Rising from the sand and scrub, Dhammayangyi, a massive walled temple a short walk southeast of the Shwesandaw Pagoda, is the largest and best preserved of all of Bagan’s monuments. The temple was built in the late 1160s, during the short threeyear reign of King Narathu (1118–71). The king was said to be a violent psychopath who ascended to the imperial throne after mur- dering his father, Alaungsithu, by smothering him with a pillow, and elder brother, Min Shin Saw, by poisoning him on his coronation day. The temple’s colossal size is often interpreted as a gesture of atonement for the killings, though it seems to have done little to erase Narathu’s nasty streak. He later strangled his Bengali queen, allegedly because he took objection to her Hindu rituals. Her father promptly dispatched an eight- strong suicide squad to exact revenge in 1171. Court chron- icles record that the assassins were able to gain access to the palace by disguising themselves as Brahmin astrologers, hiding their swords beneath their robes. Having killed the king, they slit their own throats.
Similar in layout to Ananda, Dhammayangyi is thought to have the best masonry and brickwork in the archeological zone. King Narathu is said to have overseen construction work himself, threatening with summary execution any mason who left between the bricks a gap wide enough for a needle to be inserted.