The Mandalay Royal Palace was conceived and constructed during the reign of King Mindon who took the throne in a bloodless coup following the Second Anglo-Burmese war in 1852. At that time the royal city was in Amrapura which was built in 1782. The city’s past was filled with royal intrigues and atrocities and this, combined with the recent humiliation of defeat to the British, drove King Mindon to seek a fresh site for his capital.
Seizing upon a fabricated prophecy that detailed the birth of a great Buddhist center sited at the base of a great hill and on the 2,400 year anniversary of Gotama Buddha’s death, King Mindon set out to build a “Golden City”. He told his people that he had a vision in three dreams, which required him to relocate his court to Mandalay. He felt the ruse was necessary because many of the 150,000 residents would experience great sacrifice and hardship in being forced to gather their possessions and follow the king.
After consultations with court astrologers, the most auspicious date was selected. On 13 February 1857, the first stone was placed in Mandalay. Great care was taken to follow the rituals and layout of earlier royal cities. Many elements of the palace design can be traced back in time, past the early Bagan kings into ancient Chinese and Indian dynasties. The orientation of buildings was extremely important since the east was seen as the most honourable point of the compass, the source of life; and the west was the direction of death, where all funeral processions rumoured that the tradition of performing human sacrifices was followed, with 52 men, women and children being buried below massive teak posts which were set in strategic points about the palace. The ghosts of the victims were thought to remain close to their point of death and provide protection for those living within. Construction was completed in 1859 and Myanmar’s final royal city became fully occupied.