Manuha Phaya Temple in Bagan

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It was still humid when I left the hotel to explore the temples and some tourist attractions near The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate. I decided to hire a horse cart since I’ll be heading to Shwesandaw Pagoda to witness the famous sunset in Bagan with fellow Pinoy Travel Bloggers afterwards. Passing the Tharabar Gate, we traversed the main road and some dusty and narrow paths till we reach Manuha Phaya Temple – the first temple I visited in the historic Old Bagan.

Snacks for Sale
Snacks for Sale

“I’ll wait for you here after 10 minutes” – words I got from the Horse Cart driver before proceeding to the temple entrance. Much like other tourist destinations, the gate was surrounded by souvenirs shops and peddlers selling cookies, sweets and other local delicacies.

Before entering the temple, I noticed various paintings hanging near the west entrance of the Pagoda. I met the artist and he explained to me that those wonderful handcrafted works are sand paintings which is a popular product souvenir for Bagan visitors.

Burmese Puppets
Burmese Puppets

I also saw some nice wooded Buddha masks that looks like antique and one other interesting product they sell are the Monks umbrella and the Burmese puppets which are normally used in Bagan Puppet Shows.

The Manuha Phaya temple finds its location in the right side of the road that emerges from Old Bagan Gate. History place a bigger role in identifying the traces of the temple, and it is the inscriptions found in the temple that stands proof to its origin. The Manuha inscription says that the temple was constructed in AD 1067.

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Huge reclining Buddha
Huge reclining Buddha

The Pagoda was constructed by Mon King after he was brought to Bagan. As one of the oldest and traditional temple of Bagan, the temples name was given by Mon King and the temple was constructed by him to show his displeasure of captivity by the then Bagan king, Anawrahta. The Kings, Queens, Prince, and Princess of Bagan had the practice of building Pagodas, both large and small.

Golden Buddha inside Manuha Phaya Temple
Golden Buddha inside Manuha Phaya Temple

The Bagan king, Anawrhta, allowed Mon King to construct a temple after a long time. To start the Pagoda construction, Mon King sold his priceless piece of jewelry to a rich merchant to construct the temple which was later named as Manuha Phaya. The temple is a two storey building with the lower larger than the upper. A large seated Buddha image forms the centre-stage of attraction. The statue of Buddha is measured 46-feet high and the architect has demonstrated his genius by carving out this marvel.

Manuha Phaya Temple Entrance
Manuha Phaya Temple Entrance

The statue is uniquely designed with the hands of Buddha touching the earth. The temple also houses two smaller images of Buddha, which are about 33-feet high on either side of the main idol. The cramped interior of the temple fits the three images of Buddha, and there are also myths that the idols were cramped together to denote the feelings of detained king in Bagan. The adjoining chamber at the back of the main room encompasses a 90-feet long image of Buddha which has its head pointing the direction of North.

Buddhist Offering prayers to accumulate positive karma
Buddhist Offering prayers to accumulate positive karma

The north pointing position of Buddha represents the Parinibana pose, which denotes demise. This is also to denote that death is the ultimate solution to free oneself from miseries. People can climb the top of the pagoda through the stairs specifically constructed for the purpose. A window positioned well in the pagoda, lets visitors get a glimpse of the sleeping Buddha, through its glass panes.

Sand Paintings for Sale
Sand Paintings for Sale

The gigantic image of Buddha reveals a grim face from below that also bears an elegant smile. Nature’s fury in 1975 shook the foundations of the temple and this collapsed the central roof, damaging the centrally seated Buddha. The temple surroundings and its outdoors are dedicated to the presiding nats of Mt. Popa,  Mae Wunna and Min Gyi, and Min Lay, the sons of Mae Wunna.

A pagoda festival is being celebrated by the devotees of Manuha Phaya called the Paya Pwe. The festival is celebrated on the full-moon day of Tabung which falls between the months of February and March and will depend on the lunar calendar.

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