Mahamuni Pagoda is Mandalay’s holiest site and the country’s second holiest, after the Golden Rock. The pagoda houses one of Myanmar’s holiest relics, a four meter tall metallic Buddha statue weighing more than six tons as well as several other revered images.
The Mahamuni Pagoda was built in 1784 by King Bodawpaya, more than 70 years before the founding of Mandalay. The purpose for the pagoda was to house the revered Mahamuni Buddha. The image was originally from the Rakine State but taken by the king when he conquered the area.
Legend has it that the statue was casted in Buddha’s own image when he visited the city of Dhanyawadi, in Northern Rakine State in 554 BC. It is considered to be the closest portrait of Buddha. However, archeologists believe that the image was crafted during the reign of King Chandra Surya in 146 AD, over 600 years after the passing of Buddha. Not much is known about the statue, other than it was probably taken as bounty or stolen by various conquering kings throughout history until settling at its present location.
The image was made of bronze and its crown is decorated 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. Since the face of this image is the closest representation of Buddha’s, monks at the temple regularly wash the image’s face and teeth each morning.
Near the Buddha image lie six bronze statues (three lions, two warriors and a three-headed elephant) that once stood as guardians of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Legend has it that by rubbing a wounded body part over the warrior statue, the image will cure the afflicted area. It is said that the images were nothing more than figures and only obtained its healing powers until it was placed in the temple. Origins of this legend remain shrouded in mystery.
If you are visiting Mandalay and are looking to experience Burmese culture, Exotissimo recommends a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda, which is in the itinerary when we take you to Mandalay in our People and Heritage tour. The tour is also a great way to discover Myanmar and its people by visiting some of its culturally rich areas such as Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake. You may also see our Myanmar tours page for other memorable trips into Southeast Asia’s most mysterious country or contact us if you have any questions.
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