Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. The city is located 716 km north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River and has a population of more than 1,2 million people. Mandalay was the capital of Burma during the Konbaung era from 1859 to1885 when Mandalay was brought under British rule.
Mandalay is the major trading and communications center for northern and central Myanmar. Much of Burmese external trade to China and India goes through Mandalay.
The name ‘Mandalay' is perhaps the most evocative of any destination in Myanmar and yet it is a city whose significant charms need to be uncovered. The city gets its name from the nearby Mandalay Hill. The name Mandalay is a derivative of the Pali word "Mandala", which means "a plain" and also that of the Pali word "Mandare ", which means "an auspicious land".
Mandalay is ethnically diverse, with the Bamar, or Burmanes, orming a slight majority. In past 20 years, there has been a major influx of Chinese from the mainland of China, mostly from Yunnan, and the local Chinese which are both recent migrants and their descendants from colonial period. The continuing influx of Chinese immigrants, has reshaped the city's ethnic makeup and increased commerce with China. Those immigrants account from 30 to 40 percent of the total population. Their influences are seen in the style of Chinese glass buildings throughout the city. Other prevalent ethnic groups include the Shan, who are ethnically and linguistically related to those immigrants coming from Thailand and Laos. Moreover, there is an ethnic Indian population, including Nepalis and Sikhs.
Compared to the many ancient capitals scattered around the country, Mandalay is in fact a relatively new city. According to local legend, Buddha once visited Mandalay Hill and foretold that a great Buddhist city would be built at the base of the hill in the Buddhist year 2400. Nowadays, near the top of Mandalay Hill is a large standing Buddha known as the prophesying Buddha, pointing at the location where the city was to be build. King Mindon Min who was a devout Buddhist fulfilled the prophecy when he founded Mandalay in 1857 (Buddhist year 2400). On February 13th, 1857, King Mindon founded a new royal capital at the foot of Mandalay Hill, when he was trying to re-establish Burmese prestige after the country’s defeat in the Second Anglo-Burmese War. As the last royal capital, Mandalay was regarded by the Burmese as a primary symbol of sovereignty and identity.
Mandalay is Burma's cultural and religious center of Buddhism, having numerous monasteries and more than 700 pagodas. At the foot of Mandalay Hill sits the world's official "Buddhist Bible", also known as the world's largest book, in Kuthodaw Pagoda. King Mindon filled Mandalay with many of Mandalay style Buddha Images and Buddha Statues. Through the years, Mandalay Buddhist art gradually becomes the pure art of Myanmar.
Probably the best time to go to Mandalay is during Thingyan, the Water Festival which usually falls around mid-April. During the festival, Mandalay maidens go round the city or at water-playing marquees while the air is filled with music probably by the renowned Myoma Musical Troupe, which is a trademark institution of Mandalay.
Travelling to Myanmar? Don’t miss Mandalay. Get outside the city center and explore the sights and sounds and along the way get to know the welcomming and lovely locals.