Mandalay is best known not only for its rich traditional, cultural and spiritual splendor but also exquisite handicraft such as hand-woven embroidery in silk and cotton, the incredible process of making gold leaves, wood and stone carving and bronze casting, etc. It’s situated about 600 km north of Yangon on the Ayeyarwaddy River. The river jetties at Mandalay are a beehive of activity with small boats going up and down the river, bamboo rafts and cargo boats with huge logs from teak forest upriver. Mandalay is now Myanmar’s second largest city, with a population of approximately one million. There are several ancient capitals around Mandalay such as Amarapura, Sagaing, Ava, Mingun where Kongboung dynasty kings established their capitals respectively.
King Mindon’s Fort & Myanansankyaw Royal Palace
An 8-m high, approximately 12sqkm fort is surrounded by the 70-m wide & 3-m deep moat was started to built from the bare land in 1857AD by the order of King Mindon, who was residing at his palace in Amarapura. Then, the Golden Palace was added right in the center of the fort on the raised platform and walled again. The grand audience hall awaits you from a few steps on to the palace building and the hall of lion throne topped with multi spire roof, from which kings of Myanmar believed to have the wisdom necessary to rule a kingdom funneled down direction of the heavens. In fact, this particular place is the “Centre of Universe” according to the Brahman-Buddhist cosmology. The original place was destroyed on 20 March 1945 in fierce fighting between Japanese and allied forces, and all that remains are the brick basement and some masonry buildings. It was reconstructed a decade ago, but now with concrete and metal sheets. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see what was like it at least and a museum displaying some old black & white photos, royal regalia, and some furniture used in the palace. A 33-m high Palace Watchtower offers a view of the entire compound.
As a saying goes “for live longer, take shelter of Mandalay Hill”, one will witness some overweighed people trying to stroll up and down the 236-m high Mandalay Hill. This place is as important as the foundation of Mandalay… the place where Buddha and his disciples visited and prophesized that a great Buddhist city will be established after the 2400th year of his death. A prophecy, which king Mindon, took a reason to establish Mandalay. For those who have a lot of time and energy can take the 1720-steps to the top, while it can easily be reached by the pickup truck to the upper base and take a lift or escalator to the topmost platform offering breathtaking expanse views of Shan Hills, cityscape, the Ayerwaddy River and even Mingun village if the weather’s good enough.
Kuthodaw, the world biggest book pagoda
Dubbed with the name “the world biggest book”, this pagoda is a great merit of King Mindon, where the entire Tripitaka (the holy Buddhist canons) was recorded on the 729-marble slabs in 1859AD and called for the fifth Buddhist synod in 1876AD. The king had an idea to inscribe the entire canon on the stone slabs so that it would last for another 2600years, the time when the new Buddha appears in the world. It took 7-years, 6-months, and 14-days to complete with 200 of editorial committee and around 50 of stone carvers.
This pagoda was built by King Mindon as a remembrance of his brother Prince Kanaung, who was assassinated in an unsuccessful palace revolt. The pagoda compound posses over 1700 of inscribed stone slabs recorded the commentaries on the Tripitaka were credited to U Khanti, a hermit who also partake the construction of Mandalay Hilltop pagoda. There is an iron Buddha image, cast in 1802 by King Bodawpaya that was moved here in 1874 from Amarapura.
A huge monastery built by King Mindon in 1857 having masonry base originally topped with traditional wooden structure is a recently reconstructed one. It has not many things to see inside apart from the huge empty hall but best seen from the outside for its fine stucco reliefs. Atumashi literally means, incomparable monastery.
Shwenandaw Kyaung is a fine example of traditional Burmese wooden monastery and a fragile reminder of Mandalay Palace. The building itself was once a part of Mandalay palace and moved to the present place by King Thibaw to be used as a monastery in 1880AD. The entire building is carved & gilded inside and out. So it is then rightfully called “Golden Palace Monastery”. There is a seated Mandalay style Buddha image on the throne and the carved panels portraying the last ten stories of the life of Buddha are particularly interesting to see.
Located at the base of Mandalay Hill, a little northwest of Sandamani, Kyauktawgyi is a temple to house 900-ton Buddha image made from single-block of marble that labored 10,000 men spending 13-days to transport to the present site from the query of 32-km away. The eyes of 8-m high Buddha image were painted by King Mindon himself in 1865, but the 25-year long temple construction attempting to copy the architecture of Bagan’s Ananda temple was never been completed.
This is the most sacred Buddhist religious site of all upper Myanmar. The temple houses 4-m high Buddha image cast in bronze and heavily gilded with gold leaves about 15-cm thick and thus the image is virtually out of shape. Brought by King Bodawpaya in 1783 from Rakhings (Arrakhans) this image is treated as alive-Buddha so monks brush the teeth and wash the face of Buddha at 4:30 am and let the Buddha sleep by playing some music at 4:00 pm. The image is highly venerated as Buddha himself supervised the casting work and consecrated on the spot. There are also interesting six Khmer figures from Cambodians’ Angkor Watt, which were nabbed by the Thais in the 14th century, then 16th century by the Burmese, and again 17th century by the Rankings, and finally by King Bodawpaya in the 18th century.
Shwe In Bin Kyaung
This huge and elegant wooden monastery is dated back to 1895AD, donated by a Chinese jade merchant couple, has an exquisite quality of carved penal along the balustrades and roof cornices. The small streets leading to the monastery limited the size of vehicles and thus usually escaped from the tour groups.
Zaycho & Open-air Market
The biggest and the trade center of all upper Myanmar, Zaycho is always crowded and full of activities during the day. This is the place where one could find almost everything that produces in Myanmar.
The open-air night market commence, by blocking the main road in front of Zaycho market, in the evening around 5:30 pm. In this place, you can find old books, imported cheap items, and various Burmese traditional snacks. The night market ends around 9:00 pm.
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