Site Guide: Kawhnat Pagoda Compound, Myanmar

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Kawhnat Pagoda Compound

Site Name:Kawhnat Pagoda Compound
Area: Kawhnat Village, Mawlamyine Township, Mon State, Myanmar

Site Description:The compound was built by the famous entrepreneur and philanthropist, U Nar Auk, during the 1880’s and 90’s. U Nar Auk made a fortune in the teak logging business, and it is said that at one point the Thanlwin river was backed up for 8kms with logs from his operation being floated downstream. He later went on to start his own steamship company in direct competition with the British Irrawaddy Flotilla Company.

The shrines within the compound are a perfect example of the style built within this era, with coloured glass and red woodwork perfectly decorated with gold painted patterns. One standout feature is the carved wooden murals which line the inner walls of both the Hna-Kyeik-Shit-Su shrine (1888) and the Dipinkara shrine (1892). These painstakingly carved and painted figures tell tales of Buddhist and national history, and at times a lot more graphic than murals in other pagodas. They alone make this site worth visiting, but there is so much more to see.

The Dipinkara shrine also houses two large standing images of Buddha which have each been carved from a single teak log. Their size is impressive and the construction method a reminder of U Nar Auk’s success.

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Some carvings at Kawhnat Pagoda Compound

Travel Advice: The site is directly accessible at the east entrance by car from the Kadoe-Kawhnat Road via the Mawlamyine/Hpa-An Highway. A hired driver could easily take you here as the site is very well known, and trips to this site could easily be arranged by your hotel or guest house in Mawlamyine or Hpa-An. The journey takes around 30-45 minutes.

There are no entrance fees at the site but donations are encouraged to help with the ongoing restoration and maintenance.

Be Aware: The site is undergoing considerable restoration right now, so now is a great time to visit to see it in its original and beautiful state of decay. Areas which have already been restored have been done so faithfully to the original design, and have not lost a lot of the site’s unique character. Another thing to note is that the intricately carved ivory tusks which were the centrepiece of one of the shrines have been stolen so can no longer be seen. Some buildings may be locked, but if you ask one of the site’s friendly volunteers they will allow you access as needed.

As this is a sacred Buddhist site footwear should be removed as you arrive. It is safe to leave your footwear at the entrance and they will still be there to collect when you leave. You should dress respectfully and cover shoulders, knees and cleavage at all times.

Posted from Mawlamyine, Mon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

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