The Great Bell of Dhammazedi
In 1480 A.D, Dhammazedi, King of the Mon People of Myanmar had a vast bell cast in bronze and given to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (then known as Dagon). According to texts of the time, the bell was cast of 180,000 vies of metal which included silver and gold as well as copper and tin. (One ton equals approximately 600 viss so the bell was cast from about 300 tons ol metal). According to the History of Kings, the height was twelve cubits and the width was eight cubits. At the same time, King Dhammazedi had a small bell of 500 viss weight cast and offered to Buddha.
In 1583 Venetian traveller Gasparo Balbi visited ancient Dagon and described the Shwedagon Pagoda at length. Of the bell, he says; "I found in a faire hall a very large bell which we measured, and found to be seven paces and three hand breadths and it is full of letters from the top to the bottom but there was no Nation that could understand them.
By 1530 the Mon kings were in decline and in 1535 Lower Burma became subject to Upper Burma. At the same time, European traders and adventurers began to make contacts in Lower Burma. Il the 1590s, with the authority of the rulers in Upper Burma a Portuguese adventurer, Filipe de Brito y Nicote, set up a new trading part at Syriam and by 1600 he extended his power across the river to Dagon and the surrounding countryside.
In 1608 De Brito removed the Dhammazedi bell from the Shwedagon Paaoda, rolled it down the hill to a raft in the Pazundaung Creek and had it hauled by elephants to the river. The the bell and raft were lashed to his flagship for the journey across the river to Thanlyn (Syrian) to be melted down and made into ships cannons.
At the confluence of the Bago and Yangon Rivers off what is now known as Monkey Point, the raft broke up and the bell went to th bottom, taking Filipe de Brito's ship with it.
All accounts of the history of Rangoon insist that Dhammazedi's bell was never recovered and until the late 18008 the top of it could still be seen above water at low tide. Some witnesses today tell of being rowed out to the bell site by their elders to watch the water eddy over the top of the submerged bell. The tidal bore at Rangoon measures up to 20 feet.
A smaller bell, known as the Bodawpaya, was also taken from the Shwedagon Pagoda by British Prize Agents in 1826 and lost in the river. However, it was abandoned by the British and recovered by the local inhabitants and returned to the pagoda.
A documentary film about the search for the Dhammazedi Bell has been released on VHS and DVD in the US and is currently a top seller at books stores and Amazon.com. Master Diver Jim Blunt will be releasing a Book and several companion Videos to "Bell Beneath the Sea" soon.
A new website is planned which will display the results of three intensive salvage projects that Jim is currently completing. The total value of recoveries is valued at 4.23 million USD. New state of the art remote sensing equipment will also be featured.