Sagaing lies 21km south-west of Mandalay on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It lies in Sagaing division. which is the largest division in Myanmar. Sagaing became the capital of an independent Shan kingdom around 1315 after the fall of Bagan. Its period of importance was short. for in 1364 the founder’s grandson. Thado Minbya. moved his capital across the river to Inwa. From 1760 to 1764. Sagaing was once again the capital. Today. Sagaing is known as a meditation centre. Myanmars all over the country would visit Sagaing for the purpose of religious retreat.
Among the four main rivers of Myanmar. Ayeyarwaddy. Sittaung. Chin Dwin and Thanlwin. the Chin Dwin river flows through this division. Inwa Bridge connects Mandalay and Sagaing crossing the mighty ayeyarwaddy.
Once you cross the Inwa Bridge. you see the hilltops. each crested with a pagoda. the banners proclaiming the Buddha’s teaching. the refuge from all ills and tribulations where over 600 monasteries for monks and nuns are located for Buddhist studies and meditation. The Padamyazedi dates from 1300 while the U min Thonze or thirty caves pagoda has many Buddha images in a crescent shaped colonnade. Mural paintings can be seen in the Tilawkaguru cave temple. which was built around 1672. At the nearby village of Ywahtaung you can see silver workers producing bowls and other silver items by traditional methods. The most impressive Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda nearby was constructed in 1312. The view of Sagaing from Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin and its approach is marvelous.
This huge pagoda is 10 km beyond the town of Sagaing. The enormous dome rises 46 m (151 feet) in the shape of a perfect hemisphere and was modeled after the Mahaceti Pagoda in Ceylon. Also known as Rajamanisula. the pagoda was built to commemorate Inwa’s establishment as the royal capital of Myanmar. Around the base of the pagoda are stone pillars. each of which is 1.5 m high. The details of the pagoda’s construction are recorded on them.