Rock temples of Bagan

 

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P AKO LZW NanPhayar 97

 

P AKO LZW in front of the KyaukKuu U-Min 2003

 

Most stupas and temples of Bagan are built with bricks. There was even a school of thought that the dry weather of Bagan was due to forests being cleared from baking the bricks for the many Bagan pagodas but this is not true. There is evidence that Bagan weather during the time of Bagan Empire was the same as it is now and that many bricks were transported from distant parts of the empire. I will write about the topic later.

There are few rock pagodas in Bagan. One is the Shweseegone pagoda, a stupa, whose construction began during the time of king Anawratha / Anuruddar but completed only during the time of king KyanSitTharr / Kalan SitTharr. There are only 2 temples in Bagan built with rock: the NannPhayarr near the Manuha pagoda in MyinnKaBar and the KyaukKuu U-Min east of Nyaung U.

I have been to the Manuha pagoda since the first time I got to Bagan in 1969 and again also in 1975 but only heard of the NannPhayarr near it when I first worked with the Road to Mandalay. It has very good stone sculptures and is one of the places where all tourists are taken to by tour guides. It is built of rock bricks and is a small temple with only one opening and with few windows that closed with perforated slabs so that it is dark inside. There are stone statutes on pillars that have Hindu deities. It shows mixed religion of the time. The KyarPann, KyarNwe and the Brama sculptures are very life like.

It is said to be built on the site where the king Manuha resided during his captivity, hence the name NannPhayarr.

In the book History of the17 Bagan pagodas by the MyaTaung Sayardaw, it is written: Manuha / MaKuHta’s son ThuDhammarit; ThuDhammarit’s son AhThaWut DhammarAhThaWut Dhammar’s son NargaThaMann; this NargaThaMann is the great grandson of king Manuha / MaKuHta and was a minister during the time of king Narapati Sithu. He built the temple in the memory of his great grandfather king Manuha.

Sayar Zawgyi wrote:

တိုင္တိုင္းမ်က္ႏွာ

ေက်ာက္သားလႊာတြင္ ကာယတုတ္ခိုင္ခန္႕ခန္႕ထိုင္လ်က္ ၾကာကိုင္ဝဲယာ

ယိမ္းႏြဲ႕ကာျဖင့္

မဟာ ျဗဟဟာမ

ပန္လက္ရာမွၾကာေကာ ့ၾကာေကြး

တေမာ့ေသးကိုေငးရျပန္၏ ညီေငးမိ

I had been to the NannPhayarr many times accompanying the tours while with the Road to Mandalay, but on my last visit to Bagan in 2009, it was locked and I could not enter it to view the sculptures and my camera’s battery was not good so I could not take outside photos.

This NargaThaMann the great grandson of king Manuha / MaKuHta was a controversial person and is supposed to be either the father of AhLaung SiThu 1113 – 1160, involved in an insurrection against king AhLaung SiThu or as in this case, a minister during the time of king Narapati Sithu 1165 – 1211 by different sources. The last 2 could be mention of different episodes of the same person but the first assertion is in conflict with the traditional view that king Kyansitthar married his daughter ShweEinThe to SawLu’s son Saw Ywann.

The KyaukKuu U-Min / Kyauk Gu U-Min is east of Nyaung U and lies at a distance on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy. I first heard about it and got there while I was with the Road to Mandalay. The guests are not taken there as travel time by boat takes too long and the road is not good at the time. The staff of the Road to Mandalay planned for a trip during a time when there were no guests and I went along with them. They hired a boat as with their previous trip in the previous season. We had to walk from the river bank near the mouth of a dry stream and visited the temple. It is a 3 storey building built with rock bricks and there are light holes in the flat roof and the upper 2 floors for illumination. It is built adjacent to a cliff and the roof is level with the cliff top.

The 2nd time I got there was also while I was with the Road to Mandalay. I went there alone on bicycle beyond Nyaung U and it was a hard ride as the road was not good and it is far. When I got there at the cliff top entrance, the gate was locked and I had to shout a long time before a monk (the abbot) came with dogs and a DhaMa. He threatened me with the DhaMa, saying that I am a thief and a nogood person AhLaGarr Kaung. He thought I was a Buddha statute thief and it took quite some time for me to calm the abbot and explain that a thief would have climbed over the wall and entered in secrecy whereas I, a good person called out for the gate to be opened. The monk let me in and took me to the monastery nearby. There, he offered me jaggery and tea.and I explained who I was. He gave me the “visitor’s book” on which I wrote about my visit. I offered alms and asked for permission to tour the pagoda. It was the 2nd time I came near death or grevious hurt (the first was while I was driving to Mandalay and a near major accident occurred at the level crossing near the 30th Light Infantry Regiment north PyinPoneGyi).

The 3rd time I got there was also while I was still with the Road to Mandalay in 1997. There was a week without tours and as I could not get enough time to return home, my family came to Mandalay for a trip to Mandalay, Ava, Sagaing, PyinOoLwin and Bagan. At Bagan, we hired a van and went to the KyaukKuu U-Min.

The last time I got there was during our 2003 Beinthano-Magway-Minbu-ShweSetTaw-KyaungTawYar-Bagan-Popa-Pyay-Sriksetra trip. I drove the whole trip as usual as I do not believe others in my family can drive as safely as I can. I feel unsafe if anyone of them is driving even in Yangon so I cannot let them drive for me on highways. This time, there is new Nyaung U – Myingyan road and we could reach the KyaukKuu U-Min via a side road from the highway and the road is much better.

The KyaukKuu U-Min was built by king Narapati Sithu. The PhonePann, ChuuPann, ChuuNwe, Keinnayar sculptures on the corner posts and the engravings on the outer walls are much to be admired and tourists who came with tour books get to the KyaukKuu U-Min although normal tours does not include it in their iteniaries.

There is also a legend regarding the name of the pagoda. The PanTiTa MaHtai, disciple of the HngetPyitTaung Reverend Sayardaw Ottarar Ziwa MaHtai was falsely accused by a woman and to prove his innocence, the PanTiTa MaHtai made an oath on top of the NatThaMee KamParr / angel cliff in front of the king and populace that “if he were of good character, the machete / Dhama and the sharpening stone shall swim upriver“and he threw them into the Ayeyarwaddy.  The machete / Dhama and the sharpening stone, instead of sinking, were afloat and moved upriver. The king and populace became very of the PanTiTa MaHtai and built a stone and brick temple at the cliff where the  MaHtai resided. As the sharpening stone / DahThwayKyauk swam upriver, it was called KyaukKuu U-Min and as the machete / Dhama swam upriver, there was a DhamaKuu Phayar.

On my last visit to Bagan in 2009, I did not get to the KyaukKuu U-Min as I went there by bus and hired a car for only their standard places.

These 2 rock temples were built during the time of king Narapati Sithu / Sithu 2.

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