King Mindon (1808 – 1878) was the second last Burmese King and created the royal capital at Mandalay. Sending Burmese scholars across the world to learn about progress from the Industrial Revolution, Mindon also created the world’s largest book, (the Tipitaka with the complete Buddhist canon written in marble), standardised Burma’s system of weights, built roads and a telegraph system and introduced the first coinage. He also fathered 70 royal children from 45 official consorts and numerous others from unofficial ones.
What we now call the Bagaya Monastery, or Shwenandaw Kyaung, was once part of MIndon’s royal palace, including the actual room where King Mindon died. It is also the scene of terrible bloodshed where after his death about 80 members of the royal family were killed as part of the succession process. Reputedly unable to cope with Mindon’s ghost, his successor, King Thibaw, had the building dismantled, carted out of the palace complex and reassembled outside the fortress walls, where it was converted into a monastery in1880. It’s a good thing he did, as all other Mandalay palace buildings were later lost to WWII bombs.
The spectacular wooden building has intricately carved teak panels, including these twelve beautiful angels from the exterior walls. They appear to show signs of gilding so I assume this magnificent structure was once covered in gold leaf. It would have glimmered majestically. I was overwhelmed when I visited and inspired to create a new series of gilded angels, based on these carvings. At this stage it is just an idea but these photographs should give you a glimpse into what I am imagining.