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Type of monument Type II Temple (Kundaung Pauk Gu)
Location North of Minnanthu village
Region Minnanthu
Built by Unknown
Date 13th Century
Monument Number (477/ 278A), (478/ 278B), (479/ 278C)
Payathonzu Temple (477/ 278 A), (478/ 278 B), (479/ 278 C)(ဘုရားသုံးဆူ)

Unusual and intriguing, the Payathonzu, meaning “Three Temples,” is a triad of temples joined together by narrow, vaulted passages. The temples are of the same form, square in plan with a portico projecting on one side, the main structure surmounted by terraces and a curvilinear spire. The date of their construction is unknown but they have been assigned to the late 13th  century.

Taken singly, they are much like other single-storeyed temples in the Late Style, but the joining of the temples in a triad makes the Payathonzu unusual. Moreover, while the walls, pilasters and vaulted ceilings of the eastern temple and part of the central temple are covered with paintings, those of the western temple are entirely bare, suggesting that the Payathonzu was left unfinished. If that were so, what then was the reason?

The paintings include floral motifs in which mythical monsters, animals, birds and human figures are interwoven; figures of the 28 Buddhas of the Past, each identifiable by the bodhi tree under which he gained Enlightenment; and scenes from the Final Life of Gotama Buddha, such as the Tonsure in which Prince Siddhattha cuts off his hair in renunciation of the world.

There are other paintings as well which make the Payathonzu unusual.
There are figures with multiple hands, obviously deities. There are also other figures in princely dress embracing female figures. Do these figures represent Mahayana Bodhisattvas and indicate a worship of Tantra, the female energy? One cannot be sure. But it must be remembered that, even with the triumph of Theravada Buddhism in Bagan, remnants of other religions and sects continued to exist. The Minnanthu – Pwasaw area, in which the Payathonzu is located, was, for instance, the home of a sect of aranñavāsī or ” forest dwellers” in the 13th  century, a sect which did not abide by orthodox monastic discipline but resorted to intoxicants.

Payathonzu Temple (Google Map)

Reference Books:

Glimpse of Glorious Bagan, Universities Historical Research Centre, Yangon, Myanmar, The University Press, 1996

Pictorial Guide to Pagan, Ministry of Culture, Yangon, Myanmar, The Printing and Publish Corporation, Reprint 1975

The Pagodas and Monuments of Bagan, Vol. 1, Translated by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, Ministry of Information, Yangon, Myanmar, Graphic Training Centre (G.T.C), 1995

The Pagodas and Monuments of Bagan , Vol. 2, English Text by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, Ministry of Information, Yangon, Myanmar, Graphic Training Centre (G.T.C), 1998

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