Located southwest of Mandalay Hill in Myanmar, the Mahamuni Pagoda (also called the Mahamuni Buddha Temple) honors the Mahamuni (Great Sage) expression of the Buddha. The temple, arguably the most important to the residents of Mandalay, was built to house a 12-foot (3.8-meter) tall statue of the Buddha that was already ancient when King Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and claimed it in 1784.
According to local legend, the statue was cast while the Buddha was still alive, but it was more likely cast some six centuries after his death, somewhere around 150 AD. No matter its origins, the statue is highly venerated by devotees — evidenced by the inches thick layer of pure gold leaf that has been added to the metal statue over the centuries.
The pagoda courtyard houses six more statues, Khmer bronze pieces of lions, elephants and warriors, that were taken as war loot from Angkor Wat during the fifteenth century. It is believed that rubbing these statues imparts healing.
Wake up early enough, and you can watch the elaborate ceremony of polishing the Buddha’s face each morning at 4am.