While in Monywa, I paid a visit to Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda at the entrance to the town. Beautiful multi-colours and wonderfully architectural works of the pagoda that I visited about 30 years ago for the first time have been attractable to visitors.
Thanks to proper maintenance in successive eras, the pagoda daily crowded with local and foreign guests has been magnificent and impressive in appearance with original works for about 80 years.
Monywa, the capital of Sagaing Region, is located on Mandalay-Kalay motor road, on the eastern bank of Chindwin River. Related to Chindwin River called Thallawady in the past, the town was named Thalla. Monywa, 50 miles from a confluence of Chindwin and Ayeyawady rivers, 80 miles west to Mandalay and 452 miles from Yangon, is the most strategic town among towns and villages along both banks of Chindwin River.
Monywa has been facilitated with embankments to prevent flooding whenever Chindwin River overflows. It is a focal point of trade and commercial processes in Sagaing Region. Local people trade agricultural products produced from Chindwin basin at Monywa. Moreover, the town is significant for distributing various textile products, wheat, edible oils and sausage as well as Kyaukka lacquerwares to four corners of Myanmar.
Although Monywa, destroyed by fire in 1956, was rebuilt as new city but it has been meeting development in successive eras. It became a main port of Chindwin River as well as a focal point on the motor road leading to India. In addition, the city enjoys good transport facilities due to a highway and a railroad to Mandalay.
Shwezigon and Hsutaungpyae pagodas in Monywa are famous. The Buddha Pujaniya festival of Hsutaungpyae Pagoda which lasts for 10 days in Thadingyut yearly is thronged with pilgrims and visitors. Significantly, Thanbuddhe Pagoda in Monywa is attractive to local and international travellers because of its wonderful arts and crafts.
The Myanmar Encyclopaedia stated the word of Monywa derived from Montywa. In the past, a king appointed a snack vendor (called Mont The) as his queen. That was why the town was named Mont-the-ma Village which changed to Monywa later. But, the saying did not mention name of the king and time. Actually, Monywa was a large village in the reigns of Myanmar kings. It was one of the towns under current Ahlon. After occupying Myanmar, British designated Monywa as administrative office town of lower Chindwin District in 1888.
Among many destinations of local and foreign tourists around Monywa, Thanbuddhe Pagoda, on right side of Mandalay-Monywa Road at the entrance to Monywa, is famous destination due to its magnificent arts and crafts. The pagoda, 12 kilometres southeast of Monywa, built by Mohnyin Abbot, was named Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda.
Mohnyin Abbot laid cornerstones for construction of Thanbuddhe Pagoda on 20 July 1939 dedicating to numerous number of Samma Sambuddha. The design of the pagoda was directed by the abbot himself to order a team led by Saya Han Gyi from Amyint for construction of the pagoda within 10 years.
The pagoda was gilt in 1320 Myanmar era, and the consecration ceremony took place on the full moon day of Tazaungmone. From then onward, the Buddha Pujaniya festival has been held at the pagoda on Tazaungmone on a yearly basis.
The pagoda is 131 feet high, formed with a main structure comprising 124 small sections, 80 large sections and 42 doors.
Various sizes of Buddha images totalling 582,363 were kept interior and exterior walls of the main building in a row. A total of 864 encircled pagodas can be seen at the pagoda and the prayer hall. Visitors can pay homage to various sizes of standing and sitting Buddha images.
Maung Boe Sa, childhood name of Mohnyin Abbot U Sumana, was born on waxing day of 1234 ME. At that time, his mother Daw Taw was 56 years old. Maung Boe Sa learned basic Pitakat literature from Ayeywa Abbot U Acara. At 13 years old, he was novitiated by Ayeywa Abbot and titled Shin Sumana. He was ordained in Waso of 1234 ME. Four years later, he went to Mandalay so as to pursue Pariyatti literature. While in Mandalay, he learned Pitakat literature at U Yangon Monastery of Dekkhinayama Monastery.
The monk, aged 37 and 17 vasa, took meditation at Eibyamakhaya near Myitnge for two years. Then, he returned to Monywa and learned ways of meditation from venerable Leti Abbot. He arrived at the place that would be famous as Mohnyin Tawya, in Waso 1273 ME.
Mohnyin Tawya was located on the place of Mohnyin Monastery (the monastery of King Mohnyin) where King Mohnyin performed missionary in Inwa era. Before settlement of the abbot, local people called the place as Myaynetaw due to lack of public travelling.
Ashin Sumana found stone plaques as mentioned the ninth of 27 venues where King Mohnyin (1427-1440 AD) of Inwa City made donations. That was why Mohnyin Abbot named the place as Mohnyin Tawya. In the Second World War, thousands of displaced persons took shelter at Mohnyin Tawya.
Ashin Sumana resided at Mohnyin Tawya in line with the advice of venerable Leti Abbot for 10 years without talking and delivering sermons. Afterwards, he wondered various towns and villages to administer Desanas. Ashin Sumana was famous as Mohnyin Sayadaw who built Thanbuddhe Pagoda and religious edifices in the precinct of Mohnyin Tawya for devotees and disciples to enjoy merits.
Mohnyin Abbot Ashin Sumana wrote 36 treatises such as Visuddhi Practices Treatise, Paticcasamupadda Practices Treatise and Vipassana Exercise Treatise. These treatises are put on display at the Mohnyin Tawya Historical Museum. The government offered Agga Maha Pandita title to the abbot in 1941. The venerable abbot passed away at aged 93 and 73 vasa, on 8th waning of Tawthalin, 1325 ME.
Edifices in precinct of the pagoda
In addition to Thanbuddhe Pagoda, Tavatimsa Culamani Pagoda called Arleinngasint, two pagodas based on elephant statues, Pahtan Adipati Dhammayon, the great clock tower, the historical museum and the museum keeping the portray of Mohnyin Abbot are located in the precinct of the pagoda.
The halls namely Shwe Seikkyaik, Shwe Seikkyi, Shwe Seikpyaw, Shwe Seikaye, Shwe Seikshwin and Shukhintha to accommodate pilgrims from various regions of the nation were built in addition to more halls such as Myat Thiri, Myat Piti, Myat Chantha and Kyinubwe for night stays of pilgrims.
A large lake where fish and turtles are bred can be seen at 15-acre Mohnyin Tawya in addition to prayer halls, public rest houses and hostels. Moreover, wooden buildings were decorated with beautiful sculptural works such as flowers and animals that foreigners prefer.
Two large white elephant statues are kept at the entrance to Mohnyin Tawya. Each elephant statue is 36 feet in length. A pagoda based on seven-tier structure is kept on each elephant. These pagodas are 48 feet high from the base to its diamond orb. Visitors from the Arleinngasint Pagoda installed with a spiral stair outside the cylinder shaped structure can enjoy aerial views of Mohnyin Tawya.
Mohnyin Abbot planted a Bo tree in the precinct of the Tawya in Waso, 1282 ME. The Bo tree died with dried leaves on the day when the abbot passed away. The trunk of Bo tree was carved as a Dhammacakka Buddha image being kept at Bawdi Chamber for public obeisance. Stone wheels used in mixing concrete for construction of the pagoda can be seen in the park, north of Thanbuddhe Pagoda.
Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda was built in significantly architectural style, different from other pagodas across the nation. Foreign tourists compare Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda with Bawrawbudha Temple in Indonesia. Those paying homage to Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda will have chances to pay obeisance to the world’s highest standing Buddha image called Laykyun Sekka Buddha Image.
The Buddhist religious structure built by Mohnyin abbot with his miracle thoughts about 80 years ago has been winning hearts of pilgrims in successive eras, and it is now under maintenance of members of the Sangha from the monastery and members of the pagoda board of trustees.
Translated by Than Tun Aung
Myanmar Encyclopaedia, Volume IX
History of Mohnyin Thanbuddhe Pagoda