A trip to Mandalay and Sagaing is not complete without a visit to Mingun. The little town of Mingun is located on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River and is famous for many Buddhist shrines, monasteries, meditation centers and monuments of historical and culture importance. It’s about 7 miles from Mandalay, where it can be reached by ferryboats across the river – the trip takes 1 hour up-river and 40 minutes down-river. From the pier you can either walk to the pagoda or take an ox cart marked as taxi. You can also reach it from Sagaing, it is about 11 miles by road.
The Mingun Pahtotawgyi makes for an impressive site on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. In front of the pagoda facing the river are the remains of two giant lions about 29 meters high for guarding the temples. You can climb to the top of the Pagoda using a stairway to the right side of the structure. The massive unfinished pagoda was built by King Bodawpaya, the 6th King of the Konbaung Dynasty. The King intended the pagoda to be 152 meters high. In 1790, construction of the massive pagoda started and reached a height of 50 meters, one third of the intended height. Construction was halted because the pagoda was much larger than anything else in its time and there were technical difficulties with the construction. Another problem was insufficient labor, because many of slaves brought over for the construction project escaped. Two large earthquakes did considerable damage to the Mingun Pagoda. During 1838 earthquake, the heads of the giant lions broke off and rolled into the Irrawaddy River. Large cracks appeared in the Pagoda’s structure.
In 1808, the King Bodawpaya made an enormous bell that was meant to be installed at the top of the giant stupa. It height is 3.7 meters long and the number 55555 is inscribed in Burmese script on the outside of the bell, 55555 being the weight in viss, a Burmese unit of measurement, which is about 90 tons. The Mingun Bell is the largest bell in the world although the Kremlin belle in Moscow is bigger but it is cracked and not in use.
The impressive Myatheindan Stupa, built by King Bagyidaw, the grandson of the King Bodawpaya, in 1816, is very close to the Mingun Pahtotawgyi. It is built as a representation of the Sulamani Pagoda which according to the Buddhist plan of the cosmos, stands atop Mount Meru. The seven wavy terraces around the pagoda represent the seven mountain ranges around Mount Meru. This pagoda was badly damaged in 1838 by an earthquake but King Mindon restored it in 1874.
One of the tourist attractions in Mingun is Home for the Aged. It was founded by Daw Oo Zun in 1915 with a view to looking after the aged and destitute who are in need of care and comfort. It is the first home for the aged establish in Myanmar.
Another place you can study is the Monastery where Sayardaw U Viseitta Sara Vivamsa winner of Tipitaka Title resided. The late Sayardaw was listed in the Guinness Book of records as one of the most intelligent men in the world.
As you can see, there are many things for you to do in Mingun. So the next time you are in Mandalay, be sure to add some of these sites to your itinerary.