Mahamuni Pagoda – The Sacred Pilgrimage Site for Buddhist Devotees

14 Jun 2019 by Admin

In Buddhism, it is believed that there are only five likenesses of Mahamuni Buddha, cast during his lifetime, of which two were in India, two in the heaven and the last one is the Mahamuni image in Myanmar. For this reason, the Mahamuni Pagoda, also known as the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, is amongst the most significant pilgrimage sites of Buddhism in Myanmar.

mahamuni pagoda
The Majestic Appearance of the Mahamuni Pagoda

The pagoda was constructed in 1785 by the order of King Bodawpaya of Konbaung dynasty. The pagoda enshrines the image of Mahamuni Buddha, acquired during the raid of the King in the Arakan Kingdom, which holds in the highest regard throughout the country.

When visiting Mahamuni Pagoda, you can find many shops around the pagoda selling offerings for the image of Mahamuni Buddha such as flowers, candles, and incense sticks. If you want to learn more about the history of Buddhism, you can have a look inside the Mahamuni Museum which lies within the ground of the pagoda.

The Museum exhibits stories and pictures about various places and stages in the living course of Mahamuni Buddha, from the place where he was born in Nepal, to the site where he was enlightened by Buddhism, and the place where he breathed his last and enter the Nirvana. Also, the museum displays a map which explains the spread of Buddhism to Asia countries during the last 2500 years.

mahamuni pagoda 1
Mahamuni Pagoda Glitters at Night

The Buddha Image in Mahamuni Pagoda

The Image of Mahamuni Buddha is placed in a small room whose roof is designed in Pyatthat style of Myanmar with seven tiers (you can see this typical roofing style in many other pagodas across Myanmar). With the height of 3.8 meters and the weight of approximately 6.5 tons, the Mahamuni Buddha image was cast in the posture of Bhumisparsha Mudra and is seated on a well-decorated pedestal of 1.8 meters high. The image is crowned with a coronet of diamonds and precious gems like rubies and sapphires.

mahamuni pagoda 2
The Buddha Image in Mahamuni Pagoda is Covered in a Thick Layer of Gold Leaf

Gold leaves, which are called shwe cha in the Burmese language, are often applied to the image by male devotees in order to express their reverence towards the Buddha. Consequently, the Mahamuni Buddha image is now coated with a thick layer, approximately 15 centimeters, of gold leaves.

Because of the thick gold layer, the original shape of the image has now been distorted. The difference in the shape of the image between about a hundred years ago and the present can be seen via analyzing some old photographs that still survive until today.

The Origin of the Buddha Image in Mahamuni Pagoda

The legendary tale of the origin of Mahamuni Buddha image says it all started in the Rakhine state in the Western Region of Myanmar. Legend had it that Mahamuni Buddha once paid a visit to the township of Dhanyawadi which was the capital city of Arakan Kingdom.

The teachings of Mahamuni Buddha made the King of Arakan so impressed that he passed out an order in which he demanded an image of the Buddha to be created. After the King and rich citizens throughout the Arakan Kingdom had contributed a large quantity of gold and valuable items, an incredibly life - like image of Mahamuni Buddha was cast.

It is said that the Buddha sanctified and bestowed life upon the image. For this reason, people once called it the Mahamuni Living Image.

mahamuni pagoda 3
An Interior Decoration Pattern in Mahamuni Pagoda

In 1784 under the Konbaung dynasty, Prince Thado Minsaw deployed an invasion to the Kingdom of Arakan. After having defeated Arakan, the Prince appropriated the Mahamuni Buddha image and transported it back to the capital of Konbaung, Amarapura. Afterward, the image was transferred to where it is enshrined today in Mandalay.

The Washing Ritual of the Buddha Image in Mahamuni Pagoda

mahamuni pagoda 4
The Venerated Monk is Washing the Face of the Buddha Image

Every day, in the early morning (around 4 a.m), the washing ritual of Buddha image is performed in Mahamuni Pagoda. The ritual is often attended by a substantial number of Buddhist followers, the male devotees usually stand in the front and the female often stays behind a rope.

When the time is right, a high-ranked monk, with the help of several assistants, washes the face and brushes the teeth of the Buddha image. It takes a considerable amount of time to complete the ritual because of its great detail in performance.

The Khmer Bronze Statues in Mahamuni Pagoda

mahamuni pagoda 5
The Bronze Statues in Mahamuni Pagoda were Originally Placed in Angkor Wat

In the ground of the pagoda, there are six large bronze statues which were looted from Angkor Wat in Cambodia War in the 15th century. One of which is the figure of the mythical elephant with three heads, Airavata (which is called Erawan in Thailand). Three statues are legendary lions.

The two remaining statues are two warriors who used to stand guard in Angkor Wat and are said to have the capability of healing. There is a belief that if someone rubs a certain part of the body of the statues, their ailments in the corresponding part can be cured.

If you are interested in a visit to Mandalay to visit Mahamuni Pagoda, don't waste time anymore. Call us today to secure a place on our Myanmar River Cruises taking you on the journey exploring various appealing destinations in this Buddhist country. 

Facebook Twitter

Our Partners