Located in the city walls of Old Bagan, Nathlaung Kyaung is only surviving Hindu temple in Bagan. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the square brick temple was built in the 10th or 11th century, making it one of the earliest temples at Bagan.
History of Nathlaung Kyaung Temple
The date of Nathlaung Kyaung is not known for certain, but it was either built in the time of King Taungthugyi (r. 931-964) or of King Anawrahta (r. 1044-1077). Theravada Buddhism arrived in Bagan under King Anawrahta, so it would make sense that a Hindu temple was built before that.
However, the respected Bagan scholar Paul Strachan is in favor of the later date and a sign at the temple dates it to the 11th century. The Burmese say that it was constructed by King Anawrahta to store all non-Buddhist religious images (both Burmese nat and Hindu devas) that he had collected in order to strengthen Theravada Buddhism. The king later gave in to the cult of the nat, so the legend goes, and placed 37 chosen images at Shwezigon Paya. The name of the temple means "Shrine Confining Nat."
Whenever it was built, the fact that it was not destroyed indicates a tolerance of Hinduism in Buddhist Bagan. Nathlaung was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and served as the temple of the Indian merchant community at Bagan and brahmins in the service of the king. It may have been built by Indian artisans.
The high mandapa (porch that extends from the temple) was given by a Malabar Vaishnavite saint in the 13th century. The only mandapa in Bagan, it was originally covered by a wooden awning. In the 1890s, a German oil engineer took the large Vishnu statue from the temple; it can now be seen in the Dahlem Museum in Berlin. The temple was badly damaged in the 1975 earthquake, and considerable repairs were made in 1976, especially to the second story.
What to See at Nathlaung Kyaung Temple
Only the main hall and superstructure of Nathlaung Kyaung still stand. The square temple is made of brick and has steep upper terraces, a dome and crumbling sikhara (Indian-style finial). Originally there were Gupta-style statues of 10 incarnations of Vishnu housed in niches in the outer walls; seven of these survive. Badly damaged brick and stucco reliefs of Vishnu can be seen on each of the four walls.
Quick Facts on Nathlaung Kyaung Temple
|Names:||Nathlaung Kyaung Temple|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||21.168965° N, 94.862738° E|
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- Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma), 9th ed. (October 2005).
- Nathlaung Kyaung - Asian Historical Architecture
- Bagan Tourism - TripAdvisor (written by travelers)
- Pierre Pichard, Inventory of Monuments at Pagan, vol. 6: Monuments 1440-1736 (Paris: UNESCO, 1995).
- Paul Strachan, Imperial Pagan: Art and Architecture of Old Burma, 2nd ed. (Scotland: Kiscadale Publications, 1996).
- Nathlaung Kyaung Temple, Bagan - Go Historic
- Photos of Nathlaung Kyaung Temple - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Nathlaung Kyaung Temple, Bagan
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