| When King Mindon who reigned from 1853 to 1878 decided
to move his capital from Amarapura to a new site in 1857, he chose a place
close to a holy mountain. Mandalay Hill, according to legend, was where once
the Lord Buddha had stood with his discipleAnanda. Lord Buddha had pointed
towards the South-West, prophesying that one day, a city of great religious
importance would be built there. King Mindon chose the spot of the prophecy,
naming his new city Mandalay after the name of the hill. The King had the
streets of his new city laid in a spacious grid pattern around the four sides
of the palace moat, and it is considered the best planned city of the country.
The city took four years to complete, but the palace
was finished by 1859 May and the Royal Court moved in. When King Mindon
`Returned to the Heavenly Abode of the Celestials' in 1878, his heir King
Thibaw moved the small and elegant pavilion in which the late king had lived to
the monastery grounds outside of the palace walls. This all-teak pavilion was
donated as a monastic building, and because it was beautifully carved all over
in traditional designs and completely gilded inside and out, it is known as the
Golden Palace Monastery. It is still seen in Mandalay, a favourite pilgrimage
site to both the native and foreign tourists. The gold on the exterior has been
washed away by harsh weather conditions, but the ceiling inside is still richly
gleaming with the thick 24 carat gold leaf applied since it was first built.
| Unfortunately most of the equally
beautiful palace buildings were destroyed by bombs during World War 11 but the
moat and the walls running along it still stand, complete with the gates. A few
years ago exact replicas of all the palace buildings were built on the same
| There is the great Audience Hall, and
behind it, the Chamber of the Lion Throne. The Lion Throne was placed precisely
under the great spire of the palace. This throne is considered the centre of
the Earth. This is called the Lion Throne because there are small lion figures
carved in the base. The original throne is at present on display at the
National Museum in Yangon, while a replica is to be seen in the rebuilt palace.
| Connecting the Lion Throne Chamber and
the Zeytawun Pavilion which is behind it, is a small room called the Sanu
Chamber. The Sanu pavilions are small connecting rooms between bigger
pavilions. The Zeytawu Chamber is divided into two in the middle, east and
west, as are most pavilions. The throne in the Zeytawun Pavilion is the Hintha
(a Noble bird) Throne, which has Hintha birds carved into the base. This
chamber was where the king received foreign dignitaries.
| Behind it is the Baung-daw Pavilion, also
divided into two parts, with a Conch Throne in it. Baung-daw means crown, and
in the western side of this pavilion, the King would put on his regalia when he
needs to be formally dressed for an audience or a state ceremony.
| North to this pavilion is the Laphet Yay
(Tea) Room, where young pages stay during the day and where arms are kept.
Pages carry messages, serve tea or run other errands.
| On the South is the Shwe Taik, the
treasury. Behind the Baung-daw Pavilion is the famous Hman Nan-taw : the Glass
| It is so-called because the walls are
covered with glass mosaics, and is one of the most splendid rooms in the
palace. At night, with the lamps burning, it was recorded by poets as being
like a palace of the celestials. This was where the Glass Palace Chronicle was
written, whigh is still one of the most beautifully written works on Myanmar
history. It has been translated into English as well and is equally charming.
| Nearby is the small brick pavilion which
was once King Thibaw's private residence, unpretentious and cosy.
| Numerous other throne rooms and palace
pavilions are set out behind and around these most important chambers. These
include a theatre and a room which was built with fragrant woods during the
king's time. The more spartan quarters of the lesser queens and handmaidens are
further at the back, but they are elegant with the rich dark red colour of the
| The palace is all gold, over the deep red
of lacquer; the motifs carved out of wood each have different meanings. The
surronding gardens and the palace are overlooked by the high watch tower which
stands in a far corner.
| The craftsmen of Mandalay who take pride
in their skills are happy to have been involved in recreating the glories of
the past. Seeing the high tiers of the roofs and the gold pillars once again
soaring to the skies, it is understandable how happy and proud they must be,
for a job so well done in bringing the past alive again.