In southern Myanmar, on the Irrawaddy River is a trading center named Pyay which is also known as Prome town. The name Prome is in fact a mispronunciation of the town’s Burmese name by non-Burmese natives and the British. Owing to its being so commonly used, the name has become virtually official. The locals call the town Pyay (“Capital”), recalling the old capital of the Pyu people, who were one of the earliest Tibeto-Burman groups to enter Myanmar after the 3rd century. They occupied the Irrawaddy River valley, and their capital, Śrī Kṣetra (“City of Splendour”), 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Pyay, was built around the 7th century. By the time Śrī Kṣetra was conquered by the Mon in the 8th century, the Pyu had retreated north to another site. Amazingly, by the 9th century they had completely disappeared from historical records. In 1056, the Burmans from the north invaded and made Pyay one of their chief centers. But it was later annexed by the British in 1825 and in 1852.

The original site of Śrī Kṣetra is now known as Hmawza. Excavations, which began there in 1907, revealed the uniquely Pyu culture as opposed to the Mon and Burman. The shape of the city was almost circular and its walls were enclosed in an area of about 18 sq. mi. (47 sq. km) while the northern portion was being cultivated with rice. The spectacular Shwesandaw Pagoda in Pyay is encircled by 83 small gilded temples. This pagoda is reputed to have been built by the Pyu Queen whose people had founded Pyay.

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