The human being has many virtues, but also many defects. Megalomania is an evil that has afflicted many rulers, from many countries, throughout history. In Myanmar, the thing was no different when the king Weddingwpaya, sixth monarch of the Burmese dynasty Konbaung, acceded to the Burmese throne in 1782.
Bodawpaya wanted to be remembered for being the king who built the largest pagoda, bell, lions and lake in the world. Of his pretensions, the bell was the one that best fulfilled. Mingun's huge bell became the largest in the world ...
How to get to Mingun
Mandalay dock from which ships depart to Mingun © David Escribano
The town of Mingun is about 10 km northwest of the city of Mandalay. Although you can arrive in other ways, the best of all is crossing the beautiful and milky waters of Myanmar's most powerful and longest river, the Ayeyarwaddy. To do this, you can take one of the beautiful boats that rest on the riverbank, at the height of the imperial Mandalay.
If you take the boat, the trip runs peacefully for almost an hour. If you also do it during the dry season, You can get lucky and meet the mythical dolphins of the Ayeyarwaddy River. These dolphins, with flattened noses and a somewhat more square fin, collude with the fishermen of the river to help them fish, in a cooperation between animal and human from which it is difficult to find other examples in the world.
I was lucky to see five of those dolphins during my trip last July. It is not usual for these beautiful and intelligent animals to be found in these places during that time of the year, however, the unusual absence of rain had forced them to descend the course of the river to look for denser flows. It was wonderful.
Pahtodawgyi: the largest pagoda in the world
At the end of the year 1790, King Bodawpaya ordered that the works of what should be the largest pagoda in the world begin. For this, he mobilized thousands of slaves, soldiers and citizens captured during the military campaigns he carried out in the area.
The idea was to build a brick pagoda 150 meters high. However, the project did not see the end. Although many people think that this was due to the large amount of resources that had to be dedicated to its construction, the reality is that it was the deep superstition of the Burmese king that froze the work. The astrologers predicted that as soon as the pagoda was finished, so would his kingdom. With such a warning, Bodawpaya decided to suspend the works when only one third of the total had been erected. Despite this, with his more than 50 meters, it is still the largest brick pile in the world.
When you approach the base of the pagoda you realize the magnificence of the work. The red brick mole also appears cracked at several points. They are the scars that have left many earthquakes that have ravaged the area since its construction.
Pahtodawgyi Pagoda © David Escribano