Historic sites and monuments of Mandalay and environs

Material Information

Historic sites and monuments of Mandalay and environs
Lu Pei Win
Place of Publication:
Buddha Sāsana Council Press
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
8 p : 17 p. of plates ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Mandalay (Burma) -- Antiquities ( lcsh )
Pagodas -- Burma -- Mandalay ( lcsh )
Temporal Coverage:
1114 - 1884
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Myanmar -- Mandalay Region -- Mandalay District -- Mandalay
21.975 x 96.083333 ( Mandalay )


General Note:
This title is in the public domain under the Berne International Copyright Convention.

Record Information

Source Institution:
SOAS, University of London
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
257380 ( aleph )
OC34042026 ( oclc )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text

Historic Sites and Monuments
of Mandalay and Environs


' \

Thiripyanchi U Lu Pe Win, M.A., of Archaeological Survey,
Ministry of Culture




The city of Mandalay took its name from the Mandalay Hill
which is situated at the north-east corner of the town. It was founded and
built in 1855-57 A.D. by King Mindon ( 1853—78 ) under circumstances which
caused him to think that in establishing a new city at the foot of the Mandalay
Hill he was obeying a sacred mandate. Mandalay Hill has for long been a
holy mount, and tradition has it that the Buddha on his visit with his disciple
Ananda had prophesied that in the 2,400;h year of his religion ( 1857 A.D.) a
great city, metropolis of Buddhism, would be founded at its foot. King
Mindon fulfilled the prophesy by shifting the original capital from Amarapura
to the site of the present city. The classical name of the city is Ratanapunja.

The town is situated on the plain which stretches from the Shan Hills on
the East to the Irrawaddy river on the west. It is about 430 miles due north
of Rangoon. It occupies an area of roughly 25 square miles. The capital,
known as the Royal Golden City in which King Mindon built his palace, lies
in the north cast corner of the present town.

' The MAHAMUNI Pagoda. In the southern quarter of the town, about
a mile to the north-west of the Air Port is situated the Mahamuni Pagoda
enshrining the celebrated Mahamuni Image. It is also called the Payagyi
(Great Pagoda) and the Arakan Pagoda. The Image was brought from
Mrohaung in Arakan in 1784 during the reign of King Bodawpaya ( 1782—
1819). It is reputed to be of very great antiquity. The King enshrined it in
a temple which he constructed about five miles north of Amarapura, his
capital. The image became the object of fervent devotion for his people and
is still paid homage by devout Buddhists from all over the world. It was
originally cast out of metal, but the body of it has for long been lavishly
gilded and has assumed an irregular outline. The image, which is in the
usual sitting posture of Buddha, is actully 12 feet 7 inches high.

The original temple was damaged by fire in 1884. The present pagoda
which has a terraced roof of gilded stucco is therefore of later construction,
being built after the fire. In the inner courtyard are hundreds of stone slabs
inscribed with copies of inscriptions recording religious endowments. The


collection of these records was made by Bodawpaya. Not far from the
western entrance is a group of six bronze figures, two of men, three of lions,
and one of a three-headed elephant. These were brought from Arakan at the
same time as the Mahamuni Image; they are part of the spoil which Bayin-
naung took from Ayuthia in 1663, and later taken by the Arakanese King
Razagyi from Pegu.

The SETKYATHIHA Pagoda is in 85th Street, a few hundred yards
south-west of the Zegyo Bazaar. It contains a bronze image of the Buddha,
even larger than the Mahamuni image. It is in a sitting posture, 16 feet
8 inches high. The image was cast at Ava by King Bagyidaw ( 1819—37 ) in
1823. In 1849 it was moved to Amarapura and again in 1884 to Mandalay.
The temple which houses the image stands on an elevated masonry platform.
The structure was heavily damaged during the last war, but has since been

The SHWE KYI MYIN Pagoda also is in the heart of the town. It
was built by Minshinsaw, the exiled son of the famous King Alaungsithu
( 1114—67) of Pagan. In the temple is enshrined the original image conse-
crated by Minshinsaw himself. Since the last King was dethroned, certain
images held in great veneration as the object of worship of successive kings
of Burma from the time of Alaungsithu have been removed from the Palace
and set up within one of the compartments of this pagoda. The great attrac-
tion of this pagoda is, therefore, in the collection of these statues and images
made out of valuable jewels and precious stones and traditionally worshipped
by Royal Families. They are in the care of the pagoda trustees who bring
them out for public worship only on very important religious occasions.

The MANDALAY Palace, is the next object of interest. The city is in
the form of a square each side of which is 10 furlongs in length. A batt'e-
mented wall of brick and mud mortar has a total height of 25 feet and is 10
feet thick in the lower portion, and 4 feet 4 Inches in the crenellations, and is
backed by an carthern rampart. There arc 12 gates, three on each side, at
equal distances from each other surmounted by pyatthats by pavilions, and
there is also a pyatthat at each corner of the wall, making 48 in all, together
with intermediate pyatthats. The moat averages 225 feet wide and 11 feet


deep, surrounding the city and is kept full by a channel from the Mandalay
Irrigation canal. The moat was originally spanned over by five wooden
bridges, four of which lead to the four principal or main gates.

The Palace occupied the central spot in the city. It was removed from
Amarapura by King Mindon in 1857 A. D. and was reconstructed at
Mandalay. Its architecture is an example of the traditional architecture of
ancient India and of Asia. In plan and design it may be said to have features
common to Pan Asiatic cities and Palaces. It consisted of a group of wooden
buildings, many of them highly carved and gilt. There were eight thrones in
different halls and compartments. The whole group of buildings on the brick
platform, six feet high, was destroyed by fire during the last war. To the

west of this platform may still be seen a small museum showing the

models of the palace buildings. The ruined clock tower and the relic
tower lie to the cast of the palace platform. A little to the north of the

clock tower arc the mausoleums of which the most important historically is

King Mindon’s tomb. It was gilded and covered with glass mosaic but was
renovated in 1898. The work now seen is of quite recent date and nothing of
the old craftsmanship remain.

Close to the clock tower are inscription sheds housing more than 600
inscribed stone slabs being original lithic documents collected by Bodawpaya.
They were removed from Amarapura to the present site just before the
second world war.

The KYAUKTAWGYI Pagoda lies beneath the shadow of the Mandalay
Hill. It was built in 1853—78. It contains an image of the Buddha carved
out of a single block of marble from the mines of Sagyin, which are a few
miles to the north of Mandalay. The figures of the 80 arahats or the disci-
ples of the Buddha, are arranged around the central shrine, 20 on each side.
The carving of the image was completed in 1865, and the dedication ceremony
was performed amidst great rejoicing, the King himself being present at the

On the HILL itself are numerous religious buildings. There stand a huge
image known as the Shweyattaw, representing Buddha pointing to the Palace
as the future centre of a capital. Many other pagodas, shrines, covered steps,
etc., are the works of a very pious hermit, the late Rev. U Khanti who won
great public support to carry out meritorious deeds. ;


A few hundred yards to the north-cast of the Kyauktawgyi Pagoda lies
the KUTHODAW or Maha Lawkamarazein Pagoda, which was built in 1857
by King Mindon on the model of the Shwczigon Pagoda at Pagan. Its
distinctive feature is the collection of 729 stone slabs, on which is inscribed
the whole of the Tripitaka. King Mindon convened the Fifth Great Synod
for the Buddhist Canon, and the authorized version of the Tripitaka
approved by the Synod was inscribed on the stone slabs. These slabs are
enshrined in small temples surrounding the central pagoda. This collection
is unique in the Buddhist world, and is highly prized by all Oriental Scholars.

To the south of the Kuthodaw pagoda lies the remains of the ATUM ASHI
Monastery. It was built by King Mindon, in 1857, at a cost of about five
lakhs of rupees. The building was of wood covered with stucco on the outside,
and its peculiar feature was its being surmounted by five graduated rectangular
terraces instead of the customcry pyatthats (multiple roofs). In it was
enshrined a huge image of Buddha, and four sets of Tripitaka were deposited
in large teak boxes. The whole building together with its contents was burnt
in 1890.

Close to the East of the Atumashi monastery is the SHWENANDAW
Monastery. It was built by King Thibaw, in 1880, mainly of materials
obtained by dismantling the apartments occupied by Mindon Min just before
his death. The whole building was heavily gilt and adorned with glass mosaic
work. It contains also fine specimens of Burmese wood carvings. The
building has considerably deteriorated but the carvings within it, especially
the Ten Great Jataka scenes remain well preserved.

The EINDAWYA Pagoda lies to the west of the Zegyo Bazaar. It is a.
prototype of modern pagodas in Burma. It was built by King Pagan
( 1846—52 ) on the site of his residence occupied by him before he came to the


On the road to Sagaing, about seven miles south of
Mandalay, is the old city of Amarapura, the ‘City of Immortality’. It is.
also known as Taungmyo, the southern City, in contradistinction to Mandalay
which lies to the north of it. It was founded in 1783 by Bodawpaya who


moved the capital to this place from Ava. It lost in importance since 1857
when Mandalay was made capital by Mindon, and is now in a state of utter

All that remain of the Palace arc two masonry buildings, the watch-tower
and the treasury, which arc to be seen on the left of the motor-road to
Sagaing. The KYAUKTAWGYI Pagoda on the cast of the Taungthaman
lake and the PAT0DAWGY1 Pagoda are the best preserved of the numerous
religious buildings at the deserted capital. The former was built in 1847 by
King Pagan (1846—52 ) on the model of the Ananda Temple at Pagan; and
the latter by Bagyidaw in 1816.

The first British embassy to Burma led by Captain Symes came to
Amarapura in 1795. The town is now noted for its cottage industry in silk
and cotton weaving.

Near the Irrawaddy are the two sister pagodas known as the SHWE
KYETYET and SHWE KYETKYA built by one of the kings of Pagan in
circa 12th century A.D.


Sagaing lies about 13 miles south west of Mandalay on the
west bank of the Irrawaddy, at the end of a range of hills which bounds the
river bank for some miles northwards. The river here runs from cast to west
and is crossed by the AVA bridge. This bridge was first opened to traffic in
1934. It is called after the ancient capital of AVA at the confluence of the
Irrawaddy and the Myitnge opposite Sagaing. The two girders demolished
at the time of the British evacuation in 1942 have been repaired recently and
it was reopened with ceremony by the President of Burma on the 27th October

The town which stands on the western bridgehead was a capital in 1315
A.D. before AVA was founded and was again occupied as such from 1760
A.D. to 1764 A.D. There arc numerous pagodas in and near Sagaing and
the Sagaing Hills are clustered with ancient pagodas as well as modern
religious buildings.

The NGADATGYI Pagoda at the west end of the town was built in 1657
by King Thalun’s son and successor. It contains one of the largest sitting


images of Buddha in Upper Burma. A largely attended festival is held here

The TUPAYON Pagoda founded by King Narapati of Ava in 1444 A.D.
is about 90 feet high. It was repaired by Pagan Min but not completed.
The pagoda is a rare type in Burma and of peculiar architectural interest as
marking a cerain phase in the development of these structures. Nearby is
another important collection of inscriptions most of which were dedicated by
royal donors of the 14th-15th centuries. One of the biggest and finely
engraved stone slabs of Burma stands among this collection.

The AUNGMYELAWKA Pagoda, in Sagaing town, was built in 1783
A.D. by Bodawpaya, on the site of a house occupied by him before he came
to the throne. The pagoda is also known as the Eindawya. It is constructed
entirely of sandstone, is cylindrical in form, and has a tapering spire. Its
architecture is modelled after the Shwezigon Pagoda at Pagan.

The DATPAUNGZU Pagoda contains relics recovered from several ruined
pagodas which had ,to be demolished when the railway line towards the
bridge was constructed. The building is therefore of recent date though the
relics belonging to an earlier period are much venerated.

The KAUNGHMUDAW Pagoda, also called Rajamanicula, six miles
north of Sagaing town was built by King Thalun of Ava in 1636, to
cclebiatc the re-setting of the capital at Ava. It is in the hemispherical
form being built on the model of the Mahaceti of Ceylon. The pagoda rises
from the plain and is an enormous solid dome, with a massive hti
(umbrella) but no spire, raised on three circular terraces or bases. The
mass of the dome rises from a plinth of about a foot high, and at the edge of
this runs round a ring fence of moulded stone posts, each having the cap
hollowed out. There are eight hundred and twelve of these posts, 4j feet
high, used for offering lights. There are also 120 niches or caves at the base
of the pagoda, each containing an image of a nat or celestial being. The
pagoda is 151J feet high and the circumference at the base is 900 feet.

In a cell within the precincts of the pagoda is a very finely engraved
stone. It is a slab of polished white marble, with richly carved pediment and
border, standing eight and half feet out of the ground. Each side contains
86 lines of beautifully’executed inscriptions in the square Burmese character.


The greater part of it consists of details concerning the pagoda and of
religious and moral maxims.

The PADAMYA ZETI at Wachet and the Onmhinthonze at Ywataung
are among other notable pagodas in the vicinity.

The PON NYA SHIN on a hill above the Thayetpin ferry landing place
is of historical interest. An inscribed stone close by gives the date of the
structure (1590 A.D.).


This old capital of Burma was founded in 1364 A.D. by
Thado Minpaya. It lies at the junction of the Irrawaddy with the Myitnge
( or Doktawadi), and the town was built on an artificial island by a channel
the Myittha Chaung, which was dug from the Myitngc to the Irrawaddy. The
city stands in the north-east corner of the triangular island. The old walls,
both outer and inner, are still very solid and substantial. The area within the
walls is now filled with cultivated land, scattered hamlets, monasteries, and
ruins of ancient pagodas. The city was deserted and rcoccupied as the
capital at three later periods and was finally given up in favour of Amarapura
in 1856.

The site of Bagyidaw’s palace (1819-37) is now marked by a solitary
masonry Watch Tower which is about 90 feet high. Owing to the earthquake
of 1838 it is now much out of the perpendicular.

The OKKYAUNG or Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery was built in
1818 A.D., by Nanmadaw Me Nu, the notorious Chief Queen of Bagyidaw,
for the residence of her religious preceptor Nyaunggan Sayadaw. The
earthquake of 1838 damaged it, and in 1873 it was restored by Sinbyumashin,
Queen of Mindon, and daughter of Me Nu. This masonry monastery is a
fine specimen of its class in Burmese architecture.


About seven miles north of Mandalay, on the right bank of
the Irrawaddy river is Mingun, a village noted for its huge unfinished
^pagoda and the enormous bell, one of the largest in the world.


The MINGUN Pagoda covers an area about 450 feet square, and its
height is 162 feet, or one-third of the height originally intended. It was
built by Bodawpaya (1781—1819) who spent about 15 years on its
construction. It is still in an unfinished condition, and is only remarkable
for its size. The pagoda and the biggest pair of griffins were cracked by the
earthquake of 1838 A.D. Its probable dimensions, if completed, cbuld be
inferred from the Pondawpaya, a structure about 15 feet high, which served
as the model.

Fcrgusson, in his “ History of Indian and Eastern Architecture”

remarks, “.......even in its ruined state, (the pagoda) is as large and

imposing a mass of brick-work as is to be found anywhere. Since the
pyramids of Egypt nothing so great has been attempted, and it belongs to the
19th century.”

The MINGUN Bell was cast in 1790 A.D. by Bodawpaya to be dedicated
to the Mingun Pagoda. It weighs about 90 tons, the exterior height being 12
feet and the external diameter at the lip 16 feet 3 inches. The thickness of
the metal varies from 6 to 12 inches. Its original supports were destroyed
by the earthquake of 1838 and it was raised to the present position in a
suitable Tazaung ( shed).

The MYATHEINDAN or Sinbyumc Pagoda was built by Bagyidaw in
1816, while he was yet a Prince, to commemorate the death of his senior wife,
the Sinbyume Princess. It is in the form of the Sulumani Pagoda on the top
of Mount Mcru in Tavatimsa heaven, the abode of Indra. The seven
concentric terraces at the base correspond to the seven ranges of mountains
surrounding Mount Meru. The figures in white marble in the niches of the
parapets of every terrace represent the five kinds of mythical monsters
safe-guarding the mount. The building was severely shattered by earthquake
but was restored by king Mindon in 1874.

The SETTAWYA Pagoda on the brink of the river is a hollow vaulted
temple built by King Pagan in 1790 A.D. In the sanctum is enshrined a
Footprint of the Buddha in brick and stucco.

Printed and Published by Wunna Kyaw Htin U Chit Tin, Chief Executive Officer,
(0122/0106) for the Buddha Sasana Council at the Buddha Sasana Council Press,
Yegu, Kaba-Aye P.O., Rangoon, BURMA.

The East Audience Hall of the Mandalay Palace


The Mandalay Hill


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The Kuthodaw or Maha Lokamarazein Pagoda

The Atumashi Monastery

The Mahamuni Pagoda


The Setkyathiha Pagoda

The Shwekyi Myin Pagoda

The Mandalay Palace

Tbe^Palaee Watch Tower at Ara

The Unfinished Mingun Pagoda

The Mingun Bell

The Myatheindan or Sinbyume Pagoda

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The Eindawya Pagoda

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The Kyauktawgyi Pagoda

The Patodawgyi Pagoda

B.S.C.P.—No. 124.-18-2-66.-4,000 (II

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