Located southwest of Mandalay Hill in Myanmar, the Mahamuni Pagoda (also called the Mahamuni Buddha Temple) honors the Mahamuni (Great Sage) expression of the Buddha. The temple, arguably the most important to the residents of Mandalay, was built to house a 12-foot (3.8-meter) tall statue of the Buddha that was already ancient when King Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and claimed it in 1784.
According to local legend, the statue was cast while the Buddha was still alive, but it was more likely cast some six centuries after his death, somewhere around 150 AD. No matter its origins, the statue is highly venerated by devotees — evidenced by the inches thick layer of pure gold leaf that has been added to the metal statue over the centuries.
The pagoda courtyard houses six more statues, Khmer bronze pieces of lions, elephants and warriors, that were taken as war loot from Angkor Wat during the fifteenth century. It is believed that rubbing these statues imparts healing.
Wake up early enough, and you can watch the elaborate ceremony of polishing the Buddha’s face each morning at 4am.
Found nearly at the exact center point on the map of Myanmar, the town of Mingun is famous for the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which is an unfinished pagoda that was being constructed in the 1790s. The construction on the pagoda was never completed because of a claim made by an astrologist that as soon as the construction was completed, the ruler, King Bodawpaya, would die. Visitors to Mingun will also notice the cracks that run through the rock. These cracks are the result of a massive earthquake that hit the town in the 1830s. Travelers are welcome to climb the unfinished building and although there is obviously little to see in the rock itself, there are stunning views of the region and the impressive Mya Theindan pagoda below to be had.
Local tour guides claim that the pagoda is actually the world's largest unfinished stupa and that if it had ever been finished, it would be the largest completed one. Finished and very impressive is the Hsinbyume Pagoda, a pure white structure with seven terraces and many niches filled with mythical monsters, which was dedicated to the favorite wife of a king. Along with the pagodas, there is also a ringing bell that was cast during the same period on the orders of King Bodawpaya. Fitting in with the realm of “everything is bigger in Mingun,” the bell is the largest ringing bell in the world.
Most tourists make their way to Mingun from Mandalay on a day trip. The 11-kilometer boat trip from Mandalay takes between 45 minutes and an hour. Organizing a trip is fairly easy as there are constantly boats traveling up river to the town and beyond.