Dhammayangyi Temple – The Haunted Temple of Bagan

14 Jun 2019 by Admin

Located to the southeast, approximately one kilometer from the wall of the ancient Bagan city, Dhammayangyi Temple, which can be seen from anywhere in the temple plain, is regarded as the most colossal temple across Bagan. Besides, this temple also appears in many local tales as a haunted place because the construction of this temple is related to many tragedies in the history of Bagan Kingdom.

Dhammayangyi Temple is the Most Massive Structure in Bagan


The massive Dhammayangyi Temple was constructed in the 12th century (supposedly between 1167 and 1170) by the order of King Narathu, who was later given the name Kalagya Min or “the king slain by Indians”. Narathu claimed the succession of Bagan throne by murdering his own king father and his elder brother, who had been chosen to become King, in cold blood.

Legend had it that the King felt guilty for what he did and was so worried about bad karma that he had the Dhammayangyi Temple constructed to gain merit and redeem for the sin of killing his father and elder brother. According to legendary tales, King Narathu supervised the construction himself. He set the rule that workers would have their arms chopped or even be beheaded if they the brickworks were not perfectly fit without a gap between two given bricks.

An Overview of the Temple Complex

Unfortunately, the construction of Dhammayangyi Temple could never be completed. It was soon halted after the assassination of King Narathu. There are two main theories about the mastermind behind the assassination of the king.

The better-known theory claims that the King was assassinated by a group of Indians dispatched by the King of Pateikkaya. Narathu was said to kill one of his wives, also an Indian princess, for having practice Hindu rituals. For this reason, in order to avenge his beloved daughter, the Indian King mandated eight assassins to get rid of King Naru right in the Dhammayangyi Temple. The lesser known tale states that the assassination plotted by the invaders from Sri Lanka.


The structural design of Dhammayangyi Temple bears a great resemblance to that of Ananda Temple. The whole works were constructed on a square base whose sides are 78 meters long. Meanwhile, in the center part of the building, each side has the length of 25 meters.

Like Ananda Temple, the Dhammayangyi Temple was designed with four entrances, each of which leads to a sanctum where enshrining a Buddha image seating on a pedestal. The main entrance is the one facing the East. Besides, the interior of the temple consists of two main corridors which go around the core part of the temple.

The Entrances are Adorned with Sophisticated Reliefs

Unfortunately, a large proportion of the passages inside the temple were filled with bricks and pebbles soon after the halt of the temple construction. Likewise, three out of four chambers containing Buddha images were also blocked up by bricks. The only accessible sanctum is the Western one which enshrines the images of Gautama Buddha and Maitreya Buddha, the historical and future Buddha.

Many people believe that the temple interior was blocked deliberately by the workers to demonstrate their resentment towards the harsh rules of King Narathu. Those people blocked all the passages and chambers so that the spirit of the King would be trapped here forever. Today, you can still hear the tales of local people about the haunting of King Narathu in this temple.

The Image of Gautama Buddha and Maitreya Buddha in the Western Sanctum

Dhammayangyi Temple comprises of six pyramidal receding terraces with the upper layers smaller than the lower ones. The top of the temple was once crowned with a sikhara (an umbrella-like structure) but now it has been deteriorated by the forces of natures.

Nowadays, the uppermost terraces and the staircases leading to them are closed to the public. Still, you can climb the Shwesandaw Pagoda, the highest structure in Bagan, to get an overview of the temple from above.

If you are interested in a visit to the mystic Bagan Plain to visit Dhammayangyi Temple, wait no longer. Call us today to secure a place on our Burma River Cruises taking you on the journey exploring various charming destinations in this Buddhist country.

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