Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The World's Best Things in Myanmar

1. The world’s largest book
Kuthodaw pagoda (Kuthodaw means “royal merit”) settled on the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay city, is just where preserves the world’s largest book. The book stands upright, sets in stone and spreads on the ground of the pagoda with 729 stone tablets carved Burmese Buddhist scripture.

 Kuthodaw pagoda

Each slab has its own roof and a precious gem on top in a small “cave” called “kyauksa gu” (stone inscription cave in Burmese). The caves are arranged around a central gilded pagoda (zedi). Stone tablets are all marble and inscribed meticulously by tiers of senior monks. Originally each stone was chiseled out and filled with gold ink to form letters and borders. It took 7 and a half year to complete this elaborate construction.

When the British later invaded the North, the gems and other valuables were plundered. The gold writing had disappeared from all 729 marble tablets, and they were now marked in black ink made from shellac, soot from paraffin lamps and straw ash, rather than in gold, and a few of the gems still remain.

It’s impossible to see the whole tablets in a day because Kuthodaw is too much spacious. To view thoroughly these Buddhist scripture pages, averagely a person needs a least a week.

A stone tablet, as a page of the book 

2. The world’s longest and oldest teakwood bridge

U Bein bridge spans over Taungthaman lake in Amarapura, 11 km to the south from Mandalay city, is just the world’s oldest and longest teak wood bridge.

In around 1850, when the capital moved to Mandalay, the residents in Amarapura made use of teak wood from the former royal palace to erect the bridge with the total length of 1.2 km consisting of 1086 main pillars and thousands of boards.

U Bein was curved in the middle to resist assaults of wind and water. The main pillars were hammered into the lake bed 7 feet deep. Most of the pillars were shaped conically to make sure that rain water fell down easily. The joints were intertwined. There are 9 passageways on the bridge, where boards can be lifted to make way for big boats and barges.

Every afternoon, U Bein is really crowded with locals crossing over it to return home and travelers admiring sunset from it. Hundreds of people including Buddhist monks walk or cycle from shore to shore. Some long benches were placed for all to rest, sight-see and chat. This bridge is considered as one of the best places for sunset view in Myanmar.
3. The world’s largest reclining Buddha

Situated 24km to the south from Mawlamyine near Mudon and opposite to the Buddhist shrine of Kyauktalon Taung, Win Sein Taw Ya is remarkable for its scale and it’s just the world’s largest reclining Buddha with 30m in height and 180m in length. It can be clearly seen for miles as leaving Mudon for Mawlamyine on the right side of the road.

This unfinished monstrosity is tucked away at the foot of a mountain range, surrounded by lush vegetation. Near to the Buddha image are 200 standing monk statues collecting alms and pagodas of varying sizes disperse the surroundings.

Still a work in progress, it contains 182 chambers on 8 stories with dioramas of the teachings of Buddha Burmese subtitled and sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Buddha and grisly images from Buddhist hell.

There is also a Buddhist shrine based in the giant head, and footwear should be removed before entering the shrine. The site is currently open to the public though it is still under construction.


4. The world’s largest ringing bell

Mingun bell positioned in Mingun of Sagaing region was the world’s heaviest functioning bell at several times in history. Until now, it has been in great ringing condition with no cracks. It does not make clangs but is rung by striking the outer edge.

According to the history, from 1808 King Bodawpaya ordered to construct a gigantic pagoda, a gigantic bell and a gigantic lion during his reign until he . Mingun bell was cast to go with Mingun Pahtodawgyi.

Cast in 1808, this 90-ton-bell became the world’s heaviest functioning bell from its first suspension in 1810 until 23rd March 1839, when it was knocked off its supports by a huge earthquake. The Mingun Bell was resuspended in March 1896 by a team from the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Then it was again the world's heaviest functioning bell until 1902. The Mingun Bell regained its status as the world’s heaviest functioning bell in 1942. It continued dominating the title of the world’s largest ringing bell until 2000.

The original weight of the bell is 55,555 viss, equivalent to 90,718 ton. This number is conveniently remembered by many Burmese people as a mnemonic "Min Hpyu Hman Hman Pyaw" with the consonants representing the number 5 in Burmese astronomy and numerology. This weight and mnemonic words are written on the surface of the bell in white.


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