Shwethalyaung Reclining Buddha in Bago, Myanmar.

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Shwethalyaung Buddha

Top choice in Myanmar (Burma)

Following the destruction of Bago in 1757, this huge reclining buddha was overgrown by jungle and not rediscovered until 1881, when a contractor unearthed it while building the Yangon–Bago railway line. According to legend this gorgeous statue, measuring 180ft long and 53ft high, was built by the Mon king Mgadeikpa in the 10th century. The buddha's little finger alone extends 10ft.

In 1906 an open-sided pavilion was erected over the statue, and in the 1930s a mosaic was added to the great pillow on which the buddha’s head rests.

On the rear side of the plinth, in a series of 10 murals, the legend of how the buddha came to be built by Mgadeikpa is depicted. His reign was marked by corruption and violence, but one day his son was out hunting in the forests when his eye fell upon a Mon girl who caused his heart to flutter. Even though she was a Buddhist and he, like everyone in his father’s kingdom, worshipped pagan idols, the two became lovers and married after Mgadeikpa's son promised his love that she could continue to practise Buddhism.

Back at the court, the king was furious when he discovered this and ordered the execution of both the girl and his son. Yet when the new bride prayed in front of the king's idol, it cracked and broke. The king was seized with fear and, realising the error of his ways, ordered the building of a statue of the buddha and the conversion of the population to Buddhism.

Near the huge head of the image stands a statue of Lokanat (Lokanatha or Avalokitesvara), a Mahayana Buddhist deity borrowed by Burmese Buddhism.

A Japanese war cemetery, Kyinigan Kyaung, can be seen on the grounds of a monastery just north of Shwethalyaung.

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