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Shitthaung Temple - Mrauk U

The remarkable Shitthaung "80,000 Images" shrine was erected in 1536, after King Meng Ba conquered Bengal. A massive Buddhist statement of a Buddhist king who saw himself as Cakravartin (world conqueror) who had triumphed over the forces of Islam, it incorporated elements from Myanmar Buddhism and the late Buddhism of north-west India in its iconography, illustrating the power of the king and his religion. Like many important Southeast Asian monuments connected with royal cults, it may have also had cosmic dimension, the shrine being seen as a microcosm of the Three Worlds which comprised the Buddhist universe.

Layout of the Temple

Built on a promontory halfway up the west side of Pokhaung hill, north of the Mrauk U palace site, the west side facing the valley rests on massive stone walls which continue on the north and south connecting the promontory with the hill. The shrine is approached through a flight of stairs from the south, leading to the main platform on which it stands. It is entered through a large hall on the eastern side, today covered by multiple receding roofs.

Inside Shitthaung Temple
King Meng Pa depicted as a god with his Arakanese and Indian wives at Shitthaung

Current Condition

A hundred years ago the temple was totally neglected. It had been bombarded by the invading Bodaypaya forces during their conquest of Rakhine (Arakan) in 1784, and again by the British in 1825 in the first Anglo-Myanmar war. Since then, however, it has come into worship again. The reliefs have ofter been painted, somewhat detracting from their antique appearance but still very close to the original intent of the architect.

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