Sulamani Guphaya Temple

The Sulamani (occasionally Sulamuni) Guphaya, or Pahto, is one of Bagan’s premier temple attractions. The name itself means ‘Crowning Jewel’ or ‘Small Ruby.’ Paul Strachan, one of the leading modern authorities on the Bagan archeological plain, calls it “the grandiloquent gesture of an empire at its meridian”. It was actually more than a temple, for the complex originally contained a large number of associated buildings, including a lecture and ordination hall, cells for the monks and a library, Sulamani was the first and most important temple of the late period (1170-1300) of Bagan monument building. It was one of many temples and stupas built by Sithu II (or Narapatisithu) (1174-12ll), probably as atonement for some of his many misdeeds. It was a direct model for the Htilominlo. It majestically combines the massive verticality of the Thatbyinnyu with the horizontalism and monumentality of the Dhammayangyi. The red brick temple is step pyramidal on a square base and is oriented to the east. There are two major levels with porches at each of the cardinal points and prominent eastward-facing doorways. Each of the ascending squares has pilasters in the form of stupas at the corners and a beautifully wrought sikhara, restored since the devastating earthquake of July 1975, crowns the entire complex. Each of the major levels has inner ambulatories running along the perimeter with niches for Buddhas. Ascent to the second story and upper levels is now prohibited here as it is with most Bagan temples. Important features of the Sulamani include its fine brickwork and use of stone in both load-bearing areas as well as on vulnerable external corner elements. The numerous original unique glazed roundels and panels along the plinth and terrace moldings add joy and exuberance to the exterior, while the rich frescoes on the stuccoed interior ambulatory(from the 12th to 19th centuries)—though damaged—with their lively depiction of both the sublime and the grotesque reflect a constant interplay of the physical and mythical light and darkness. The first story ambulatory is lit well enough from its doorways and windows to permit available light photographs of the frescoes. A wall with elaborate entries in the four cardinal directions surrounds the complex.

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