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.
We left our shoes at the arched entrance gateway. From the entrance, we could notice the absence of the gilded spire.
The first worship hall where we entered the temple was packed with worshippers.
Many worshippers were busy applying gold leaves to the Buddhist statue.
Between different worshipping halls were the famous corridors with extensive murals.
Magnificent wall paintings include the reclining Buddha.
Even the ceiling was full of frescoes.
Our guide Win Thu told us a few Buddhist stories as we admired the frescoes.
Details of a Buddhist statue in another worship hall.
Atop another Buddhist statue we could find a chatra umbrella, a common auspicious symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Another interesting fresco depicts groupd of worshippers.
We exited the temple from the worship hall where we first arrived.
From the exterior, we could admire the beautiful ornaments of the temple.
Local visitor at an ornate window opening.
A large part of the temple was under repair from the 2016 earthquake.
We took our time to walk around Sulamani to check out its exterior ornaments.
Its pilasters are some of the finest in Bagan.
Sulamani was undoubtedly one of the most important temples in Bagan for tourists.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR
Founded by Konchok Gyelpo in 1073, Sakya Monastery is the seat of Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. During its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries, Sakya abbots were the actual governors of Tibet under the Mongol’s rule. There are actually two monasteries in Sakya at either side of Trum-Chu River. While the older north monastery (1073) with its 108 structures has been reduced to ruins over the years, the fortress like south monastery (1268) survives and remains as one of the largest in Tibet. The impressive fortress like monastery washed with ash grey and white and red vertical stripes symbolizes the trinity of Bodhisattva, and had became the symbol of Sakya. Everything at Sakya is large in size, from its 16m high main assembly hall to the extensive defensive walls.
Many refers Sakya Monastery as Dunhuang (敦煌) of Tibet because of its remarkable murals, artefacts, and medieval scriptures. Sealed behind a wall and rediscovered in 2003, the 60m long by 10m tall library wall (拉康欽莫大經堂) behind the altar in the main assembly hall is particularly impressive. It contains a huge variety of text, 84000 in total, made of different materials and about different subjects from the Yuan Dynasty when Tibet was under Mongol rule. The equally important murals made in the Mongolian style are also a rarity in China nowadays. In the main assembly hall, the most valuable object is probably the white conch shell (海螺). Legends has it that the conch shell originally belonged to the Buddha. Then it went into the hands of an Indian king, and later became an offering to Kublai Khan (忽必列). Kublai Khan gave the sacred object to Sakya and it remained in the monastery until present day. Still capable to make a soft low sound, the conch is still blown by the monk to give blessing to pilgrims. While we were visiting the main assembly hall, we did see a monk took out the conch to offer blessing to the pilgrims, who were so excited and eager to get as close as possible to the sacred object. Also from Kublai Khan was one of the huge wood columns in the assembly hall. With a diameter ranging from 1m to 1.5m, these wood columns are quite impressive disregard who its donor might be.
As soon as we arrived in Sakya, our driver Sangzhu took us to the large dining hall of Manasarovar Sakya Hotel Restaurant for lunch.
Unlike most other Tibetan monasteries, Sakya’s grey walls with red and white stripes offer a unique visual symbol for Sakya in the past 900+ years.
We headed into the entrance courtyard of Sakya and soon found out that almost all buildings were locked. Apparently the monks were having lunch somewhere else and we had no choice but to wait for their.
In front of the main assembly hall, we stood by the stone lion and wait for the monk’s return.
Soon more local visitors arrived and waited for the monk’s return. We decided to take a walk in the enormous compound.
We followed the long and narrow kora route around the central complex. There were prayer wheels on one side and the defensive high walls on the opposite.
The buildings in Sakya Monastery all seemed really large to us.
The Western style lamppost and the ash grey wall with red and white stripes somehow didn’t seem too coherent visually.
At last the monk with the keys showed up and led us into the inner monastery.
Beyond the gate, a dark hallway with beautiful murals and old prayer wheels led us into the inner courtyard.
Going through the dark hallway with religious murals on both sides felt like going back in time.
Without extensive renovations, many murals in Sakya were gradually fading.
From the inner courtyard, we walked into the main assembly hall. In the main hall, we saw the famous white conch shell, wood columns, historical murals and most impressive of all, the 10m high library wall behind the altar. Just like most other monasteries in Tibet, photography of the interior is prohibited.
After seeing the interior of the main assembly hall, we climbed the adjacent stair up to the flat roof of the complex.
The flat roof offers another unique angle to admire the robust architecture of Sakya.
Via the flat roof, we could walk to a variety of side chapels.
The small chapels are accessible via doorways in the otherwise fortress like walls.
Layers of eaves form a series of interesting lines on the flat roof.
As we departed from Sakya Monastery, more pilgrims arrived to pay respect to this once most powerful monastery in Tibet.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet
We had high expectations for Alchi Gompa, which has long been famous for its wall paintings dated back to the 12th century. It was already past noontime when we were done with Lamayuru. By the time we reached our next destination Alchi, we couldn’t wait to sit down at the outdoor restaurant of Zimskhang Holiday Home for a quick bite. Under the shades of trees and fabric canopies, Tachi and we had a relaxing lunch of local dishes. After the meal, we entered a winding passageway and through a lane full of souvenir stalls until reaching the monastery compound. A number of centuries-old stupas decorated with colourful prayer flags flanked the monastery forecourt. There were three ancient shrines that visitors could enter and admire the wall paintings, along with the huge statues of Buddha. It was not allowed to take photographs inside the shrines. We could only admire the richly decorated halls while we were there. The Buddhist statues and interior architectural details dated back to almost a thousand years were amazing. However, many of the wall paintings were either darken over the years or were partially ruined by brutal restorations painted over the originals. There wasn’t as much to see at Alchi as we imagined before our visit. After visits of the three halls among the crowds of local tourists we decided to move on to Likir Gompa.
Situated at an relatively isolated about 10km away from the Leh-Srinigar Highway, Likir Gompa is a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Gelug sect founded in the 11th century. As we approach the monastery, we could see the 23m golden statue of Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of Future) from a distance. Tashi didn’t join us for our tour of the monastery as he wanted to wash the car. On our own, we first walked to the platform where the 23m Maitreya Buddha sat. Opposite from the golden plated statue stood a lama school complex. Several young lamas were playing and chasing each other at the school courtyard. Their laughter certainly lifted our spirit a little in the grey and cool afternoon. Inside Likir Gompa, we visited two assembly halls: an older hall with rolls of seating flanked by wall shelving full of ancient texts and a newer hall decorated with glossy wall thangka depicting Mahakala (a fierce looking protector deity) in various gestures. We took our time to admire the wall paintings and walk around the monastery from its rooftop to exterior platforms. By the time we returned to the entrance plaza, Tachi was done cleaning the car and ready for our return journey to Leh.
The winding passage that led into Alchi Monastery.
The twin trees marked the location of the original spot where Lama Rinchen Zangpo put his walking stick down and founded the monastery in the 10th century, so as the legend said.
Old timber entrance structure of Alchi’s Sumtseg (three storey building) survived to the present day.
The ornate woodwork of the columns and the interior decorations at Alchi were created by Kashmir artists.
Details of the entrance woodwork.
Entrance into one of the two shrines at a garden near the Dukhang of Alchi.
The oldest stupas (chorten) at Alchi dated back as far as the 13th century.
A mother and daughter at a prayer wheel at the entrance of Alchi.
We arrived at Likir in late afternoon.
The Buddhist school complex across from the statue of Maitreya Buddha.
The 23m Maitreya Buddha could be seen from far away.
Entrance to one of the two main assembly hall at Likir.
Inside the assembly hall, yellow ropes of each lama were folded neatly on the rows of seating.
Hundreds of ancient Buddhist texts were stored in glass cabinets against the wall of the assembly hall.
Detail of an old wall painting.
Detail of a new and glossy Mahakala wall painting at the other assembly hall.
Photo of Likir Gompa from distance.
The lush green Indus River Valley below Likir.
The main courtyard of Likir as seen from rooftop.
Likir wasn’t a popular destination comparing to Alchi or Lamayuru. We could hardly see any visitors in the monastery and the entrance plaza was also empty.
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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi
Like many Spanish colonial cities, the historical core of Arequipa is laid out in a grid pattern. Occupying two city grids located three blocks north of Plaza de Armas, the enormous complex of Monasterio de Santa Catalina is the biggest tourist attraction in the city. Founded in 1579, the monastery is a nun convent of the Dominican Second Order. Dona Maria de Guzman, a rich widow, was the foundress of the monastery. At its peak, the 20,000 sq.m monastery housed about 450 people (nuns and their servants). Many upper class families were willing to pay a large sum of dowry in order to send their second daughters to the monastery as nuns. Nowadays, about 20 nuns still live in a private quarter in the complex. The majority of the monastery has been turned into an open air museum.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a great example of Spanish colonial architecture with unique local influences. With vivid colours, tranquil cloisters, and centuries of modifications and additions since the earthquake of 1582, the monastery has become a collection of colonial architecture and religious antiques. We spent a good couple of hours wandering in the monastery. The vivid blue, orange, and white walls gave the splendid and solemn architecture some delightful touches that echoed the vibrant colours of native cultures in Peru.
A floor plan of the monastery in display showing the extensiveness of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Cloister of the Orange Trees, one of the main cloisters in the monastery, is decorated with vivid blue walls and religious wall paintings.
Frescoes depicting religious stories at the cloister.
Fresco and the vivid blue wall by the cloister.
Roof drainage and the white washed walls of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
A small court adjacent to the outdoor laundry area in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Steep exterior steps leading up to the rooftop.
Cluster of laundry basins where nuns washed their clothes.
Calle Sevilla in the living quarter is flanked by dwelling units for nuns, with the chapel in the background.
The vivid orange walls in the nun’s living quarter coupled with stone bench, large roof tiles, and unique roof gutter.
An atmospheric pastel coloured street corner and plant decorations looked surreal.
Stone inscription above a window opening in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
Antique tools in a kitchen where nuns made their own food, including bread.
In almost every kitchen in the complex, there is a ceiling oculus for smoke ventilation and natural light.
There are many well preserved antiques in Monasterio de Santa Catalina, including the stone filter on the left and a wooden furniture on the right.
Portraits of nuns in a bedroom at the living quarter.
View of the living quarter, internal streets and outdoor fountain from the rooftop in Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
View from the roof top in Monasterio de Santa Catalina towards the scenery of volcanoes and mountains outside the city.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru