Amarapura comes from Pali: Amarapūra (အမရပုရ), which means "city of immortality."
Amarapura was founded by King Bodawpaya of the Konbaung Dynasty. He founded Amarapura as his new capital in May 1783. The new capital became a center of Buddhist reforms and learning. In 1800, Buddhist clergy from Sri Lanka obtained higher ordination in this city and founded the Amarapura Nikaya (Amarapura sect).
In 1810 the town was estimated to contain 170,000 inhabitants, but in that year it was destroyed by fire. Bodawpaya's grandson, King Bagyidaw moved the Court back to Ava in November 1821 and in 1827 the population of Amarapura was estimated at only 30,000. Bagyidaw's successor King Tharrawaddy again moved the royal capital back to Amarapura in February 1842. In February 1857, King Mindon began building Mandalay as his new capital city, 11 km north of Amarapura. With the royal treasury depleted by the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, Mindon decided to reuse as much material from Amarapura as possible in the construction of Mandalay. The palace buildings were dismantled and moved by elephant to the new location, and the city walls were pulled down for use as building material for roads and railways. Part of the moat is still recognizable near the Bagaya Monastery. The city officially ceased being the capital on 23 May 1859 when Mandalay took over that role.
The ruins of the city wall show it to have been a square with a side of about three-quarters of a mile in length. At each corner stood a solid brick pagoda about 100 ft. high. The most remarkable edifice was a celebrated temple, adorned with 250 lofty pillars of gilt wood, and containing a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha.