Venerating the Golden Buddha at Mahamuni Pagoda

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Myanmar is known as the Golden Land, and for good reason: everywhere you look, you are greeted with golden sunshets, stupas and smiles. The Irrawaddy River glistens gold as you pass small villages filled with shining temples, and at sunset the sun’s rays shimmer along the water’s surface. There is no better way to discover Myanmar’s nickname than on an Irrawaddy River Cruise.

Known as the 'Road to Mandalay', the Irrawaddy River flows through some of the nation's most impressive, awe-inspiring and inspiration-inducing regions. While sailing along the river, Sanctuary Retreats guests are treated to various unique experiences and cultural exchanges, including a visit to a local lacquerware workshop. Here gold is beaten down by hand at a speed of up to 70 times a minute into paper-thin gold leaf. 

U Bein Bridge Sunset

While these activities certainly add fuel to the fire for Myanmar's golden persona, there is no better way to discover where this nickname came from than a visit to Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay.

Appearing to be made from solid gold both inside and out, the pagoda houses various religious artefacts including one of Myanmar's most venerated artefacts, the Mahamuni Buddha.

Mahamuni Pagoda Google

This large, golden Buddha was said to be his most life-like image when it was first created. However, centuries of offerings have left all but the face - which is ceremoniously cleaned daily - knobbly with 15cm of solid gold. Male pilgrims travel from far and wide to place gold leaf upon the statue, believing it will give them good fortune in this life and the next. The ritual is open to any male who wishes to take part, including those who travel on selected Sanctuary Ananda cruises.

During the ritual, male devotees cram into the small room which houses the Buddha, quietly jostling for position as they add their offering. As the Buddha patiently watches over the ritual, silently accepting the gold leaf offerings, a peaceful, almost trance-like, atmosphere descends on all those who take part.

Myanmar Mandalay Mahamuni Temple

Myanmar's 'Golden Land' status is seen in many places; from Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda, to the glittering Irrawaddy, and to the openness of the local people. For many however, this ritual at Mahamuni Pagoda represents the pinnacle of their Myanmar tour. Whether it be the men who offer gold leaf, or the women who offering incense and flowers, for all those who take part there is a sense of spirituality, and of leaving a piece of oneself in that small room; of leaving a piece of oneself in Myanmar.


Join the Sanctuary Ananda on a voyages of breath-taking beauty and discovery on the mysterious rivers of Myanmar. This particular activity is available on all 7 day cruise itineraries.