exploring bagan by car: the central & south plains {part 3 of 4}

Thursday, February 19:  In Bagan’s Central Plain, we go to Dhammayangyi Pahto, a sprawling, walled 12th-century temple that is visible from all parts of Bagan.  It apparently has a cruel history.  It’s said that King Narathu built the temple (between 1167 and 1170 AD) to atone for his sins: he smothered his father, poisoned his brother and strangled one of his wives, an Indian princess, for practicing Hindu rituals.  The temple was never completed and many passageways are walled off today.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

vendors at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to MyanmarBurma.com: Dhammayangyi Pahto, the king required that bricks were to be placed so tightly that mortar was unnecessary. If even a pin could be inserted between the bricks, responsible masons were either executed or had their arms cut off.

King Narathu was assassinated in 1170, perhaps by his father-in-law in retribution for the princess’ murder, and the workers stopped laying bricks. The inner passages of the temple are stoned in and some people believe that the workers filled them in with rubble on purpose after the king’s death.

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

According to Lonely Planet Myanmar, “others quietly argue the temple dates from the earlier reign of Alaungsithu, which would refute all this fun legend behind it.  It’s also likely that this bricking up of the passages was a crude way of ensuring the massive structure didn’t collapse.”

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

sleeping baby at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

entrance to Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Buddha at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

The western shrine “features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future Buddhas.  This is the only Bagan site with two side-by-side Buddhas” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto: Gautama and Maitreya

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

monks walk past the side-by-side Buddhas at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

In the dark reaches of the temple, some of the stucco reliefs and paintings are still intact.

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

frescoes at Dhammayanngyi Pahto

Gautama and Maitreya

Gautama and Maitreya

Next we head to Minnanthu Village, an agricultural village which specializes in sesame and peanut oil production.

Dhammayanngyi Pahto

a temple on the outskirts of Minnanthu Village

My driver drops me with a local guide, who takes me around the village.

my guide to the village of Minnathu

my guide to the village of Minnanthu

We walk around and she tells me how the village produces sesame oil and peanut oil, and makes jam from sour fruit.

It’s quite hot at this time of day, around 2:30 p.m. and it seems life in the village has slowed to a long extended nap.

walking through Minnathu Village

walking through Minnanthu Village

pretty entryway at Minnathu Village

pretty entryway at Minnanthu Village

my guide at Minnathu Village

my guide at Minnanthu Village

naptime in Minnathu Village

naptime in Minnanthu Village

still life in Minnathu Village

still life in Minnanthu Village

beasts of burden at Minnathu Village

beasts of burden at Minnanthu Village

drying nuts at Minnathu Village

drying nuts at Minnanthu Village

Minnathu Village

Minnanthu Village

colorful house at Minnathu Village

colorful house at Minnanthu Village

workshop at Minnathu Village

workshop at Minnanthu Village

The village is also known for its cotton-weaving.  My guide demonstrates the process.

weaving at Minnathu Village

weaving at Minnanthu Village

strands

strands of cotton

still life at Minnathu Village

still life at Minnanthu Village

As I head back to my driver, a guy with a scarf over his face buzzes into the village on a motorbike, kicking up a tornado of dust.  He is lost and asks my guide for directions.  Then he takes off in another cloud of dust.

Our next stop is Payathonzu, meaning Three Stupas.  It’s a complex of three interconnected shrines.  According to Wikipedia: Payathonzu Temple, the “interior of the temple contains frescoes, believed to be Mahayana and Tantric in style. However, the temple was not completed. The temple was recently renovated, with the completion of the three stupas atop the temple, which are lighter in color.”

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

vendors at Payathonzu Phaya

No photography is allowed inside the shrine, but inside are white-washed walls and “vaguely Chinese- or Tibetan- looking mural paintings that contain Bodhisattva figures” (Lonely Planet Myanmar).

Payathonzu Phaya

Payathonzu Phaya

Just north of Payathonzu is Thambula Pahto, a square temple decorated with fading Jataka frescoes.  It was built in 1255 by Thambula, the wife of King Uzana.

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

Thambula Pahto

view of an adjacent temple from Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

Buddha at Thambula Pahto

The Jataka frescoes are intricately detailed and beautifully done.

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

faded Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Jataka frescoes at Thambula Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto, a small, single-chambered temple, dates from the mid-13th century.  It has fine frescoes and a ruined seated Buddha image; its murals are similar to those at Payathonzu and some art historians believe they may have been painted by the same artist (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).

Nandamannya Pahto

Nandamannya Pahto

The temple’s mural of the ‘Temptation of Mara’ is its claim to fame; in the painting, “nubile young females (vainly) attempt to distract the Buddha from the meditation session that led to his enlightenment” (Lonely Planet: Myanmar: Nandamannya Pahto).  It was once thought to be shockingly erotic, but not by today’s standards.  Sadly, no photography was allowed inside the temple.

Iza Gawna Pagoda is our next stop, but I can’t find any information about it.

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Buddha at Iza Gawna Pagoda

Finally, we head to the Bagan Viewing Tower, also known as Bagan Nan Myint Tower.  The tower was built to “provide a high-rise vantage point for the public without interfering adversely with the Bagan skyline and secondly to help preserve cultural heritage by providing an alternative viewing point to the tops of the crumbling ancient pagodas” (BaganMyanmar.com: Bagan Nan Myint Tower).

Bagan Viewing Tower

Bagan Viewing Tower

I climb to the top, where I have amazing views of the Bagan South Plain.  As it is after 4:00 in the afternoon and the sun is low in the sky, the views opposite the sun are the best for photos.

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

View of the Minnathu Village area from the Bagan Viewing Tower

the South Plain of Bagan

the South Plain of Bagan

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

Tayoke Pyae Temple

South Plain of Bagan

South Plain of Bagan

While atop the Viewing Tower, I meet Marsha from Baltimore, Maryland, who is here visiting with wealthy friends.  She is staying at the fancy resort, Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan, shown below. She talks on and on for quite some time about her friends and family, telling me all the details of her holiday.

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

Aureum Palace Hotel & Resort Bagan

After leaving the Bagan Viewing Tower at about 4:30, we head to the Nyaung U area to see Shwezigon Paya and then on to Pyathada Paya for sunset.

 

 

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Categories: Asia, Bagan, Bagan Nan Myint Tower, Bagan Viewing Tower, Burma, Central Plain, Dhammayanngyi Pahto, Iza Gawna Pagoda, Myanmar, Nandamannya Pahto, Payathonzu, South Plain, Thambula Pahto, Travel, Village of Minnathu | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “exploring bagan by car: the central & south plains {part 3 of 4}

  1. What an interesting place and culture…

  2. I’d love it there, it looks hardly touched by tourism.

I'd love hear your comments & start a conversation! :-)

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