Mandalay, Myanmar

Reference work entry


Mandalay, the former royal capital, is situated in central Myanmar on the Irrawaddy River. It is the country’s second largest city and capital of Mandalay Division. It is the commercial and communications centre of northern and central Myanmar with trade links by rail, road, air and water. Mandalay is also the spiritual centre of Myanmar. The Mahamuni Pagoda, south of the city with its 12–foot Buddha is considered one of the country’s most famous.


King Mindon, one of the last kings of the Konbaung Dynasty, built Mandalay between 1857 and 1859 as the capital of the independent Kingdom of Burma. The fortified city is in the shape of a square and it was named after Mandalay Hill at the northeast corner of the present city. King Mindon’s palace, Myat Nan San Kyaw (Golden Palace), was built in the centre. The city was captured by the British in 1885 following a dispute between a British timber company and the Burmese government. Thereafter Mandalay (now called Ford Dufferin) became the British headquarters of Upper Burma. In 1935 the Government of Burma Act formally separated Burma from the Indian colony. During WWII the Japanese occupied Mandalay until it was recaptured by the British in 1945 under the command of General Sir William Slim. The city and palace were virtually destroyed. Burma was granted independence in 1948.

Modern City

Since there are no long haul flights into Myanmar, entry is via Southeast Asian connections. Leading industries include silk weaving, gold-leaf work, tea packing, jade cutting, brewing and distilling. Silverware, matches and woodcarvings are also produced. There is an Arts and Science University as well as a teacher training college. Further education includes agricultural, medical and technical institutions as well as a school of fine arts, music and drama. There is one modern hospital. The Zegyo bazaar is the largest market and lies to the west of the palace.

Places of Interest

The Golden Palace has been reconstructed and the Lion Throne, which survived the war, is exhibited at the national museum in Yangon. King Mindon built the Kuthodaw Pagoda in 1868 surrounding it with 729 marble slabs inscribed with the Tipitaka text (the three baskets of the Buddhist Pali canon). It is often referred to as the ‘world’s biggest book’. Kyauktawgi Pagoda (the pagoda of the great marble image), also built by King Mindon in 1865, stands at the foot of Mandalay Hill. It houses a large image of Buddha sculpted from a single block of Sagyin marble. The Mahamuni Pagoda was built in 1784 to house the Mahamuni Buddha brought by King Bodawapaya from Rakhine. It is the most revered pagoda in Mandalay and many gather each morning for the ritual washing of the Buddha’s face. Other attractions include the Shwe In Bin Monastery, the Mandalay Museum and Library and the Silk Weaving Cottage Industry.

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