Inwa or Ava located in Mandalay Region, Burma (Myanmar), is an ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Throughout history, it was sacked and rebuilt numerous times. The capital city was finally abandoned after it was completely destroyed by a series of major earthquakes in March 1839. Though only a few traces of its former grandeur remain today, the former capital is a popular day-trip tourist destination from Mandalay.

The name Inwa literally means "mouth of the Lake", reflecting its geographical location at the mouth of lakes in the Kyaukse District. Another theory states that it is derived from Innawa, meaning "nine lakes" in the area.

Today a visit to Inwa is a fascinating trip back in time, allowing you to explore the remains of an ancient city full of old watchtowers, city walls, monasteries, and temples that feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Mandalay.


Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery (Me Nu Oak-kyaung)

The Maha Aung Mye Bonzan, well known as Me Nu Oak-kyaung (Brick Monastery), was built in 1822 by Nanmadaw Me Nu. Chief Queen of King Bagyidaw for the royal abbot Nyaunggan Sayardaw U Po offered to the 2nd Nyaunggan Sayardaw U Bok. I was also damaged by the earthquake of 1838 but was repaired in 1873 by Sinphyumashin who is the daughter of Me Nu and a queen of King Mindon. This monastery is one of the finest specimens of Myanmar architecture during the Konbaung Period (19th century). Its architecture is in simulation of wooden monasteries with multiple roofs and a prayer hall of seven-tiered superstructure.

The Grand Bargaya Monastery

The name Bargaya is a Mon word. It literally means Khayebin Kyaung. The Bagaya monastery was built on the southwest of Inwa palace on 1593. During Hsin Phyu Shin's reign (1763-1776), Atwinwun Mahathirijeyathankhya who is town officer of Magwe built the monastery in the Bagaya monastic establishment and dedicated to Shin Dhammabhinanda. During the time of King Bagyidaw (1819-1837), the great fire broke out to Kontha quarter and to the south of the palace on 15 April 1821. Hluttaw, tooth relic tower, watch tower and to northern gate caught fire and seemed that the Bagaya monastery was burnt in the fire. The government tried to reconstruct in 1992. It intends to build a (gadhakuti) which is special shrine for the use of Buddha image and Pitaka scriptures. So it put the new Brick building in the place of the old monastery. It was recorded that the monastery was constructed on the model of the old monastery.

The grand Bagaya Monastery is decorated with splendid Myanma architectural works. It is in the ancient city of Innwa. King Bagyidaw of Innwa’s era built the Bagaya Monastery at the confluence of the Ayeyawady and the Myitnge rivers in 1196 Myanma Era.
The site of the monastery is about 11 miles from the Mandalay City. The grand Bagaya Monastery has a three-tiered roof and its adjacent religious lecture hall. In the eastern side of the monastery, it has a seven-tiered roof. The monastery has 267 teak posts. The largest teak post is 9 feet in circumference. The post is 60 feet high. The monastery is 118 feet long and 103 feet wide. The monastery has tour brick stairs.

The entire building of the monastery is decorated with carvings. Floral arabesques, the ornamentation with curved figurines and the reliefs of birds and animals as well as small pillars on the wall decorated with turnery. All these are the evidences of the artistic works of Innwa Era. Large teak of the doors of monastery is also beautifully designed with sculptures and reliefs.

There is a reverential statue on a throne in the Marabin or a large hall with its partition reaching from the floor to the ceiling of the monastery. The statue was sculptured with the handiwork of Innwa Era. The grand Bagaya Monastery still exists today in its original form. All the Myanmar nationals can be proud of the splendid monastery which is like an ancient arts museum.

Watch Tower (Nan Myint)

The watch tower which is about 90 feet (30 m) high is a solitary masonry building that remains of Bagyidaw's palace built in 1822. Owing to the earthquake of 1838, only the lower part was left but it was restored as its original structure. The watch tower is one of the examples of Myanmar architectural style of early 19th century.