Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda
The Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda is located at the top of Nga Hpar (Frog Hill), so named for its shape, though it is often simply called Ponnya Shin hill in honor of its pagoda. Its name is a combination of “U Ponnya”, a 14th century minister, and the word “soon”, which is a reference to meals. It is popularly believed that whomever attempts to be the first each day to offer a meal in honor of the Buddha will always be upstaged by heavenly deities who have already presented their offerings.
The temple was supposedly established in 1312 by Amatkyi U Ponnya, a junior minister in service of King Thihathu (1265-1325), the co-founder of the Myinsaing Kingdom and later, the founder of the Pinya Kingdom which co-existed with the short-lived Sagaing Kingdom in the early-mid 14th century.
At the inaugural ceremony for a new palace King Thihathu received tributes from many regions. Among the presents was a container filled with lahpet, or fermented tea leaves, inscribed with the word “seven”. When the king consumed the lahpet he was afflicted with itching and asked his goldsmith Nga Sein Thin to inspect the container. Not knowing how to open it, the blacksmith smashed it and discovered seven small screw-shaped objects inside. The goldsmith tried to probe them with his hammer but one relic was magically absorbed into his anvil while the other disappeared into the hammer. The dumbfounded goldsmith returned the five remaining relics and the smashed container to the king, but Thihathu grew angry when he realized that the word “seven” on the container referred to seven relics of the Buddha, of which only five remained. Believing the goldsmith to be guilty of theft, he ordered his arrest. However, Nga Sein Thin was able to escape with his hammer and anvil in tow.
Nga Sein Thin reached the relative safety of the house of his friend, Amatkyi U Ponnya, a junior minister in the king’s court. During his stay the two relics—ensconced in the hammer and anvil—suddenly emerged and flew off into the night, emitting rays of light. Realizing that they were in fact relics of the Buddha, U Ponnya was able to coax them down to earth into a small gold container.
U Ponnya searched for a suitable place to enshrine them. He sent the relics out with a servant boy in the hopes that the gods would lead the boy to a proper destination. The boy wandered up the slopes of Frog Hill and left the objects on the summit between two ancient pagodas. Overjoyed, U Ponnya and his friend, Nga Sein Thin, built the pagoda that now bears the minister’s name.
The centerpiece of the temple is its 29.6 meter high pagoda which serves as the reliquary for the aforementioned Buddhist artifacts. The fenced-in pagoda is flanked by four subsidiary halls of which the north hall is the most important, containing an oversized image of the seated Buddha. A covered gallery runs along the perimeter of the site affording beautiful views of Mandalay, Amarapura, and Inwa (Ava).