Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay

high-definition creative commons photographs from Mandalay, Myanmar, showing one of the most famous pilgrimage temples in the country, housing the Mahamuni Buddha Image, together with further information.


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Arcade inside the Temple
Arcade inside the Temple

The Mahamuni Temple or Pagoda is a complex of structures located along a road from Mandalay leading to Amarapura in the southwest. The temple has a central shrine and is framed by an extensive grass lawn. The arcades leading to the main shrine have, as in many temples and pagodas in Myanmar, kiosks selling religious paraphernalia such as incense, candles, rosaries, flowers, robes, sandals etc., and various restaurants and tea shops.

The Mahamuni Buddha Image is housed in a small chamber, seated on a throne in Bhumisparsa Mudra. This posture or mudra symbolises Buddha's vanquishing of Mara. The legs are crossed with feet turned inwards, and the right hand touches the ground calling the Earth to witness to his past good deeds.

The image is cast in bronze and weighs 6.5 tonnes and is erected on a pedestal 1.84 metres high and reaches a height of 3.82 metres. It is draped in royal costumes with Brahmanic cords and regalia crossing the chest. The image is crowned, bejewelled with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. The left hand appears imprecise, unusually large, and is seen resting in the lap with an upturned palm.

Gold leaves are regularly applied to the face of the Mahamuni Buddha by male devotees. Because of the frequent application of gold leaves, the coating of gold has given a shapeless contour to the Mahamuni image. It will be noted that the right hand, crown and other iconographic characteristics of royalty are free of gold leaf covering, which gives an impression that these were later additions to the original image.

The Mahamuni Image originally came from Arakan. Ancient tradition refers to five likenesses of the Buddha made during his lifetime: two were in India, two in the Heavens, and the fifth is the Mahamuni Buddha Image in Myanmar. According to the legend, the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 BC. King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. For this purpose, the Buddha then sat under a Bodhi tree for a week of meditation. During this time Sakka, supported by his assistant Vissakamma, moulded a life-like image of the Buddha using ornaments donated by the king and his people. After casting the Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Buddha himself.

At the time of the Bagan Dynasty King Anawratha (1044-1077) attempted to move the image to Bagan, but without success. In 1784, the Burmese under the military leadership of Crown Prince Thado Minsaw of the Konbaung Dynasty conquered the Kingdom of Mrauk U. The religious relics of the kingdom, including the Mahamuni Buddha image, were confiscated and installed in the Mahamuni temple or Pagoda at Amarapura, which was the capital at the time. As the Mahamuni image was too large to transport as a whole, it was cut into sections and later reassembled and housed in the new temple.

Text adapted from Wikipedia (retrieved, December 24th 2010)


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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