Finally Mahamuni temple! Since it was one of the reasons for going to Mandalay, it deserves it's own post here.
Ever since visiting Wat Thai Watthanaram in Mae Sot district of the Thai province of Tak in 2005, I had planned to go visit the Mahamuni temple in Myanmar. The temple in Thailand features a copy of the famous Mahamuni Buddha image, which was built for Tai Yai people who cannot go visit the original Buddha image in their home country.
So I set out early by motorcycle taxi to go to the Mahamuni temple, which is the third member of Myanmar's sacred triumvirate, next to Shwedagon Pagoda and the Golden Rock. I could not get myself to visit the temple at 4am though, which would be the time of the day when the ceremonial washing of the Buddha's face is performed, but I was still early enough to beat the tour buses.
I first had to find a locker for my backpack and then find the counter where the thin gold sheets can be bought as part of the donations to the temple. There is actually security with an airport-like device which man only can pass to get in front of the Buddha itself. The long hallway to the east which is part of the official entrance way is filled with hundreds of local worshippers, mostly women and children.
And finally I was able to step up the stairs to the left of the Buddha and apply my gold sheets onto the surface of the Buddha. Many people seem to just go up to have their photo taken by someone who sits in front of the Buddha, however, I find the sight of a smiling and Victory-sign signalling tourist too inappropriate for such a place. I chose to apply my gold leaves to the back of the image and went back down the stairs on the other side.
It is still a busy and hectic place due to the all the people streaming in and out, but to the sides of the Buddha and in the shrines around the main pagoda are plenty of places for worship, prayer or even a meditation. The chanting of a few monks is heard over the loudspeakers all over the complex.
I spent a half day inside the temple complex and later on I also saw some tourists with their local tour guides, but mostly it was a quick visit for them. I did try to go to every hall and shrine, visited a Buddhist museum (at least it looked like one), a photo and art exhibition and witnessed a procession for a novice-to-be and also visited the Ananda temple on the same compound.