Sunday, February 21, 2016

More Buddhas. Sagaing Hill.

U Min Thonze Cave.

Our sightseeing day resumed after our midday siesta.

Sagaing is a popular day-trip destination, across the Irrawaddy River, 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Mandalay.  I thought Bangkok was hot but I think Mandalay is worse.  By about 11a, the temperature and humidity have already soared into the sweltering range.  I don't know when I became such a wuss but I really cannot bear the midday weather here.  I guess most tourists can't either which is why our itinerary schedule is the way it is.

Oh well.  We march on.  Zaw and Aung were back to pick us up shortly after 3p.  Enroute to our first destination, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand.  In fact, a good stretch of the road was lined with such vendors and the fruit they were selling was watermelon. We saw tons of watermelons!

Zaw wanted to buy one so we stopped to check out the fruits and to sample some of the melons.  The sweet juice was perfect for cooling off in the heat.  Too bad we're staying in a hotel.  Otherwise, we could have bought a few as well.





With Zaw's watermelon safely tucked in the trunk area, we moved on down the road to our destination - Sagaing Hill.

Sagaing was the ancient capital of the Sagaing kingdom around 1315 and then served briefly, again, as the royal capital between 1760 and 1763 in the reign of King Naungdawgyi.  Since ancient times, Sagaing has been a popular place for people to come and  meditate in its monasteries.

Hundreds,  literally hundreds, of stupas peek out of the greenery dotting the hillside leading up to Sagaing Hill.  Covered paths along the hillside connect the monasteries and monuments to each other and so you can walk up the hill.  If only it wasn't so unbearably hot, I think that would be a very interesting walk to take.

Instead, we got dropped off at our destinations.  The first stop was at U Min Thonze Cave.   U Min means caves and Thonze means thirty.  There are not 30 caves here, it's really 30 colonnades, partly built into the side of the Sagaing Hill. 


Inside are 45 Buddhas.  All but one of the Buddhas is posed sitting cross legged with their hands in the bhumisparsha mudra aka the "touching the earth" mudra or "calling the earth to witness" mudra.  In this mudra, the right arm hangs down over the right knee; he hand with the palm turned inward and all the fingers extended downward with the finger touching the lotus throne. The left hand lies on the lap with palm upward.  This mudra recalls the Gautama Buddha touching the earth to invoke the earth as witness to his words.





The one standing Buddha is posing in a mudra that I've never seen before and it must a rarely depicted mudra because I cannot identify it even with the help of Google search.


Our next destination, on Sagaing Hill was Sun U Ponya Shin Pagoda, which sits on one of the southern hilltops of Sagaing Hill.  The pagoda dates to 1312, just before the area became a royal capital city for the first time. 


The first thing that catches your eye are the colorful tiled walkways.  There are various buildings around the site including a clock tower. There is a small hall which has turquoise glass mosaics and this contains, what else?  Buddhas, of course.




The main pagoda has a 29 meter (97 foot) tall  gilded stupa.


For us, non-Buddhists, we admired the views from the terrace.