You’ve probably seen your fair share of Buddha statues in Myanmar. But have you ever wondered how the revered holy figure really looks like? Well, they say a statue at Mahamuni Pagoda bears the best resemblance of him. And as a result, the pagoda has earned a reputation as one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in all of Myanmar.
First, a little history. Mahamuni Pagoda is actually older than the city of Mandalay itself. It was built in 1784, more than 70 years before the city’s founding. It was constructed with the sole purpose of housing the revered Buddha image. The image was originally from the Rakine State but taken by the king when he conquered the area.
Just to give you an idea of the significance of this statue. According to ancient tradition only five likenesses of the Buddha have ever been made during his lifetime. Two are in India, two in paradise and the last one is the statue right here in Mahamuni Pagoda.
Legend has it that the image was casted when the Buddha visited the city of Dhanyawadi, in Northern Rakine State in 554 BC. People were moved by the man and his teachings, so much so that the king insisted that he leave his image for his people to worship. The Buddha sat under a Bodhi tree for a week of meditation, while the sculpture was being crafted.
The statue was originally made of bronze and the crown of the image is adorned with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Over the centuries, pilgrims have pasted golden leaves onto the image as a sign of homage, respect and merit making to the point where the figure has now developed a bumpy and irregular outline. Because of the close representation of Buddha’s actual face and out of respect, monks at the temple wash the statue’s face and clean its teeth every morning.
If you are stopping by in Mandalay, a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda and the much revered statue is a must. In the meantime, lift the veil of this mysterious and exotic country as you learn more about its People and Heritage. Myanmar never ceases to amaze. Let the country and its countless memories and unforgettable experiences live in your mind and heart forever.
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