By Thayat Tan Soe Shwe, Psychology
With extraordinary pagodas on each of the over 37 mountain tops, Sagaing Mountain is famous as an interesting mountain. Among those pagodas, U Min Thonze pagoda ( thrity caves pagoda) located at the peak of locally called Mount Saramati and Tilawkaguru cave will make you fully enjoy Sagaing. The pilgrims come to Sagaing start their tour from Mount Nga Phar to Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, from Mount Saramati to U Min Thonze Pagoda, Shin Phyu Shin Hla Pagoda and Hmyaw Taw Zaw Pagoda, Baung Taw Kya Pagoda, Nhat Myat Nar Pagoda and surrounding pagodas continuously. U Min Thonze Pagoda is called because of its 30 entrance gates with the 45 beautiful Buddha images inside .
The flagpoles are decorated on each façade of the cave. Entrance height is 6 ft 7 inches and width is 2ft 5 inches. 10 Manuthiha statues and 7 small stupas were built on the southern facades of the cave extraordinarily. The Pagoda festival is held annually on the full moon day of Wakaung month. Most people visit U Min Thonze Pagoda right after Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda. On the way to the pagoda, souvenirs and Sagaing memorial art works can be bought. U Min Thoneze Pagoda is the right place to watch the beauty of Sagaing city and the city’s pagodas from afar.
Composers even refer to Sagaing city and Sagaing Mountain as a beautiful painting painted by angels by bridge bother and river sister. It is called Sagaing because the Ayeyawaddy river which flows from north to south starts and bends to flow from east to west from Sagaing.
The history of Sagaing begins from 677 AD when Athin Khayar Saw Ywun built Atu La Wati city. It was written in the records of literary scholars that the city was built with nine places simultaneously which were Golden Palace, Golden City, East Gate, West Gate, South Gate and North Gate, Hla See Kone Pagoda, Thaw Ta Pan Nat Shrine and nine Chaungs (places of religious retreat) from nine mountains. The 700 years old Sagaing is honoured as a prominent place where religion flourishes. Among the pagodas in Sagaing, Tilawkaguru Cave which has mural paintings is very interesting.
Tilawkaguru Cave is located behind the southern guest pavilion (Tazaung) of Pon Nya Shin Pagoda at Sagaing Mountain. The Cave is famous for its interesting mural paintings. Experts say that it is similar with Kyauk Gu U Min in Bagan. The outside of the cave was made of brick and the inside of the cave was carved out of stone. Tilawkaguru Cave is a two-storey cave with a staircase leading up to it. It is over 300 years old with mural paintings which depict the life stories of Bouddha. During the stay in Sagaing, one should visit U Min Thoneze Pagoda and Tilawkaguru Cave to enjoy the beauty of Sagaing. (Translated by Ei Phyu Phyu Aung)