Mahamuni Pagoda is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites which houses the Mahamuni Buddha image, the most highly revered Buddha image in Burma.
Mahamuni Buddha image in the pagoda
The origins of the Mahamuni Buddha image lie in the Rakhine state of Western Burma. According to legend, the Buddha once visited the town of Dhanyawadi, at the time the capital of the Arakan Kingdom.
The King of Arakan who was very impressed by the teachings of the Buddha requested an image of the Buddha to be made. After the King and the wealthy people of Arakan donated gold and other valuables, a lifelike image of the Buddha was cast. According to legend the Buddha consecrated and enlivened the image, after which people called it the Mahamuni Living Image.
In 1784 Arakan was invaded by Prince Thado Minsaw of the Konbaung dynasty. When Arakan was defeated, the Prince brought the Mahamuni image back to Amarapura, which was the capital at the time. Later the image was moved to its current location in Mandalay.
The Mahamuni image is enshrined in a small chamber topped with a seven tiered Pyatthat Burmese style roof. The Mahamuni, which means the Great Image is seated on a very ornate 1.80 meters high pedestal. The image in the Bhumisparsha Mudra posture is 3.80 meters high and weighs about 6½ tons.
To pay respect to the Buddha image, male devotees apply gold leaf to the image, which is called shwe cha in Burmese. As a result, the Mahamuni Buddha is covered with a thick layer of gold leaf of about 15 centimeters, which has distorted the shape of the image. Several old photos of the image in the temple show the difference in the outline of the image between about a century ago and now. The Mahamuni Buddha image is wearing a crown set with precious stones like diamonds and rubies.
Khmer bronze images in the temple
The temple’s courtyard contains 6 large bronze images that were taken from Angkor Wat in Cambodia was war loot in the 15th century. One image is of the mythological three headed elephant Airavata (known as Erawan in Thailand), three are bronze lions. Two warrior statues that stood guard in Angkor are believed to have healing qualities. People believe that rubbing a part of the statue’s body will cure ailments in the corresponding part of the sick person’s body.
How to get: The Mahamuni Pagoda is located between 82nd street and 84th street. Best way to get there is by private taxi or rickshaw, which will cost around US$ 2 for a rickshaw and US$ 4 for a taxi from downtown Mandalay.
Entrance fee & opening hours: The temple grounds are open daily from 6 am until 8 pm. Entrance fee is US$ 4 per person. Since this is the most highly revered Buddha image in the country, the temple grounds can get busy, especially on Buddhist holidays. During the Mahamuni Pagoda festival held annually in February thousands of Buddhist devotees come to pay their respect to the Mahamuni Buddha.
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