Hindu Temples in Myanmar (Burma)

Nathlaung Kyaung Temple 

The Nathlaung Kyaung Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu. The temple is located inside the city walls of old Bagan, Burma 

Nathlaung Kyaung Temple is to the west of the Thatbyinnyu Temple, and it is the only remaining Hindu temple in Bagan. Nat-Hlaung Kyaung temple is one of the oldest temples in Bagan, and was built in the 11th century, during the reign of King Anawratha. Some historians believe the temple was built in the 10th century, during the reign of King Nyaung-u Sawrahan (also known as Taungthugyi). The temple was originally built for Hindu Burmese Indians of the 11th century, including merchants and Brahmins in the service of the king. Many structures of the original temple have disappeared, although the main hall remains. Originally, the temple contained statues of the 10 Avatars of Vishnu, including Gautama Buddha; however, today, only seven remain. The brick temple was isolated and unrepaired for many years, damaged by earthquakes.

The temple is set on a square template with steep-rising upper terraces. It may have been built by Indian artisans brought into Bagan (Pagan), during the 10th century AD, to work on it and other temples. As the oldest temple in Bagan, its style influenced and inspired the numerous other Buddhist structures that followed. Another legend states that the temple was built to store all the nat from other temples, so that Buddhism could get established in Bagan kingdom.

Nathlaung Kyaung Temple

Thatbyinnyu Temple

The Thatbyinnyu Temple is a Theravada Buddhist temple in Bagan (Pagan), Myanmar. The temple is recognized as a monument in the Bagan Archeological Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Completed in 1150–51 during the reign of King Sithu I, the temple reflected the Bagan period’s “innovative architectural and artistic creativity” and “an expression of the self-confident Burmese spirit of nationhood.” At the pinnacle height of 66 m (217 ft), the five-story Thatbyinnyu is known as the tallest temple in Bagan, alongside the tallest stupa in Bagan, the 100 m (328 ft) Shwesandaw.

The temple was badly damaged by the earthquakes of 1975 and 2016. It is undergoing restoration work with Chinese technical and financial assistance; the restoration work is expected to last until about 2028.

Architecture

A closer view

A closer view

The Thatbyinnyu is a five-story brick masonry building topped by a sikhara tower with a hti at the pinnacle. “Somewhat similar to” the nearby Ananda Temple in its architectural style, the temple’s exterior is covered in white stucco, and its terraces paved in stone. The temple was originally at the center of a walled enclosure, of which only the north gate remains. It sits on a platform that is approximately 58 m (190 ft) on each side. The east side has a projected 7.3 m × 11.6 m (24 ft × 38 ft) entry hall, while each of the north, south, and west sides has a 3.3 m-long (11 ft) protrusion and six entry points.

The temple exterior resembles a series of square “cubes”, stacked on top of each other, separated by seven receding terraces. Each corner of the terraces is adorned with stupa obelisks on square bases. The elevated central tower, or sikhara, is 30.03 m (98.5 ft) on each side. The temple’s architectural height (nyandaw) is 61.3 metres (201 ft) tall; its pinnacle height is 66 metres (217 ft). It is the tallest temple in Bagan. It is not the tallest structure in Bagan, however; the tallest is the Shwesandaw Pagoda, which is at least 100 m (328 ft) tall, without counting the hti spire.

The five-story temple served not only as a place of worship but also as a monastery and library. The temple’s first and second floors were used as the residence of monks; the third floor was used to hold images; the fourth was used as a library; and the fifth stored relics. The interior of the temple consists of “pointed arches in the spacious hallways and barrel vaults in other areas”. Each floor has two tiers of windows, creating a “vibrant and light interior”. Murals filled the ceiling. Original murals with the footprints of the Buddha have survived on the ceiling of the western porch.

Frescos

The temple “reflected the era’s innovative architectural and artistic creativity” of the era. The Pagan/Bagan period scholar Paul Strachan calls Thatbyinnyu “an expression of the self-confident Burmese spirit of nationhood.”

Recent history

The temple has been hit by two major earthquakes, in 1975 and 2006. The 1975 earthquake left the temple with heavy damage. The top finial of the sikhara, the main Buddha statue on the 3rd floor, and the corner stupas were all damaged. Vertical cracks measuring up to 23 cm (9.1 in) in width appeared on the exterior walls of the third floor. The damages were repaired by 1979, and the structure was further strengthened in the early 1990s. More maintenance work such as waterproofing of terraces and repointing the exterior were undertaken in the 2000s.

Under construction in 2018 after the 2016 earthquake

Under construction in 2018 after the 2016 earthquake

The temple was badly damaged after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Bagan region on 24 August 2016. It was one of the 36 worst-hit structures, and sustained several horizontal and vertical cracks throughout the structure across all floors, and terraces. Masonry works at the bottom were further damaged by rain. The temple’s structure was reinforced with Chinese assistance in 2017. In April 2019, a Chinese archaeology team began working on a nine-year project to restore the temple.

On 6 July 2019, the Bagan Archaeological Area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Thatbyinnyu Temple’s UNESCO designation is Monument #1597.