Inwa: Magnificent Burmese Imperial Capital near Mandalay
Inwa or Ava, also spelled Innwa, located in Mandalay Region of Myanmar, is an ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms for a total of 360 years spread over the course of five centuries. Throughout the history, it was sacked and rebuilt numerous times. The capital city was eventually abandoned after destruction of major earthquakes in March 1839, and only a few of its former grandeur remain today. Now, this former great capital has become a popular day-trip tourist attraction near Mandalay.
The name Inwa means “mouth of the Lake”, representing its geographical situation at the mouth of lakes in the Kyaukse District. Another theory states that, the name Innawa is derived from nine lakes in the local area. The city's classical name in Pali is Ratanapura which means City of Gems.
After the powerful Shan dynasty had fallen due to invasion of Mongol hoards led by Kublai Khan, a number of lesser principalities sprang up and King Thado Minbya united the Sagaing and Pinya kingdoms. Inwa was the capital of Burma for nearly 360 years but on five separate periods, from 1365 to 1842.
Inwa was officially founded on 26th February 1365 on an artificial island formed by a canal made by the King Thado Minbya, connecting the two rivers at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Myit-nge Rivers. It was built to be the capital of a newly unified kingdom that was known as Kingdom of Ava. And it remained for 190 years, ruling the Upper Burma and serving as the center of a flourishing period of Burmese literature.
However, the times were not peaceful. Inwa was constantly threatened from rival kingdoms and beginning in 1527, Inwa was repeatedly attacked until it came under siege in 1404–1405 during the Forty Years' War and fell again into the repetitive attacks by the Confederation of Shan States and the Prome Kingdom. Finally, the city running as the capital of Upper Burma for 190 years came to an end. However, the beautiful architecture and noble reputation of the city continued to appeal to the glory of the kings.
The series of devastating earthquakes hit the Ava and the entire region was affected. Although Inwa had been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its long history, this time, it would not be so. Most of the old palaces and temples were destroyed in the earthquakes. The city was not rebuilt and the capital was officially moved to Amarapura, leaving Inwa as elements.
Now, the former imperial city is in a rural area where farmers raise crops amidst the remains of pagodas and infrastructures such as palace towers, monasteries, and old, massive city walls. One of the ancient monasteries, Bagaya Kyaung, a towering structure built entirely of teak, is still using as a monastery today. Local guides usually manage tours of the site via using horse-drawn carts.
Nowadays, tourists can still observe a few remnants of the capital, including brick city walls, the Nanmyin Tower, and Nanmadaw Me Nu Ok Kyaung etc.