The Maha Muni ("Great Sage") Pagoda was built about 75 years before the formal founding of Mandalay. It was built to house the great Maha Muni Buddha image, which was taken as booty when King Bodawpaya conquered Rakhain (Arakan), the fertile western coastal plains of modern-day Myanmar. Today, the image is highly revered by the local people, and no mater what time of day you visit, there will be dozens of people paying their respects to the image.
The Maha Myat Muni Paya, often referred in English simply as the Mahamuni Pagoda, is the holiest pilgrimage site in Mandalay, and the second holiest in Myanmar after the Golden Rock. It is located 3km south of the city centre on the road towards Amarapura. The name Mahamuni (also written Maha Muni) means Great Sage Pagoda, and is also known as the Rakhaing (Arakan) Pagoda or Payagyi (also written Phaya Gyi), or Great Pagoda. The Mahamuni Pagoda was built in 1784 by King Bodawpaya.
The principal image within the pagoda is the Mahamuni Buddha, also called Mahar Myat Muni Buddha. It is the most reverred Buddha image in Mandalay. This Buddha image was taken by King Bodawpaya during his invasion of Rakhaing, and is an object of intense devotion to pilgrims from all over.
The Mahamuni Buddha was cast during in the life-span of Buddha. It shows the Buddha in a seated posture called Bumi Phasa Mudras, which symbolizes his conquest of Mara. The Mahamuni is 4m high, and is cast in bronze. The statue weighs 6.5 tons. Its crown is decorated with diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
According to belief, the Mahar Myat Muni Buddha Image was being cast in front of Buddha himself and is the closest portrait of the Buddha. Hence the face of the image is most revered. Every morning at 4:30am, a team of monks would wash the Buddha's face and brush the teeth. Countless thousands of devotees apply layers of gold leaf on the image to gain merit, so much so that the image has been completely covered with 15 cm thick gold and its original shape is now distorted.
The Mahamuni Pagoda is open daily from 6am-8pm