Nandamannya Pahto


Dating from the mid-13th century, this small, single-chambered temple has fine frescoes and a ruined seated buddha. It’s about 650ft north of Thambula; a sign leads down a short dirt road. The murals’ similarity with those at Payathonzu has led some art historians to suggest that they were painted by the same hand.

Nandamannya earns its reputation from its mural of the ‘Temptation of Mara’, in which nubile young females (vainly) attempt to distract the Buddha from the meditation session that led to his enlightenment. The undressed nature of the females shocked French epigraphist Charles Duroiselle, who wrote in 1916 that they were ‘so vulgarly erotic and revolting that they can neither be reproduced or described’. Times change: the topless women can be seen, without blushing, on the back left wall.

Just behind the temple is the Kyat Kan Kyaung, a working underground monastery dating from the 11th century. Mats on the tunnel floors are used for meditation.

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