Thatbyinnyu Temple (1597/ 906 A)

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Type of monument Type II Temple
Location East of Gadawpalin Temple
Region Nyaung U & Wetkyi-In
Built by King Alaungsithu
Date 11th Century
Monument Number 1597/ 906 A

Thatbyinnyu Temple (1,597/ 906 A)

Thatbyinnyu Temple was built by King Alaung Sithu in A. D. 1144. It is the tallest structure in Bagan. There is a rhyme traditionally sung by the people of Bagan, which runs:

“Massiveness that is Dhammayan Gyi, Loftiness that is Thatbyinnyu, Grace that is Ananda.”

Dhammayan Gyi Temple is the largest in massive size, Thatbyinnyu Temple is the tallest in height, and Ananda Temple is the most graceful with all artistic decorations. Thatbyinnyu, from the base to the finial is 201 feet high.

The name “Thatbyinnyu ” is an original name. It is one of the attributes of the Lord Buddha., “Thatbyinnyu” means “Omniscience” which the Lord Buddha attained on becoming enlightened. In the Temple are circumambulatory vaulted corridors, four-terraced devotional stupa, vihara
(monastery) and the library. It is a big complex structure with seven terraces in all facing east.

On the upper terrace there is a big statue of Buddha made of brick and plaster, sitting on a lotus throne. Its head was damaged by the earthquake of 1975. A dolomite Buddha statue was discovered inside the damaged head. It is now on display at the archeological museum, Bagan. As in the case of Dhammayan Gyi Temple, brick laying technique used in Thatbyinnyu was excellent. The bricks in the walls on the upper terrace were laid horizontally and vertically in an alternate style. When the earthquake of 1975 peeled off some plasters from the walls of the image house, it was found that stone bricks,were used in these walls up to 8 feet high.

At every corner of the structure stone in the shape of carpenter’s square were inserted for strengthening. In almost every arched span, sandstones were laid between bricks to serve as keystone. The vaulted arches of the image house are gambrel spans which have no wooden or iron beams, only voussoirs were used. Here also stone bricks were used at equal intervals with the main keystone at the central apex of the span to lock all the radiating bricks in the span.

This indeed is a wonderful architectural technique of ancient Bagan. For the durability of the whole structure the terraces were made curvilinear. In the ground floor, on the north, south and west sides are big statues of Buddha made of brick and cement. They are original. Seventeen other images are later additions. On the ceiling and walls of the vaulted corridors on the western entrance are found original mural paintings. A pair of Buddha’s footprints and the picture of Sakka and Brahma paying homage to the Buddha are found on the ceiling. Besides there are ornamental backdrops of the throne and fine stuccoes.

There is a cave pagoda on the north-east of the precinct. It is traditionally known as “Tally Pagoda.” It is said that for every 10,000 bricks used in the construction of Thatbyinnyu one brick was kept aside to count the total number of bricks used in the whole structure. The “Tally Pagoda” was built of the bricks so kept aside. On the south-east stand two big stone posts
which supported the cross bar on which a bronze bell of extraordinary size was once hung. The bell was dedicated by King Alaung Sithu to Thatbyinnyu. The bell had disappeared. On the capitols of the two stone posts are found floral designs carved out of stone.

The big bell was vandalized long ago. Judging by the space of 18 feet between the two stone posts, the bell must have the diameter of at least 15 feet in which case it could have been larger than the Mingun Bell in size if not in weight.

Thatbyinnyu is situated at the south-east corner of the city wall. There was a wall fencing it. Now only the northern arched gate of the wall remains. In 1990 when the site on the west of this arched gate was excavated, the foundation of the fencing wall was discovered. It seems that at one time the bricks from the fallen wall were taken to be used in repairing the city walls because it was found that some bricks in the city walls were of the same size as that of the bricks of Thatbyinnyu.

Ref: Ministry of Information, Pagodas and Monuments of Bagan, Vol. 1, Yangon, Graphic Training Centre (GTC), 1995, Translated by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt

Thatbyinnyu 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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4 thoughts on “Thatbyinnyu Temple (1597/ 906 A)

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    1. I also show some reference books in my posts. If you want to know about Bagan, I will give many references and factual evidences.

      My whole website submitted about the ancient city of Bagan (Pagan), Myanmar (Burma). All of the stories of Bagan empire are mentioned in the Myanmar Chronicles. Besides many legends of Bagan empire are oral history. But you can see a lot of epigraphical evidences concerning ancient Bagan.

      I presented legendries and thought of Buddhist devotees to hypothesis regarding about the Bagan empire.

      So, there is an old Myanmar saying:
      “If you speak of Bagan history you must keep a stick on your shoulder”.
      Because Bagan history is so long and so complicated that as you speak of it you will fall into heated argument with your listeners who will challenge you to quarrel.
      So, it is safer to keep a stick for your defense.

      During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, 4,446 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of 3,822 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.
      So, UNESCO inscribed Bagan as a World Heritage Site on 6 July 2019.

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