The Mingun Pahtodawgyi
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is an incomplete monument stupa in Mingun, approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northwest of Mandalay in Sagaing Region in central Myanmar (formerly Burma). The ruins are the remains of a massive construction project begun by King Bodawpaya in 1790 which was intentionally left unfinished. The pahtodawgyi is seen as the physical manifestations of the well known eccentricities of Bodawpaya. He set up an observation post on an island off Mingun to personally supervise the construction of the temple.
History of the Mingun Pagoda
Construction of the massive pagoda was ordered by King Bodawpaya, the 6th King of the Konbaung dynasty. The King who was at the peak of his power achieved a number of great successes at the end of the 18th century.
In 1784 he invaded Arakan and seized the capital city Mrauk U. Among with other treasures, he seized the Mahamuni Buddha image, Burma’s most highly venerated Buddha image and brought it back to his Kingdom.
He also acquired a sacred Buddha tooth relic, something that his predecessors had not been able to achieve. To enshrine a Buddha relic of such great importance, the King wanted to build the largest pagoda in the country and probably in the world. The King intended the pagoda to be 152 meters high. The impressive scale of the Paya was probably also meant to serve as a demonstration of his power.
The pagoda was of such great importance to the King that he left the matters of state to his son and had a new residence for himself built on an island in the river to oversee the construction project.
What to See
As soon as one enters the little town of Mingun, one can see the gigantic ruins of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi. Situated at a distance of 10 km from the city of Mandalay, the ruins consist of a gigantic construction which began in 1790 during the reign of King Bodawpaya who wanted to construct the largest pagoda on Earth. Even though he had an observation post constructed in an island near Mingun to supervise the process of the construction, the project was never completed.
King Bodawpaya made use of thousands of war prisoners and slaves whom he acquired from his war campaigns who were employed in the construction of the stupa. Since the construction process was taking its toll on the finances of the state, the people supposedly created a prophesy according to which as soon as the construction of the pagoda had finished, the kingdom would also perish at the same time. According to a variation of this myth, the prophesy predicted that the King of the land would die as soon as the pagoda was completed. However, ruefully, Mingun Pahtodawgyi is presently famous for being one of the largest pile of stone and brickwork in the world.
The unfinished pagoda rises up to a height of 50 meters which is just one third of its proposed desired height. The width of the construction is about 450 square feet. An earthquake in 1839 has resulted in the appearance of huge cracks on its facade. The surrounding temples around the not-so-holy ruin doesn’t have much religious relevance but are more popular as tourist sites. However, there is a small shrine with an image of Buddha which is still used as a house of prayer near the historical landmark.
Nearby one can see the working model of the Pahtodawgyi pagoda, known as Pondaw paya. There are also two gigantic statues of lions in Pahtodawgyi Pagoda.
The Mingun Bell
The Mingun Bell (Wikipedia Article) is a gigantic bell made of bronze, which was cast by King Bodawpaya to accompany the pagoda. The Mingun Bell weighs about 90 tons and is the second largest ringing bell on the planet.
How to Reach
Most visitors to Mandalay make a one-day trip to the town of Mingun which can be reached in an hour from Mandalay. Mingun can be reached by a ferry boat or by hiring a car from Mandalay. A car takes about 45 minutes to reach while the journey by boat takes about an hour.