Thatbyinnyu Temple – The Omniscience of the Buddha

14 Jun 2019 by Admin

Rising over 60 meters above the ground, the Thatbyinnyu Temple is amongst the highest structures in Bagan. With the height surpassing many other temples and pagodas, the magnificent Thatbyinnyu Temple and its golden tops are practically visible to people standing at every corner of the Bagan Plain. The name of the temple, whose full form is Thatbyinnyutanyan in the Burmese language and Sabbannutanana in the tongue of Pali, is literally interpreted as “the Omniscience of the Buddha”. Specifically, the word ‘omniscience’ itself is understood as the ability to ‘know thoroughly and see widely’.


The Majestic Appearance of Thatbyinnyu Temple

Constructed in 1144 by the order of King Alaungsithu (1113-1163), the Thatbyinnyu Temple has a transitional architectural design, which is the combination of the early design of the Ananda Temple, located about 1.5 miles to the northeast, with the Late Design of the Gawdawpalin, residing only 0.5 miles to the northwest. Thatbyinnyu Temple is amongst the very first double-storey pagodas in Bagan. The structural design of the pagoda is totally different from that of single-storey pagodas and temples constructed during the early period like the Shwezigon Pagoda, but is still somewhat dissimilar to that of the double-storey pagodas built in the later periods as Thatbyinnyu Temple was an experiment of the new design.

After the construction of the Thatbyinyu Temple, the style of Bagan architecture witnessed a further evolution with the erection of such buildings as Sulamani (1183), the Htiliminlo Temple (1211) and the Gawdawpalin (in the early thirteenth century), which are representatives of multi-storey structures in Bagan.


The Very First Double-storey Temple in Bagan

The arrangement of Thatbyinnyu Temple bears a striking resemblance to that of Ananda Temple, which is on a square base with the length of 58 meters on each side. Amongst the porches allocated on four sides protruding from the core building, the eastern one protrudes further than the other three, which breaks the symmetrical attribute of the structure. This arrangement became the model for such works as the Gawdawpalin and Sulamani, which were erected in later periods.


Thatbyinnyu Temple Bears a Great Resemblance to Ananda Temple

Both stories have three receding terraces, each of which is adorned with barricades and stupas on the corners. On top of the temple rises a tower-like structure called sikhara, which is a curved spire capped by a slender bell-shaped stupa. In turn, the sikhara itself is crowned by a gilded hti, an umbrella-shaped spire ornament which is very commonly seen in Buddhist structures in Myanmar.


The Buddha Image is Seated on a Masonry Pedestal

The second storey, which was built in cube shape upon a colossal foundation, has a cella where a huge Budda image is seated on a stonework pedestal. There are two flights of stairs, both built deep inside the thick walls, which visitors can use to climb to the terrace above the eastern porch. The eastern porch is the entrance to a central staircase where two guardians stand guard at the door. The staircase takes the guests to a transitional floor where a passage runs around the core. When walking along the passage, visitors can see many seated Buddha images which are placed on small platforms in hollows in the walls. Also, several statues of Nat, the gods who used to be worshiped in Myanmar prior to the spread of Buddhism in this country, can be seen in the temple. Installed along the walls are two layers of windows which make the inner space seemingly spacious and bright. However, the walls are relatively plain, in the absence of mural (wall painting), with the exception of the western porch where some marks can be found.


Many Buddha Images are Placed Along the Corridors of Thatbyinnyu Temple

After a strong earthquake in 1975, Thatbyinnyu Temple was severely damaged. A few years afterward, a renovation project was implemented to revamp the structure. Recently, the authorities have closed the access to the terraces of the Thatbyinnyu Temple in the prevention of further deterioration of the structure.

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