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27

Nov
2021

Myinkaba

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After the conquest of Thaton in 1057, King Anawrahta exiled the Mon King Manuha to the village of Myinkaba. The most stately and well preserved of the temples that sprang up around the displaced royal family is the Nagayon Temple. It was built by King Kyanzittha (1030–1112), allegedly at the spot where he took refuge from his brother and predeces sor Sawlu (1050– 84) during a feud in the 1080s. Kyanzittha had the temple built after he became king as an act of thanksgiving to a snake deity that protected him during his flight; a cobra hood above the head of the gilded standing Buddha in the main shrine underlines the connection. The ambulatory corridor retains some impressive 11th­century paintings, along with sculpted figures of previous Buddhas.

The foundation myth of the nearby Abeyadana Temple, on the opposite side of the road,  is linked to the same snake- related story, only in this version,  the site was where the fugitive prince met Abeyadana, his Bengali lover, before fleeing Bagan. Some of the site’s finest murals adorn the interior of the shrine, featuring images of Hindu deities and Mahayana  Buddhist bodhisattvas, inter- preted as reflecting the Bengali  origins of the queen.

The Nanpaya Temple, a short way north on the edge of the village, is believed to have been the residence (some say prison) of King Manuha, accounting for the hamsa bird images on the outside of the building – the hamsa was the heraldic symbol of the Mon nation .  Four pillars inside the pagoda are decorated with some of Bagan’s most beautiful stone carvings, including one showing Brahma, a deity of the Hindu trinity, holding lotus flowers.

The Manuha Temple, still farther north, was built by the eponymous king in 1059 while he was in exile, using funds  raised by the sale of his remain- ing crown jewels. A somewhat  nondescript square block on the outside, the pagoda holds an extra ordinary quartet of outsized Buddhas – three giant gilded sitting figures, and a huge reclining one – whose disproportionate scale and cramped confines are believed to have been intended to express the discomfort of the Mon king’s incarceration and exile from his homeland. Buddhist pilgrims pour through Manuha’s compound during holiday periods, and the next stop on their itinerary is usually the Gubyaukgyi Temple beside the main road at the north end of Myinkaba. Built in 1113 by Prince Yaza Kumaya, it is famed for its murals, which were restored by UNESCO in the 1980s. The paintings lining the main hall illustrate scenes from 550 Jataka stories, including the 16 Dreams of Kosala. On the outside of the building, some  excep tionally fine stucco deco- ration survives on the surrounds  of the pierced-stone windows.

Adjacent to the temple stands a small structure enclosing a four-sided carved pillar. The  oldest surviving text from medi- eval Bagan, the famous Myazedi  Inscription is written in Pali, Pyu, Mon, and Burmese, and is one of a pair – the other is at the site museum at Old Bagan.

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