Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura, Mandalay (also spelt Mahar Gandar Yone Monastery or Mahagandhayon Monastery) was built around 1910 and is Myanmar’s best known monastic college complex. It sits on 20 acres situated on the Western bank of Taungthaman Lake not far from the U Bein Bridge.
A walk around the central complex will show you monks living quatrers, school areas, administration buildings and the main dining halls. The monastery is set up with numerous small temples and pagodas along with other facilities including their own primary school, clinic, library, lecture hall, computer room, guest rooms and an ordination hall.
This is a teaching monastery where monks and novices learn the Buddhist teachings and scriptures along with meditation and scholastic studies like reading, writing, languages etc. Many families will send their young sons along as novices to gain an education. It is not mandatory to remain a monk for life. Some will stay only a few months others will stay for years.
A Buddhist monk or novice is not allowed to work for wages so they all depend on charity. Mahagandayon Monastery is helped by many locals who donate funds and supply large bags of rice, meat and vegtables for the monks upkeep and daily meals. Those that make donations are given the privledge of serving the monks their daily meals.
Mahagandayon Monastery can get very crowded with locals and tourist in the late morning as hundreds of monks line up for their lunchtime meal. Out the back of the main dining rooms you can see a separate dining room which is for the doners who served the monks their meal that day. Just behind this building you can go and visit the main kitchen where locals are busy chopping up vegetables whilst others are attending to the huge cauldrons in which the daily meals are cooked.
Don’t be surprised if some monks stop for a chat, they like to practice their language skills.
Google Map reference to fint the Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura – Google Maps
As a devoutly Bhuddist country Myanmar is full of monks and the Mahagandayon Monastery is an interesting place to visit to gain an insight into their normal way of life.