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Posts tagged “Buddhism

DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba, Bagan, Myanmar

After Sulamani, Dhammayangyi and Thatbyinnyu, Win Thu suggested we could shift to see some smaller and unique temples in the nearby area.  We headed south from Old Bagan to the village of Myinkaba.  We first stopped by Napaya Temple to check out the Brahma sculptures.  Instead of Buddhist images, Napaya is famous for its Hindu wall relief.  The temple was smaller than what we imagined, but the relief was quite remarkable and unique.  We stayed in Napaya for a short while, then moved on to Manuha Temple, one of the oldest temples in Bagan.  Manuha was quite interesting for us because firstly it still remained as an active worshiping place and secondly it housed several prominent Buddhist statues.  Lastly we dropped by the Gubyaukgyi, another small temple famous for its Jataka murals.  Luckily temple keeper was around and we were allowed to get into the temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the small openings on the brickwork, Napaya Temple was small and dark inside and we were the only visitors.

DSC_4677At the centre of Napaya, there was the main altar surrounded by the Brahma relief sculptures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough not pleasant to the eye, the metal sub-frame inside Napaya Temple helps to prevent further deterioration of the original structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Napaya, the Manuha Temple offered a completely different picture: a busy place of worship full of local visitors.

DSC_4694There are several buildings and four different images of Buddha at Manuha Temple.

DSC_4697The largest seated Buddha image is located in a building at the centre of the temple complex.

DSC_4700A large crowd of worshipers gathered at the base of the Buddha statue. They placed their hands and faces onto the golden statue, and murmured prayers with their eyes closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were overwhelmed by the scale of the Buddha when standing right in front of the statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stood behind the worshipers.  Through the entrance archway, we could only see the base of the Buddha and his crossed legs.

DSC_4704Right across from the seated Buddha, there was huge golden alms bowl on display.  Visitors lined up to climb a ladder and look inside the bowl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn another building, we came face to face with a 90 foot reclining Buddha, a fine example of the iconic posture of the Buddha lying on his right about to enter the parinirvana.

DSC_4721The reclining Buddha is housed in a simple shelter just large enough to cover the lying statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA group of young monks walked past the building that houses the reclining Buddha.

DSC_4729Young monks is a common scene throughout Myanmar.

DSC_4739After Manuha Temple, we followed Win Thu back to the sleepy village of Myinkaba.

DSC_4742The village of Myinkaba is famous for traditional lacquerware.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last temple we visited in Myinkaba was Gubyaukgyi Temple.  We came to see the well preserved frescoes made by the Mon people.

DSC_4745Built in 1113 AD by Prince Yazakumar, Gubyaukgyi Temple is another small gem with fine examples of Indian and Mon architectural ornaments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were lucky that the temple keeper was around to let us in to check out the frescoes.  Outside the temple, souvenir and puppet vendors gathered under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_4758The sun was already quite low after our visit of Gubyaukgyi, urging us to find a good spot to watch Bagan’s sunset one last time.



Another prominent structures that we visited in Bagan was Thatbyinnyu Temple.  Before entering the temple, our guide Win Thu led us to climb onto a long earth mount.  We soon found out that the mount was part of the old city wall.  We walked on it for a little bit.  From the old wall, we enjoyed the fantastic views of nearby pagodas and the Thatbyinnyu.  Built in mid-12th century, the 60m+ pagoda of Thatbyinnyu Temple is one of the tallest monuments in the area.  We followed Win Thu into the temple, circled the interior passage once and stopped a few times to listen to our guide’s Buddhist stories.

DSC_4613From the entrance road, we were impressed by the splendid architecture of Thatbyinnyu Temple.

DSC_4616The ruined brick wall in front of the temple was the southeastern corner of the old city wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked the former city wall for a little bit.

DSC_4630From the wall, we could see various pagodas nearby.

DSC_4633The Thatbyinnyu stood beautiful just a stone throw north of the ruined city wall.

DSC_4637We followed Win Thu to find the main entrance of Thatbyinnyu.

DSC_4646Inside the temple, the first thing we saw  was a prayer hall.  For some reason, everything in Thatbyinnyu seemed to be light in tones, especially compared to the dimly lit interiors of other temples such as Dhammayangyi and Sulamani.

DSC_4648Much of the interior of Thatbyinnyu was repainted in a light beige colour.

DSC_4651Only small portions of the original fresco survives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many worshipping niches along the wall of the passages.

DSC_4656We stopped at the statue of the Buddha with his hands resting on his chest.  Win Thu told us the story of Buddha returning home to his wife and son after years of traveling and teaching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside a temple archway, a local sand painting artist demonstrated the local sand painting techique to us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited Thatbyinnyu from another crowded prayer hall.


Not far from Sulamani stands the biggest temple in Bagan, the Dhammayangyi Temple.  Standing majestically like an ancient pyramid, Dhammayangyi was perhaps a statement of remorse from King Narathu, who killed his father and elder brother and executed one of his wives for Hindu rituals.  He also ordered the mortar-less brickwork to be so precise that not even a pin could fit between two bricks.  Failing to do so the brick workers would be cruelly punished with amputation.  However, before the temple was completed, Narathu himself was also assassinated in 1170.  Since then, Dhammayangyi remained unfinished.

Compared with Sulamani, the interior of Dhammayangyi seemed much less polished.  Our guide told us that after the death of Narathu, the locals hastily bricked up the inner passages and didn’t put too much efforts to maintain the temple because of their revulsion toward cruel Narathu.  As we passed through the bricked up passages while touring the structure, a sense of mystery still captivated our imagination on what really lie beyond the bricked passages.  Another interesting feature at Dhammayangyi was the original side-by-side Buddha statues with Gautama and Maitreya (present and future Buddhas).  On the outside, we could admire the fine carvings on the external walls and at arched openings, where visitors gathered to pose for photos.

DSC_4368Looking from a distance, Dhammayangyi looked similar to an ancient pyramid in the Yucatan jungle.

DSC_4534After we took off our shoes, we followed a green mat to enter the temple complex.

DSC_4538On our way, we passed by a few trees where vendors displayed dozens of local puppets.

DSC_4545We entered Dhammayangyi through a worship hall packed with local worshippers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Buddha image at the altar was once again gilded with gold.

DSC_4557Behind the altar, we entered the main passage of the temple.

DSC_4560The ceiling of the passage was high and dark.  Supporting arches appeared from time to time to provide braces for the walls.

DSC_4562We passed by a number of bricked up passages that led to the unknown.

DSC_4567Buddhist statues were placed at some of the opened niches.

DSC_4570Statues varied in styles and facial features might have come from different periods in history.

DSC_4579With the constant flow of visitors, walking in the dark passages of Dhammayangyi was hardly a spooky experience.

DSC_4584Finally we reached the west shrine, featuring the original image of the double Buddhas on one side, and a reclining Buddha on the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dual statues of Gautama and Maitreya Buddha at Dhammayangyi was a rarity in Bagan.

DSC_4593At the exterior, local visitors enjoyed themselves at the arched openings.

DSC_4599Some of external ornaments and arched openings had become desirable backdrops for photo shooting.

DSC_4604We exited the complex from where we arrived.

DSC_4606Vending trucks selling fresh juices could be found all over the entrance parking lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of vendors gathered under a tree shade as Bagan braced for a scorching afternoon.


DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE, Bagan, Myanmar

Often considered as the crown jewel of Bagan, Sulamani Temple is probably on every visitor’s itinerary in Bagan.  The huge popularity of Sulamani probably comes from its magnificently preserved wall paintings along the long and dark corridors inside the temple, and the detailed ornaments of the pediments and pilasters.  Built in the 12th century by Narapatisithu, Sulamani has withstood a series of earthquakes throughout history.  The latest earthquake hit Bagan in 2016.  Sulamani’s gilded spire and top umbrella collapsed, along with damages here and there that kept the temple behind scaffolding for much of 2017.  Fortunately when we were there the temple had already reopen its doors to the public.

DSC_4374We left our shoes at the arched entrance gateway.  From the entrance, we could notice the absence of the gilded spire.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first worship hall where we entered the temple was packed with worshippers.

DSC_4385Many worshippers were busy applying gold leaves to the Buddhist statue.

DSC_4396Between different worshipping halls were the famous corridors with extensive murals.

DSC_4389Magnificent wall paintings include the reclining Buddha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the ceiling was full of frescoes.

DSC_4403Our guide Win Thu told us a few Buddhist stories as we admired the frescoes.

DSC_4405Details of a Buddhist statue in another worship hall.

DSC_4431Atop another Buddhist statue we could find a chatra umbrella, a common auspicious symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.

DSC_4441Another interesting fresco depicts groupd of worshippers.

DSC_4469More frescoes.

DSC_4480We exited the temple from the worship hall where we first arrived.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the exterior, we could admire the beautiful ornaments of the temple.

DSC_4496Local visitor at an ornate window opening.

DSC_4505A large part of the temple was under repair from the 2016 earthquake.

DSC_4523We took our time to walk around Sulamani to check out its exterior ornaments.

DSC_4377Its pilasters are some of the finest in Bagan.

DSC_4531Sulamani was undoubtedly one of the most important temples in Bagan for tourists.


DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan, Myanmar

The most remarkable and photogenic experience of our trip to Myanmar was undoubtedly watching the sunrise in Old Bagan.  The romantic spectacle of hot air balloons floating over the plains of ancient pagodas has drawn every Bagan visitors to get up before dawn.  We had high hopes for the experience long before we came to Bagan.  Our driver came at 6:45 to pick us up at Oasis Hotel.  He drove us to a pagoda in Old Bagan, and told us to walk up a staircase to the pagoda terrace.  We turned on our head lamps and climbed up the narrow stair to reach the upper terrace.  We were surprised to find that two out of four sides of the terrace were already packed with visitors.  Without guessing which way to look, we stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowd and patiently waited for the sky to light up.

DSC_3993We stationed ourselves at a corner in the crowds and set up our tripod.  Stars were still visible in the sky, and so as the flooded lights at some pagodas.

DSC_4000At a distance, what appeared to be Ananda Pahto looked gorgeous with the golden flood lights and the purple horizon beyond.

DSC_4015Ten minutes later, the foggy plain looked mysterious.

DSC_4020In every directions, silhouette of ancient pagodas and distant mountains formed an one-of-a-kind mystic landscape unique to Bagan.

DSC_4058A few minutes later, a cluster of hot air balloons appeared from the horizon.

DSC_4064At the same time, we had the first peek of the Christmas sunrise.

DSC_4085The hot air balloons went up just in time to catch the first glimpse of sunrise over Old Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sunrise over Old Bagan was absolutely a stunning sight.

DSC_4121Watching sunrise of Old Bagan from the basket of a hot air balloon should be a remarkable experience.  That would require us to book well in advance and cost each of us about US$500.

DSC_4122From the pagoda terrace, the hot air balloons provided the extra magic to the already otherworldly scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome balloons got pretty close to the spires of pagodas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA hot air balloon seemed reaching the rising sun.

DSC_4136For several minutes, the entire Old Bagan appeared in layers of silhouettes.

DSC_4148The balloons gradually floated across the horizon while the sun rose up quickly.

DSC_4164On the other side, the scenery was dominated by ancient pagodas under the orange glow of the rising sun.

DSC_4173At 8:45am, about an hour and fifteen minutes since we first arrived at the pagoda terrace, dramatic low angle sunlight covered much of Bagan with a mystical ambience.

DSC_4179A group of locals walked towards a nearby pagoda under the early morning sun.

DSC_4198Silhouette of the distant Ananda Pahto was astonishingly beautiful.

DSC_4209At 9am, smoke from wood burning began to appear from the fields around us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy 9:10am, most visitors had already left the terrace.

DSC_4245Down at the pagoda entrance, vendors were setting up their souvenir stalls for the day.

DSC_4255We quickly descended the pagoda and returned to the driver.  We couldn’t wait to begin another day of Bagan’s temple hopping with our guide Win Thu.


DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN, Bagan, Myanmar

Watching sunset at Bagan Myanmar from the top of a pagoda has been one of the most popular activities for tourists.  However, according to our guide Win Thu due to recent accidental falls of some tourists, the government temporarily banned pagoda climbing during sunset.  Instead, Win Thu took us to one of the designated earth berm where we could still see dipping of the crimson sun over the plain of Buddhist stupas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving Ananda Temple behind, we moved on to a designated lookout in Old Bagan.

DSC_3745Obviously we were the first to arrive at the lookout.  It was nowhere close to as crowded as watching sunset atop the most popular viewing spots in Angkor of Cambodia, but it was not romantic and peaceful as one may wish either.

DSC_3749The view would be much better if we could climb onto one of the pagoda for the sunset.

DSC_3751Yet, it was still enjoyable to watch the colour of the ancient bricks changed from brown to orange as the sun dipped lower.

DSC_3760Behind the lookout there was a wetland, sort of a rare sight in the rather arid plains of Bagan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome tourists arrived in horse-carts.

DSC_3767As sunset approached, the distant pagodas and temples turned into layers of silhouettes.

DSC_3779The horse-carts and ancient pagodas made a perfect picture.

DSC_3797An Ox-cart emerged from nowhere and stole everyone’s attention.

DSC_3809The scenery of pagodas reminded us the spiritual ambience of Bagan during the Bagan period.

DSC_3814Pagodas in partial ruins standing against a rural setting provoked a romantic feel.

DSC_3823Gradually the foreground turned dark just before the sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the pagodas and mountains, the sun dipped rather quickly in front of the crimson sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun set rather quickly and just a moment later, it completely disappeared behind the distant mountains.


DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO, Bagan, Myanmar

After a brief rest at our hotel, Win Thu came to pick us up for another temple visit.  We went further down Anawrahta Road from Nyaung-U towards Old Bagan to visit one of the most prominent icon of Bagan, the Ananda Pahto (Temple).   Built between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha, the wonderfully preserved temple is often considered to be one of the finest structures in Bagan.  The iconic golden spires of Ananda were not always golden.  In fact, they were gilded in 1990 on its 900th anniversary.  The exterior walls of the temple, on the other hand, were whitewashed from time to time.  Four large standing Buddha were housed in the temple, each facing one of the four cardinal directions.  The north and south facing images were said to be the original which were crafted in Bagan style.  The east and west ones were replacements after the original ones were destroyed by fire.  All four Buddha images were made of teak wood and covered with gold leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took off our shoes before entering the entrance hallway.  Led by our guide Win Thu, we walked into the courtyard of Ananda Pahto and were immediately amazed by the grandeur of the temple.  The golden spires glowed under the late afternoon sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore entering the temple, Win Thu took us to see the famous glazed terra-cotta tiles along the lower terraces of the structure.  Hundreds of these well-preserved tiles depicted the Jataka tales (stories of previous births of Gautama Buddha in human and animal forms).

DSC_3685While we examined the glazed tiles, a large group of school students arrived into the temple courtyard.

DSC_3674Before going inside, we walked to the far corner to see the reflection of Ananda Pahto in a pond.

DSC_3692The first thing captured our attention as we entered the west entrance of the temple was the exquisite fresco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeeking through the pointed archway we could see one of the four magnificent standing Buddha.

DSC_3695Facing west, Gautama Buddha (present Buddha) greets visitors with a hand gesture of fearlessness.  This is one of the later replacements for the original statue, showing carving details in Mandalay style.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe enormous teak wood doors at each of the four main entrances look splendid but should be quite heavy to operate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe core of the temple is a solid cube surrounded by long passageway, connecting the four worship halls where the large Buddha stand.

DSC_3711Natural light lit up the passageway through pointed arch openings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFresco and relief carvings depicting the life of the Buddha are all over the walls of the passageway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABuddha statues with different hand gestures, postures, and facial expressions convey a unique meaning and a stage in life of the Buddha.

DSC_3717Facing north, the Kakusandha Buddha is the fourth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity and the first of the five Buddhas of the present aeon.  This statue is one of two original statues from the Bagan period.

DSC_3723On the other hand, the east facing Konagamana Buddha (the fifth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity and the second of the five Buddhas of the present aeon) is a later replacement of the destroyed original.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited the temple after checking out the south facing Kassapa Buddha.  The Kassapa Buddha is the sixth of the Seven Buddhas of Antiquity, and the third of the five Buddhas of the present aeon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore leaving temple, Win Thu explained various forms of reclining Buddha, differentiating between when the Buddha was taking a nap and when he was attaining parinirvana upon his death.

DSC_3731_01The Ananda Pahto under the late afternoon sun was glorious.  Despite we were barefoot, we still enjoyed walking around the temple compound to photograph the beautiful architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt a far corner by a back exit, we stopped by a gate with a niche and small statue.

DSC_3737_01Looking back over to the temple, the sun was setting fast.  We decided to move on to another spot to watch the sunset over Old Bagan.

DSC_3740It was still pretty busy at the entrance of the Ananda Pahto when we exited the compound.  Behind us, the splendid golden spires of Ananda glowed under the western sun.