The year is 1480 in the Hanthawaddy Kingdom of Lower Burma/Myanmar. King Dhammazedi has ordered a census of all the households within his kingdom. The census is carried out by multiple ministers, but instead of just being documented everyone who lives within the kingdom are to be heavily taxed. When King D. found out about this he was royally pissed. Warry of his kingly wrath, the ministers suggested that, instead of returning the money like a decent person, it be melted down and cast into one unnecessarily large bell.

There are no records of exactly how large this bell was, but it is said to be the largest bell ever cast – including around 300 tons of copper and purportedly a mishmash of other metals. The bell was gifted to the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda and is said to have been placed outside of the structure. That in itself suggests that the bell was too large to be comfortably housed inside of the pagoda. The bell was stolen, by Europeans of course, approximately 400 years ago and it quickly disappeared.

Where could a 300 ton giant bell possibly be hiding you ask? Maybe it was melted down and used to create cannons. Maybe it was taken by aliens. Maybe, just maybe, it never existed at all. While all of these theories have their believers none of them are so widely believed as this next one. Most people who know about the missing bell, especially the people of Burma/Myanmar, hold the belief that it is resting at the bottom of a river – the conjunction of the Yangon and Bago Rivers to be exact.

The story goes that the bell was stolen by a Portuguese man who decided that he really needed a giant bell and that it was totally worth attempting to steal. He was so determined that he somehow managed to get the Dhammazedi bell (did I mention that it weighed 300 tons?) on a boat, by rolling it down a hill, and off he went! Success! He had stolen the largest bell ever cast and was feeling pretty proud of himself. At least, I imagine he was right up until his boat and the bell sunk in the river without the means to get it out.

That’s a cool story and all, but if it were there, it surely would have been found by now; it’s been 400 years! Right? Wrong. These two rivers meet and with that meeting comes a surprisingly strong current and incredibly murky waters. At the time, when the bell was lost, it would have been impossible to retrieve. The technology just didn’t exist and any attempts would have been thwarted by the strength of the river’s current. Even now, the river is too dangerous for an extensive search of the muddy river bottom. It is terribly common for divers to be swept away by the water.

Even if the water was calm and gentle it would be difficult to locate the bell. The sheer amount of mud that has accumulated over the years as well as the low visibility would have long coated any trace of the bell. A widespread search with sonar, scanning and metal detecting technology would be needed. The rivers are regularly used for transportation, floating markets and such and as a result would not be able to be cleared for the search.

Maybe one day, the Great Bell of Dhammazedi will be located. Maybe, like some believe, it doesn’t even exist. I admit, without considering the exact conditions of the river theory or (hopefully not) it being melted down, it is hard to believe that a bell of that size could remain unfound. I suppose that, for now, the G.B of D will remain the largest missing treasure in the world.