once a distinct village being swallowed up by the growth of Yangon. It still has a large religious population, with several monasteries, and the Ngat Htat Gyi Pagoda complex that gave the village its alternate name. Several of the roads are dead ends, so traffic isn’t so bad, and the place retains a slightly sleepy atmosphere – despite being so close to some major roads.

The Ngat Htat Gyi Pagoda has hosted a large, seated Buddha since the 16th century. The current version dates back to 1900, though has clearly been renovated once or twice since then.

The previous seated Buddha, in the 1890s
Its appearance today

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Published inBefore/after sliderLakesNorth Yangon

One Comment

  1. aungkyawzin aungkyawzin

    အဲဒီကန္အခုဘယ္နားမွာလည္းသိခ်င္လို႔ပါ

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