Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Mandalay is the second largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located 445 miles (716 km) north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy river, the city has a population of nearly 1 million, and is the capital of Mandalay Division.

Mandalay is the economic hub of Upper Burma and considered the center of Burmese culture. A continuing influx of Chinese immigrants mostly from Yunnan Province in the past twenty years has reshaped the city's ethnic makeup and increased its economic dynamism. Despite Naypyidaw's recent rise, Mandalay remains Upper Burma's main commercial, educational and health center.


The city gets its name from the nearby Mandalay Hill. The name is likely a derivative of a Pali word although the exact word of origin remains unclear. The root word has been speculated as: "Mandala" (meaning, circular plains) "Mandare" (believed to mean "auspicious land"), or "Mandara" (a mountain from Hindu mythology).

When it was founded in 1857, the royal city was officially named Yadanabon, the Burmese version of its Pali name Ratanapura which means "The City of Gems". It was also called Lay Kyun Aung Myei (Victorious Land over the Four Islands) and the royal palace, Mya Nan San Kyaw (The Famed Royal Emerald Palace)


Plan of Mandalay Palace

[edit] Early history

Like most former (and present) capitals of Burma, Mandalay was founded on the wishes of the ruler of the day. On 13 February 1857, King Mindon founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, ostensibly to fulfill a prophecy on the founding of a metropolis of Buddhism in that exact place on the occasion of the 2,400th jubilee of Buddhism.

The new capital city site was 25.5 square miles (66 km²) in area, surrounded by four rivers. The plan called for a 144-square block grid patterned citadel, anchored by a 16 square block royal palace compound at the center by Mandalay Hill. The 1020-acre (413-hectare) citadel was surrounded by four 6,666-foot (2,032 m) long walls and a moat 210 feet (64 m) wide, 15 feet (4.57 m) deep. Along the wall were turrets for watchmen with gold-tipped spires at intervals of 555 feet (169 m). The walls had three gates on each side, and five bridges to cross the moat. In addition, the king also commissioned the Kuthodaw Pagoda, the Pahtan-haw Shwe Thein higher ordination hall, the Thudhamma Zayats or public houses for preaching the Doctrine, and the library for the Buddhist scriptures. In June 1857, the former royal palace of Amarapura was dismantled and moved by elephants to the new location at the foot of Mandalay Hill although construction of the palace compound was officially completed only two years later, on Monday, 23 May 1859.

For the next 26 years, Mandalay was to be the last royal capital of the last independent Burmese kingdom before its final annexation by the British. Mandalay ceased to be the capital on 28 November 1885 when the conquering British sent King Thibaw and his queen Supayalat to exile, ending the Third Anglo-Burmese War.


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