Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Small Ruby. Sulamani Temple.


Update:  August 25, 2016. 

I just read the sad news that Sulamani Temple and Htilominlo Temple, that we had just been to yesterday, were both badly damaged in the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region, just south of Bagan, yesterday.  Local authorities have estimated that at least 185 pagodas and temples have been damaged.  The images of the damage is heartbreaking.  The top of Sulamani is now just a pile of rubble.  Hopefully, there's little or no damage inside the temple.  UNESCO has been providing assistance with restoring Bagan's temples and pagodas but even with their help, it's going to take Myanmar years to restore the damage....if ever.  While I feel sad for tourists who will not be able to see or visit the sites that I did, my heart truly goes out to the people of Myanmar for the historic and cultural loss that have been dealt.

I
had thought I had seen the nicest of the temples in Bagan yesterday.  Htilominlo was beautiful and I fell in love with Ananda but neither can hold a candle to Sulamani.....my new favorite Bagan temple.

Since our hotel is located right in Old Bagan, it takes us long to travel to any of the major sites.

Walking up to Sulamani was like slowly opening up a package.   You got a peek through the archway as you approached the first set of steps.


Standing at the top of the steps, the view opened up a little bit more.


By now, I had probably seen dozens of pagodas and temples and to some degree, since they are often styled after each other, they begin to look the same.  But Sulamani was different.  Down the archway steps I went and a very grand and elegant looking red brick temple stood before me.


Sulamani Temple is a two story temple that was built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu, the same monarch who built Gawdawpalin Temple.  At first glance it looks very much like Htilominlo Temple and that's because it was the inspiration for Htilominlo.  Sulamani is constructed of red brick and stone.  The brickwork throughout is considered some of the best in Bagan.

An inscribed stone in the north porticof the temple tells that King Narapatisithu found a small ruby at the spot where Sulamani Temple was later erected, hence the name of the temple, which means small ruby.

Like so many of the structures in Bagan, Sulamani Temple was damaged in the 1975 earthquake that hit the region.  It was subsequently restored and then rebuilt in 1994. Carved stucco on mouldings, pediments and pilasters represents some of Bagan's finest ornamental work and is in fairly good condition. 


Pediments over the entrance doors and windows show finely carved stucco decorations.









The temple was built on a square floor plan.  There are entrance porticos with the east entrance protruding out further from the others, breaking the symmetry of the building.

As in Htilominlo, the ground floor contains Buddha images on each of its four sides.

Buddha #1.

A vaulted corridor circles around the square shaped center core of the temple. You have to walk them in a clockwise direction as a Buddhist walks the kora.


The walls and ceilings of the four corridors, surrounding the lower cube, contained frescoes dating from various eras in Bagan's history.


They depict scenes from the life of the Buddha as well as various mythological animals like Naga snakes and Makara sea creatures.  I don't know if these were restored or not following the earthquake but to my untrained eye, their faded look would lead one to believe that they were original.


We paused to admire the fresco of the reclining Buddha.  I had seen so many Buddha statues that seeing a fresco of a Buddha was a refreshing change.  I love the combination of red with black so this particular fresco really appealed to me. 



Unfortunately, it was not possible to stand back far enough to take a full on shot of the Buddha so I shot a snippet of video instead.


Looking at the reclining Buddha standing in a small entryway.

There were so many different frescoes decorating the walls and ceilings of the four corridors.




Of course, we couldn't get away from the Buddhas.

Buddha #2.



One of the most unusual frescoes I saw was this one of an elephant.



The third Buddha we passed by is the only one that is positioned in a niche.  This is the Buddha that faces east.  There was a crowd of tourists praying before him.  I recognized their floppy orange hats - they looked to be the same group that Ayşe and I ran into at Gawdawpalin earlier this afternoon.




I just could not stop gazing up at this fresco.  The details were exquisite.

We eventually reached Buddha #4 which we took a few minutes to admire before continuing down the corridor to where we started - Buddha #1.
Buddha #4.

Coming back to Buddha #1.  We circumambulated the temple!

I thought I had had enough of Bagan's temples but Sulamani  changed all that for me.  Truthfully, I could've have easily spent more time here admiring just the stunning frescoes.  I will have to do this on my next trip back.  Yes, I would love to come back to Bagan.  There is so much to see here - I feel like I have barely nicked the surface!

Our sightseeing continues!