Three reclining Buddha images in ancient Hanthawady city

Bago Shwe Tha Lyaung
Bago Shwe Tha Lyaung

Three reclining Buddha images in ancient Hanthawady city

Generally, Buddhists keep Buddha images in sitting postures for obeisance at their houses. Various types of sitting Buddha images in many hand postures were built at religious edifices such as pagodas, temples, Buddhists keep Buddha images in sitting stupas and monasteries. However, Buddha images in a walking posture were lesser than standing Buddha images.

Among reclining Buddha images in Myanmar, the one at Winsein Tawya in Mudon Township of Mon State is the largest. Three reclining Buddha images in Bago Township among others in major cities including Yangon are not the biggest but the most significant, crowded with pilgrims on a daily basis.

Bago, a royal city ruled by Mon kings, was famous as Hanthawady in the Yamanya region. So also, it was a royal palace where Second Myanmar Emperor King Bayintnaung Kyawhtin Nawrahta came onto the throne. A total of 17 kings from King Samala to King Tissaraja reigned Bago in the first Hanthawady era (825-1067 AD). Some experts said Hanthawady Royal Palace established by King Samala was not the current place of Bago. King Banya Oo established a new royal palace in Hanthawady which was located in the current place of Bago in the second Hanthawady era (1369- 1538 AD). A total of 11 successive kings from King Banya Oo to King Thushintakayukpi reigned Hanthawady in the second Hanthawady era. King Banya Oo established a new Hanthawady state in the place of old Hanthawady built by King Tissaraja, the last king of the first Hanthawady era.

Ketumati King Tabinshwehti conquered Bago in 1538 AD and moved his throne from Toungoo to Bago. Bayintnaung succeeds to him in Bago in 1551 AD and built Kanbawzathadi Palace in 1553 AD. King Bayintnaung then established the Second Myanmar Empire based on Bago.

Bago, 47 miles northeast of Yangon, is located on Bago River. The town is situated at an altitude of 31 feet. Myanmar Encyclopaedia mentioned Bago was governed by Ngayamankan in the tenure of King Saw Lu in the Bagan era as well as ruled by King Tayaphya who was a son-in-law of Mottama King Magadu. In his reign, King Banya Oo built 16-corner walls for Hanthawady Royal Palace. Places of the walls remain unchanged and the walls can be seen as mounds till today.

Bago, Oktha, Hanthawady

Bago was well-known as Oktha and Hanthawady in the past. The name of Bago was changed from different meanings called in ancient times.

Myanmar Encyclopaedia stated that Bago was the great grandeur in the reign of King Bayintnaung. After King Alaungphaya occupied Hanthawady in 1757 AD, Bago was not well known. Shwemawdaw Pagoda built on Sudassana Hillock or Myinthita Hillock in centre of Bago in the 237 Sasana era is a symbol of the town. Likewise, Shwethalyaung, Myathalyaung, and Seinthalyaung reclining Buddha images are also magnificent ones in Bago. The first two are located in the west of Bago and the last one, in the east.


Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha image is located on the road to Mahazedi Pagoda. Visitors who leave Yangon need to turn left to Shwethalyaung image before arriving at the overpass of the railroad in Bago. The image is 55 meters long (180 feet) and 16 meters high (52 feet). It was built by Mon King Maggadipa in 994 AD but the image was hidden in the bushes for a long time. In 1880, the Buddha image was found in clearing the bushes to construct the railroad. The image was renovated in 1881 and the left side of its pillow rebuilt. The roof and walls of a hall for the image were completed in 1930.

According to the records described on the hall where the image is kept, the reclining Buddha image is 180 feet long and 52.5 feet high, the face 22 feet long, ears 15 feet long each, eyes three feet and nine inches each, eyebrows, eyelids, nose, neck and lips, 7.6 feet long each. The areas from shoulder to the waist of the image, from waist to knee and from knee to foot are 47.5 feet long each. The length from the elbow to the tip of the finger is 45 feet. The length of the little finger is about 10 feet, the foot 25 feet, the big toe six feet and the palm 22 feet.

People in successive eras assumed the well-wisher of Shwethalyaung reclining Buddha image was Mon King Maggadipa but some assumed it was built by King Bayintnaung. The image was enshrined sacred relics and many Buddha images. The forehead of the Buddha has enshrined a piece of real ruby. The robes of the image were gilt, and the image was named Neikban Image, according to the book with the title of “Historical observatories around Hanthawady (Bago)”.


Myathalyaung reclining Buddha image located near Shwethalyaung image is bigger than the latter. Myathalyaung image was a rebuilt one on the original hillock. Its original title was Naungdawgyi’s image. It was named by hermit U Khanti because Myathalyaung was located in upper side of Shwethalyaung image and was larger than Shwethalyaung image.

Hermit U Khanti built religious edifices in Bago including the iron stairway connected between Hinthagon Pagoda and Shwemawdaw Pagoda. While carrying out missionary tasks in Bago, the hermit renovated the hillock of the reclining Buddha image. The old hillock of Myathalyaung image seemed to have collapsed brick walls covered by bushes. The entrance to the precinct of Myathalyaung image was made of baked clay bricks based on large blocks of laterite considered as works of ancient Mon culture.

Ancient bricks found near Myathalyaung image were assumed as the works in Dhammazedi era as these were evidences of Mon culture. Ancient Buddha images, bricks and broken glazed bricks found in renovation of Myathalyaung image are displayed at the prayer hall in the image’s precinct. After building Kyaikpun four-faced pagoda, King Dhammazedi constructed a reclining Buddha image under the title of Kyaikthalun, according to the book “Historical observatories around Hanthawady (Bago)”. As the hillock where Myathalyaung image was built was not far from Kyaikpun Pagoda, a precise decision could not be adopted whether Kyaikthalun is Myathalyaung built by King Dhammazedi called Naungdawgyi Buddha image or not. It was because there was no stone inscription on construction of Myathalyaung reclining Buddha image.


Travelers may pay visits to Seinthalyaung reclining Buddha image along the road which turned right from Bago-Thanatpin Road from the exit of Bago. The image, located there before King Dhammazedi, was named Maha Buddharupa as the original title, with 100 elbows in height.

There were two kings with names of Migadibba in the first Hanthawady era. Senior King Migadibba ruled the state from 917 to 932 AD and the junior, from 994 to 1004 AD. Seinthalyaung image was built by junior King Migadibba, who was the 13th successor in the first Hanthawady era. The image was originally named Shinpin Paunghla, and it was recorded as Maha Buddharupa in Kalyani stone inscriptions.

In its history, Hanthawady was established in three eras. The state was ruled by the kings from Samala to Tissaraja in the first era, from Banya Oo to Thushintakayukpi in the second era and Tabinshwehti to Nanda in the third era, lasting for 774 years from 835 to 1599 AD. The long history left significantly ancient heritages in Bago or Oktha or Hanthawady. Despite facing terrible impacts of earthquakes, wars and unscrupulous persons for several times, the three reclining Buddha images significantly exist in Bago
Township till today, showing evidence of Buddhist religious edifices as well as ancient heritages to local and foreign travelers.

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