The heart of Mandalay is the King Mindon’s Royal Palace. Situated just to the south of the Mandalay Hill, it is a magnificent palace complex inside the magnificent walled fortress city. The Royal Palace was the first structure to build in King Mindon’s new royal city. It is open for visitors at a fee.
In reality, the Royal Palace was not build by King Mindon. These were actually an old palace buildings dismantled, carried and reassembled from their original place at Amarapura, the old capital. These were also carried from the old palace at Ava. The cost and labour of building a new palace is extremely high so most Burmese kings, if they ever move their capital, just move the old palace to the new place. The process of dismantling and reassembling took five years to complete.
After the British occupatio of upper Burma, the royal palace and the royal fortress were occupied by the british army. The Royal Palace Fortress was renamed Fort Dufferin, and the Throne Hall was converted into British officers’ club. British also looted the palace, some of which are still on display in Victoria and Albert Museum in England.
During World War 2, a small group of Japanese soldiers garrisoned inside the palace fort. After unsuccessful attempt British troops to enter the fort, they bombed the whole palace ground, burning all buildings inside the fort. Only the royal mint factory and the watch tower survived.
The palace complex was rebuilt in 1995 to its original style. It was accused that the reconstruction of the palace was by the use of prison labor and forced labor.
Center of the world
The Royal Palace was modelled in line with the Brahman cosmology to represent the center of the world, the fabled Mount Meru. The royal palace complex was built on the square brick foundation at the centre of the Royal Palace Fortress. All the palace buildings were structured according to the tradition of former royal palaces of Myanmar. All the buildings were made of teak and gilded with gold and vermilion. All buildings were single story buildings. The main entrance to the Royal Palace is in the east, which directly leads to the Great Audience Hall. The most important structure in the Royal Palace is the Lion Throne Hall (Sihasana Throne). This is the most magnificent building in the whole palace complex, and thus situated in the exact center of the whole palace complex. The building has a 78 meter high towering spire which was gilded with gold. This is King Mindon’s version of the center of the world.
In The Golden Peninsula: Culture and adaptation in Mainland South Asia (1977), anthropoligist Charles Keyes described the palace as “The walls were a mile and one eighth (almost 2 km) long and were, in turn, surrounded by a moat. The homes of the common people and of ‘aliens’, the markets, the workshops of the craftsmen and the shops, were located beyond the walls of the capital city. In contrast to Chinese and medieval European cities, the walls of a traditional Theravadin city were built not so much to serve as a barriers against potential invaders as to demarcate a sacred space.”
There are a number of important structures in the palace complex. These include buildings for the chief queens and minor queens, hluttaw (king’s counsel or cabinet), watch tower, royal guard houses, quarters for princes and princesses, and the Glass Palace. The Glass Palace is the king’s private living quarter, and is magnificently crafted. A little to the west of the palace is the Royal Palace Museum where, among other things, a scaled model of the palace complex is on display.
There is a very detailed and complete description of Mandalay Royal Palace on the wikipedia. Please follow the following link for the reference. Mandalay Palace.
Open: daily, 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Entrance fee: US$ 5 per person
Entrance from the east gate of the Royal Palace Fort
Editor’s Note: Many of the above information has been obtained from our reference book Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar (Burma). This is a very good guide book on Myanmar, and essential book that you must bring on your trip to Myanmar. The book can be obtained from Amazon store.