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. The city's classical name in Pali is Ratanapura, "City of Gems".
Inwa was the capital of Burma for nearly 360 years, on five separate occasions, from 1365 to 1842. So identified as the seat of power in Burma that Inwa (as the Kingdom of Ava, or the Court of Ava) was the name by which Burma was known to Europeans down to the 19th century.
Strategically located on the confluence of Irrawaddy, and Myitnge rivers, and in the main rice-growing Kyaukse District of Upper Burma, the location of Ava had been scouted as a possible capital site as early as 1310 by King Thihathu. Though Thihathu eventually built his new capital at Pinya a few miles east inland in 1313, Thihathu's great-grandson Thadominbya, who unified the Sagaing and Pinya kingdoms in September 1364, chose the site of Inwa as his new capital.
Inwa was officially founded on 26 February 1365 (6th waxing of Tabaung 726 ME) on a man-made island created by connecting the Irrawaddy on the north and the Myitnge on the east with a canal on the south and the west. The construction of the artificial island also involved filling in the swamplands and lakes. The brick fortifications of Inwa do not follow the conventions of the earlier rectilinear city plans. Instead, the zigzagged outer walls are popularly thought to outline the figure of a seated lion. The inner enclosure or citadel was laid out according to traditional cosmological principles and provided the requisite twelve gates. (The inner city was reconstructed on at least three occasions in 1597, 1763, and 1832.)
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inwa