Yangon (dpa) – A search for a bell said to possess magical powers but missing for four centuries ended in Myanmar Friday without finding its quarry.
Search team leader San Lin said August 26 that the bell, supposedly the heaviest in the world, had been located outside Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, in the murky depths of the Yangon River with the help of dragon “spirits”. He said it would be salvaged within a few days.
“We just found the ship sunk on the river floor, not the bell,” diver Than Nyunt told the Eleven newspaper.
The search for the 270-tonne bell started in early August, and the project was due to last 45 days and cost 200 million kyat (US$250,000) with most funding coming from donations, said San Lin, leader of the salvage team of 10 divers.
The bell was cast during the reign of Mon king Dhammazedi in 1484, according to records.
In 1608, it was seized for scrap by a Portuguese mercenary Filipe de Brito Nicote, who controlled the nearby town and area of Sanlyin on the southern banks of the Yangon River.
He tried to carry the bell from Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred temple in Myanmar, back to his base to melt it down for weapons, but while crossing the river, the bell fell into the water, sinking a barge and a Portuguese warship in the process. Some Myanmar historians said the bell never fell into the river and the story might just be a ruse by de Brito to trick Buddhists and make his work easier.