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Mahamuni Pagoda

 

The 14 metre-tall image at Mahamuni Pagoda (Myanmar's most famous pagoda after Shwedagon) is the most venerated Mandalay Buddha, if not the most famous Image in the entire country. Believed to be over 2, 000 years old, centuries of gold leaf application has given the Mahamuni Buddha Image a fifteen centimetre-thick skin of pure gold. His face however is free of gold leaf and polished every morning at 4am.

The image at Mahamuni Pagoda was pillaged by the Burmese when they vanquished the Kingdom of Mrauk U in today’s Rakhine State in 1784. Of this theft the journalist Francis Wade writes:

Legend has it that the figure of the Great Sage had been sculptured during the time of the Buddha, who “breathed life upon it” when he visited Rakhine and gave it special powers to protect the kingdom. Bodawpaya evidently wanted its guardianship for himself. When his soldiers returned to Amarapura, they brought with them a band of Kaman Muslims - those specially trained archers who had guarded the court of Mrauk U … the onetime protector of the Rakhine kingdom, now fattened by the volumes of gold leaf that devotees - Bamar, Rakhine, Mon - have encased it in over the centuries since. 

Other examples of religious plunder can be found at Mahamuni Paya such as a collection of Hindu-Buddhist figures from Angkor Wat of the Khmer Empire. Join the throng around these figures fondling certain limbs and corners for good health and prosperity.

Photo: Kyaw Zaw Lay

 

Mahamuni is Mandalay’s answer to Shwedagon, and therefore it hosts bustling crowds of pious locals throughout the day. A visit to the Mahamuni Pagoda can be combined with a trip to the marble workshops adjacent to it, where skilled artisans fashion Buddha and non-religious images and statues.

Keen to visit Mahamuni Pagoda? Favourite this page by clicking on the yellow star that appears when you hover over the title. Mahamuni will then be saved to your account when you come to Build Your Journey.

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