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Mahamuni Buddha Temple

The Mahamuni Buddha Temple is a Buddhist temple and major pilgrimage site, located southwest of Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) (Myanmar). The Mahamuni Buddha image (literal meaning: The Great Sage) is deified in this temple, and originally came from Arakan. It is highly venerated in Burma and central to many people's lives, as it is seen as an expression of representing the Buddha's life.

Ancient tradition refers to only five likenesses of the Buddha, made during his lifetime; two were in India, two in paradise, and the fifth is the Mahamuni Buddha image in Myanmar. According to the legend, the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 BC. King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni.

History

According to legend, the Gautama Buddha visited Dhanyawadi, the capital city of Arakan during his travels on a Proselytization mission to spread Buddhism. During the 26th anniversary of the King at the time, a devout Buddhist, the Buddha accompanied by Shin Ananda and 500 disciples landed at Salagiri mountain peak near Khaukrah town. The King of Arakan, along with his Chief Queen Sandra Mala (with her retinue of 1,600 ladies in waiting), and an entourage of ministers, generals and officials, paid homage to the Buddha. They were deeply moved by his teachings and upon his departure to Thawuthi (Sravasti), the King insisted that he leave his image for people to worship. For this purpose, the Buddha then sat under a Bodhi tree for a week of meditation. During this time Sakka (in Pali, the ruler of the Trayastri?sa Heaven in Buddhist cosmology, supported by his assistant Vissakamma, moulded a lifelike image of the Buddha using ornaments donated by the king and his people. It is also said that Sakka and Vissakamma (or Vishvakarman) created a separate pavilion for the Buddha to live and enjoy during these seven days. After looking at his own lifelike image, believed at the time to have been his only true-likeness, Buddha was pleased and "imbued the image with his spiritual essence", or "enlivened and consecrated" the image, naming it "Candasara". He also stated that the image would last for five thousand years as his representative.

Historian Juliane Schober has very succinctly explained this legend and the cult worship that has evolved around the "living" double image of Mahamuni Buddha:

The rich and complex mythology associated with this image includes episodes that parallel other stories about the Buddha...The rituals and myths of Mahamuni thus accomplish two aims simultaneously: they place local contexts and actors within a universal Buddhist cosmology, and they locate a continuing biography of the Buddha in the Buddhist politics of Arakan and Upper Burma. Theravada politics characteristically extended the biographical mode of recreating the Buddha's presence and associated with it the power of kings and other patrons of this image. The veneration of this Buddha image is thus informed by local conceptions of religious patronage in sociopolitical domains.

Another legend narrated in the Arakanese chronicle relates to the nine phenomena that occurred when the image was consecrated in the temple and continued to occur after the Buddha had departed. These nine phenomena were: holy water used for washing the image would not overflow the collecting vessels; the water from the tank that was used for washing the Buddha's head would retain its quality throughout the year; six coloured rays appeared when the devotees worshipped the image in the evenings; the rays faded in the presence of non-believers; the space in the temple would automatically accommodate any number of devotees; the leaves of trees would tilt in the direction of the Buddha image; birds would not fly over the temple; and the stone guardians at the entrance would sense the presence of evil doers and prevent them from entering the temple.

Another legend narrated is linked to the six Khmer bronze statues (three lions–with heads substituted later in Burmese style, a three-headed elephant known as Airavata, and two warriors in the form of Shiva), which are installed in the temple in the northern end of the courtyard. These statues were originally at the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. Devotees believe that the statues have healing qualities to rub a particular part of the body against the statues to cure themselves of various ailments and diseases.