Stucco Carving

Stucco Carving

The most remarkable architectural design of the exterior decoration of religious monuments in Bagan era is stucco carving. At the exterior of temples detail design of stucco carvings were done with cement. The unique art of several motifs of stucco carving can be traced at all of Bagan religious monuments.

The distinctive features stucco carving are flame pediments at the top of arch, spiral scrolls around the exterior walls, detail designs at sikhara, ogre heads and lion figures of corner pilaster, and frieze with ogre head belu-pann-zwe.

The most common is frieze with ogre head. In the flaming arch pediments there are decorated with beautiful figures of kinnara, bird, lion. Sai-paung at the sides there is carved lion walking in the mouth of makara .

The arched pediment of Phwa-saw Hsu-taung-pyi monastery is decorated with beautiful design of flowers, lions and nat spirits.


Lion trampling in the mouth of makara
Dhammayangyi Temple
Remains of a relief arched pediment from the Phwa-saw Hsu-taung-pyi monastery

Around the outside wall of Thambula temple we can see the unique stucco carvings. In Kyaukgu-umin and Nanpaya , there are distinguished stone carving. At the corner pilasters of the temples are embellished with the figures of lions and ogres.

Ogre head stucco carving
Corner pilaster at Sulamani Temple

The sand stone blocks were inserted at the corner cornice. At the corner cornice there is ornamented with ogre head and it is called bilu moat-seik (beard of ogre) above picture at Sulamani Temple. Above the moat-seik is called sein-taung (crenellation).

The ogre motifs can be found in mural paintings and stucco carvings of religious monuments in Bagan. The exterior decorations of these figures are abundant during the 12th and 13th centuries.

The figure of ogre can be seen not only in temples but also on the bell-shaped dome of stūpa, for instance the belu-pann-zwe stucco carving of the bell-shaped dome of Seinnyetnyima Stūpa and Shwezigon Pagoda. And then the figures of ogre have two different types.

The ornamental motif in stucco depicted an ogre clutching a garland with both hands called belu-pann-zwe and the ornamental motif in stucco adorning an ogre head disgorging flowers and foliage known as belu-pann-gide . Generally we call them belu-pann-zwe .


belu-pann-zwe
belu-pann-gide

belu-pann-zwe
Htilominlo Temple

Source:  Zin Tun Tint, Dr., Exterior Decorations of Religious Monuments in Bagan (1000-1300 AD)

Paper read at the 12th Research Conference of Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science held in Yangon University, October 2012.
(Journal of the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science, Vol. XI, No.9, June 2013, Page- 25)

Press here to see this paper

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      “bilu moat-seik” beard of ogre
      belu-pann-gide
      (belu means ogre or monster)

      Phwa-saw (Queen of the last king of Bagan ‘Narathihapate’.) You can see about her in the book name “She was a Queen” written by Maurice Collis.

      Kyaukgu-umin (‘Kyauk’ means stone, ‘gu’ or ‘umin’ means grotto or cave. So Kyaukgu-umin means the cave made by stone.
      “Kinnara” is the mythical birds and “makara” is the sea monster or mythical water creature like small crocodile.

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