Mahamuni Paya

Buddhist Temple in Mrauk U

Twenty miles north of Wethali, just beyond the former ancient capital of Dhanyawady, is Mahamuni Paya, the alleged first home of the buddha image now housed in the temple of the same name in Mandalay. The legend goes that the image was cast when Buddha visited the area in 554 BC. Even now, some Rakhine recount with fiery passion how the Burmese king Bodawpaya sent soldiers to dismantle and remove the Mahamuni buddha in 1784.

Today ‘Mahamuni’s brother’ – a smaller statue allegedly cast from the same materials – is one of three fine golden images resting inside. A replica of the original, commissioned 100 years ago by a wealthy resident of Sittwe, sits to the left. The temple structure dates from the 19th century, as earlier temples were destroyed by fire. Down the steps, near the southern walls of the shrine, is a museum (admission US$5) with a couple of dozen relics and some beautiful engraved stones.

There is a strip of good Burmese restaurants across from Mahamuni Paya, so it's a clever idea to combine this trip with lunch. The trip can be arranged through the Regional Guides Society – Mrauk U. It spans about half a day, including a visit to Wethali; car hire costs about US$40 to US$50, and guide fees are US$35.