Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

pagodas at amarapura & the monks at maha ganayon kyaung

Monday, February 16: Today, I hire a driver named Meemo for 35,000 kyat, or around $35, for the entire day.  He drives me to Amarapura, meaning “City of Immortality;” it was the royal capital in Myanmar for less than 70 years, beginning from 1783. In February 1857, King Mindon began building Mandalay as his new capital city, as per a prophecy.  With the royal treasury depleted by the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, Mindon dismantled the palace buildings of Amarapura, moving the pieces by elephant to build the new capital in Mandalay.  The city walls were pulled down for use as building material for roads and railways.

Meemo first takes me to some nameless pagodas in Amarapura.  They surely do have names, names known only to the locals.  As they’re not really on the tourist circuit, Memo doesn’t introduce me to them by name but merely lets me explore as he accompanies me.  I find them quite beautiful and, happily, deserted.  Only some monks are here, sweeping up leaves and cleaning the grounds.

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Buddha in Pagoda in Amarapura

Buddha in Pagoda in Amarapura

monks sweeping leaves at a pagoda in Amarapura

monks sweeping leaves at a pagoda in Amarapura

monks at work

monks at work

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

An outdoor Buddha

An outdoor Buddha

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Pagoda in Amarapura

Afterwards, we go to Taung Min Gyi Pagoda, where the big Buddha there is being repaired amidst columns of glittering mirrors and tiles.

Buddha under repair at Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Buddha under repair at Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

Taung Min Gyi Pagoda

We head to Maha Ganayon Kyaung, a sprawling monastery where over a thousand monks queue up every day around 10:30 a.m. to collect lunch in stoneware rice bowls.  Meemo tells me where to stand for a good view and leaves me with the crowd of tourists lining the street, all snapping away at the young monks collecting their only meal of the day.

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

According to Myanmar Travel: Mandalay: Amarapura:  This magnificient monastery, founded in 1914, is one of the largest monasteries in Mandalay.  At times there are more than 3,000 monks living and studying here. At 10:30 every morning, hundreds of monks wait in long queues for their Swan (meals). At the same time, hordes of tourists stand watching and photographing them.

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

Monk at Mahaganayon Monastery

Monk at Maha Ganayon Monastery

Monks collecting alms

Monks collecting lunch

You can see the tourists lining the sidewalks.  It feels intrusive to me to be here taking pictures of these monks going about their daily business.  However, this is one of the tourist spots and if the monastery didn’t want to allow tourists, I’m sure they wouldn’t.  Maybe they benefit by donations of some sort.

Monks in line for lunch

Monks in line for lunch

1,000 monks

1,000 monks

Monks in line for their daily lunch

Monks in line for their daily lunch

young monks

young monks

novice monks

novice monks

monks collecting their only meal of the day

monks collecting their only meal of the day

monks in line

monks in line

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

Maha Ganayon Monastery

the littlest monks

the littlest monks

monks at Mahaganayon Monastery

monks at Maha Ganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

Mahaganayon Monastery

stone tablets at Mahaganayon Monastery

stone tablets at Maha Ganayon Monastery

The monks disappear into a dining hall, where they happily eat their meal.  There is no privacy for the poor young monks, as the tourists are standing all around the building, gawking and trying to capture pictures of them through the open doors and windows.

dining hall for the monks

dining hall for the monks

Inside, around the perimeter of the dining hall, the donors for today’s lunch walk contemplatively around, heads bowed and hands together in prayer.

the monks eat their lunch

the monks eat their lunch

Outside, poor Burmese mothers sit with their children, hoping for donations (for photos) from tourists. I give this woman some kyat, knowing the struggle that many Burmese people have eking out a living.

Burmese mother and her children

Burmese mother and her children

As I’m leaving, I find this stray monk walking quickly to collect his meal, obviously running a little late.

a straggler monk heading to lunch

a straggler monk heading to lunch

After we leave the monastery, we head to a silk-weaving factory and then to Sagaing.  I’m amazed by how many monks I’ve already seen in Mandalay, and I’ve been here less than 24 hours.

Categories: Amarapura, Asia, Burma, Mahaganayon Kyaung, Myanmar, Taung Min Gyi Pagoda | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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