Nan Paya, Myanmar.

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Nan Paya


Just south of Manuha Paya by dirt road, this shrine is said to have been used as Manuha’s prison, although there is little evidence supporting the legend. In this story the shrine was originally Hindu, and captors thought using it as a prison would be easier than converting it to a Buddhist temple. It’s worth visiting for its interior masonry work – sandstone block facings over a brick core, certainly some of Bagan’s finest detailed sculpture.

Perforated stone windows are typical of earlier Bagan architecture – in fact, it was probably Bagan’s first gu-style shrine. In the central sanctuary the four stone pillars have finely carved sandstone bas-relief figures of three-faced Brahma. The creator deity is holding lotus flowers, thought to be offerings to a freestanding buddha image once situated in the shrine’s centre, a theory that dispels the idea that this was ever a Hindu shrine. The sides of the pillars feature ogre-like heads with open mouths streaming with flowers. Legend goes that Shiva employed these creatures of Hindu legend to protect temples, but they proved too ferocious, so Shiva tricked them into eating their bodies, then fed them flowers to keep their minds off snacking on worshippers. In the centre of the four pillars is an altar on which once stood a standing buddha or (some locals believe) a Hindu god. Ask at Manuha if the temple is locked.

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