Introduction and Historical Note
Located near the south stairway (Zaungdan) of Mandalay Hill is Kyauktawgyi Pagoda. The pagoda was the merit of the King Mindon who was also the builder of Mandalay. The construction of Kyauktawgyi Pagoda started in 1853 but could finish only in 1878, partly due to its massive size and partly to the palace rebellion of 1866. It was modeled after famous Ananda Temple of Bagan, with the main structure being a huge sitting Buddha Image, carved from a single massive block of marble. The original marble stone was brought from the Sagyin Mountain Query twelve miles north of Mandalay City. The huge marble stone was carried on a massive raft along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) River to the river bank near Mandalay. From there, it took 10,000 men 13 days to carry the stone to its current place near the base of Mandalay Hill.
Originally modeled after the Ananda Temple of Bagan, the pagoda differs considerably from Ananda Temple at the time of completion. In the centre of the Pagoda structure is a shrine which houses the huge marble sitting Buddha which was carved from a single marble stone. The Buddha is a Bhumisparsha Mudra which is a gesture of “calling the earth to witness” (Buddha’s hand touching the earth). The main focus of the Buddha is the hands. As a result, the eyes of the Buddha image are almost closed – a strange form in Burmese Buddha images most of which normally have wide open eyes.
From this main structure, there run four corridors (Zaungdans) on each side of the central shrine (North, South, East and West). The corridors are covered by roof and form connections from the Garden of Arahats (that surrounds the main pagoda) to the central structure. The Garden of Arahats is named after the individual shrines that house each of the eighty Arahats (disciples of Gautama Buddha). In each side of the pagoda in the garden, there are twenty individual shrines with one Arahat in each, making twenty Arahats in each side, with a total of eighty. These are the main disciples of Gautama Buddha.
The pagoda festival of Kyauktawgyi Pagoda is held every October. It is one of the largest pagoda festival in Mandalay.
Editor’s Note: Many of the above information has been obtained from our reference book Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar (Burma)