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April 20, 2019

King Mindon and Bodh Gaya wayside royal rest house

Mahabodhi temple, built under the Gupta Empire,  6th century CE.
Mahabodhi temple, built under the Gupta Empire,
6th century CE.

By Maung Tha (Archaeology)

According to 20 gold parchments which described a summary of Buddha’s sermon unearthed in Khinba Hill, Thiri Ksetra Old City, Theravada Buddhism was believed to be in Myanmar. After Pyu Era , Buddhism became more and more flourished during King Anawrahta’s reign inBagan.
After Bagan Era, Buddhism flourished in Pinya, Innwa, Taungoo and Nyaungyan Eras; evidences of those eras are found to be pagodas and stupas up until now. In the same way, throughout Myanmar history,
Kings and their people built Buddhist structures, especially in Konbaung and Yadanabon Dynasties, where their remains are still found in most parts of Myanmar.
Buddhism during the successive reigns of Myanmar kings was honoured by building religious structures not only in the Kingdom but also outside of the Kingdom. Among them, King Mindon’s royal edifice for religious assemblies and providing shelter to travellers in Gaya City, India was included. The King also built Royal rest house in Mecca town for Myanmar Muslim pilgrims.

King Mindon
Mindon Min was the tenth King during the successive reigns of 11 kings in Konbaung Dynastiy( (1752-1885). Among Konbaung kings, King Mindon was famous for his morals, education and farsightedness, according to the famous writer U Nyo Mya; he was also famous for his Fifth Synod of Buddhism. As the King established Mandalay as the capital and religion and education were highly honored throughout his royal tenure.
A king-to-be Maung Lwin was born on July ,1814 of the King Thayawady and Queen Thiri Thusandar Marlar Devi. Prince Mindon succeeded to the Amarapura Throne on 17 February 1853, by removing his elder brother King Bagan and appointing his younger brother Prince Kanaung as a crown prince. During King Mindon’s reign from 1853-1878, Konbaung Dynasty flourished towards the end of the Kingdom, according to U Nyo Mya. He built a square-shaped new Yadanabon City in 1221 ME; one side was a mile and two furlongs. He moved to Yadanabon City from Amarapura after being aware of possible British attacks and the King exerted his efforts for the modernization of Myanmar, by sending young men to the West for further education and factories and mills were established under the supervision of Prince Kanaung to become an industrialized country. At the same time, Yadanbon coins were moulded to replace the current monetary system. For the security and safety of his country, artillery and gun factories were built along the watercourse of the Ayeyawady. While defending the external attacks, The King had to resolve the internal conflicts in his palace.
In order to continue the compilation of the Glass Palace inherited from King Sagaing, several high-ranking educated royals were assigned by the King on 2 September, 1867. That commission compiled 237 chapters on historical records from 1821 to 1853, thus popularly known as Second Royal History. The Fifth Synod organized in Yadanabon Mandalay by the King in the Buddhist Era 2400 (1871 AD) became historic. The collective recitations of Buddhist Scriptures were in stone-inscriptions, totaling 729 stone slabs in the Kuthawdaw Pagoda compound. These slabs were put in the World Heritage List by UNESCO as Myanmar’s first Memory of the World Rigister.
King Mindon allowed publishing free publications of newspapers, sending diplomats to the West, getting enough salaries for the Kingdom servicemen, giving the dispensation of Christianity in the capital of the Kingdom, enjoying free worshipping, establishing nursing hospitals and the home for the Aged Poor. King Mindon was not similar with former Kings, avoiding wars and bloodshed as much as he could, remarked prominent historian Dr. Than Tun. He passed away at the age of 64 on 1 October, 1878.
Mindon Min and Bodh Gaya
Most Buddhists including Myanmar people put much value on the sacred four places of birth, Buddhahood, preaching and passing-away: Lubini Garden in Nepal, Buddhahood in Mahabodhi, Bodh Gaya, First preaching Dhama Sakya and passing-away in Migadawon Forest. Buddhist pilgrims pay a yearly visit to these places via Bodh Gaya, India. Gaya town is situated in Behur State, India and 17 kilometers away from Gaya Airport and 16 km away from Gaya Station. The sacred place where the Prince Thihdahta became Buddha was put in the World Heritage List by the UNESCO in 2002.
Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini garden in BC 623 and passed away in Kuthinayon in BC 543. After attaining Nirvana and lasting 280 years around BC 260, King Asoka built a Mahabodhi Pagoda near Bodhi tree where Prince Thitdahta attained Buddhahood. King Pala renovated the Pagoda in AD 7 century and was again destroyed in AD 12 century and with renovations in AD 13 century, the height of the present Mahabodhi Pagoda is 55 meters.
As Mahabodhi Pagoda was the sacred place for the Buddhists, Myanmar Kings made generous donations and preservations for the Pagoda: King Kyansitha of Bagan dynasty sent a group of king’s counselors with pieces of jewelry to renovate the Pagoda. In the same way, Bagan King Kyawswa in AD 1299 and King Bodawpaya in AD 1800 sent missionaries to Bodh Gaya. King Mindon donated 7 million rupees for the Pagoda and built a royal wayside resthouse for Myanmar pilgrims.

King Mindon’s royal wayside rest house
Myanmar pilgrims went around Mahabodhi Pagoda, Mahabodhi Banyan Tree and seven places where the Buddha sojourned after enlightenment. After visiting these places, they went to study King’s royal resthouse.
King’s rest house is situated northeast of Mahabodhi Pagoda compound and near Gaya Bazaar. Even if it is known as the royal wayside resthouse, it happens to be a brick building, not made of wooden one.
The compound in which King Mindon’s wayside rest house exists belongs to the Brahmin Mahants whose buildings are also inside the Compound.
The rest house presently belongs to the Indians so visitors are not allowed to have a look inside it. Two-storied brick building was painted red with broken windows. Once Myanmar pilgrims to Gaya Town stayed inside the rest house; it is now sad that it has nothing to do with Myanmar people. King Mindon succeeded to the throne in 1214 ME and built Yadanabon City after seven years on the throne. In 1236 ME, the King accompanied by high-ranking royal officials donated 500 diamonds, 311 emeralds, 3966 red rubies, 623 pearls, umbrellas, pennants, long-necked pots, garlands and banquets to the Mahabodhi Pagoda and Banyan Tree by means of Sakya steamboats.
King Mindon’s stone inscritions
Before getting to King Mindon’s royal wayside rest house, one had to cross through the gates of Old Mahant Palace. At the back of the street, an obelisk was found. The stone inscriptions were written in it by Wetmasouk Mayor Mahathiri Sithu and Brahmin Dhamarajah Guru and a preface forwarded by Ngashwelu and brought to Gaya City for the establishment of an obelisk. To renovate the obelisk, a delegation headed by Thitagu Sayadaw Shinnyasara, went to Gaya City on October 14, 2015 to coordinate with the administrators of Mahabodhi Pagoda.
Mahants who own the Mindon’s royal wayside rest house and the obelisk compound also attended the coordination meeting. Dubbed as “an epilogue of stone inscriptions for Mahabodhi Banyan Tree” 85 Myanmar proses were written on the obelisk. Inscribed words could be read in details in Second Mahahistory. A Sri Lankan by the name of Anagarika Dahmapalaka requested the transfer of Maha-Pagoda to the hands of Buddhists, thus leading to conflicts with Brahmin Mahants. In 1891, Sayadaw Anagarika Dmapalaka and his lay devotees U Thein Maung and U Ba Si requested the Indian Government for transferring Maha Pagoda to the Buddhists. After 50 years in 1949, a law was promulgated to let four members of Hindus and four members of Buddhists jointly administer the Pagoda; up until now the Pagoda has been administered by both Hindus and Buddhists.
Myanmar Buddhist pay a yearly pilgrimage to Gaya City where King Mindon’s royal wayside rest house and Mahabodhi Obelisk are vividly seen as historic evidences as Myanmar King Mindon’s sympathy and generosity. But King’s historic edifice for religious assemblies and providing shelter to travellers falls into the hands of foreigners, thus only praying for eternal existence of Konbaung King’s historic structure.
Translated by Arakan Sein;

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