Gawdawpalin Temple (built c. 12th century)
The Gawdawpalin Pahto was begun during the reign of Sithu II (or Narapatisithu, 1174-1211) and completed during the reign of his successor, Nadaungmya (or Htilominlo, 1211-1234). It is one of the larger (it is actually Bagan's second tallest) and most imposing of the Bagan temples. There are two suggested origins of its name, which means, according to the eminent Bagan scholar Paul Strachan, a "throne on platform to which respect or homage is paid." One interpretation is that it formed part of traditional ceremonials honoring royal ancestors. The other explanation, wrapped in myth, is that Sithu had demonstrated such pride and had created so many hardships through his construction of the Sulamani Guphaya, that the eminent monk Panthagu Mahathera fled to Sri Lanka for six years in protest. The king persuaded him to return and paid him great honor and homage on this spot upon his return.
The Gawdawpalin a large eastward-facing two-story temple set on a low platform in the center of a walled enclosure with four gateways. It is located just to the north of the present Archaeological Museum. It is a brick masonry structure with stone reinforcement. Its exterior dimensions are 213 x 170.5 ft (65 x 52 m), with a solid inner core on the ground floor of almost 92 x 93.3 ft (27,99 x 28.45 m). The ground floor corridors around the central core are almost 7 ft wide (2.20 x 2.19 m). The entry shrine on the ground floor is almost 23 x 38.5 ft (6.95 x 11.72 m). The second story solid core is less than half the size of that of the ground floor. There is another shrine and entrance hall, and for the first time in Bagan architecture, the primary shrine is on the second story. Barrel and diaphragm vaults cover the shrines and corridors.
The three lower terraces and four upper terraces are topped by a square tower, conical spire and umbrella that reached 180 ft (55 m); some suggest it was 200 ft (60 m.)., Unfortunately, Gawdawpalin was near the epicenter of the 1975 earthquake; the tower was destroyed and upper parts were heavily damaged. There were repairs between 1976-82; it was further strengthened, when the tower was rebuild as a hollow reinforced concrete structure in 1991-92. About 40% of the exterior stucco moldings are still in place.
The eminent scholar G. H. Luce in comparing Gawdawpalin to Thatbyinnu, wrote that the romantic style has succeeded the classic, while Strachan suggests that there is a streamlining of mass in the Gawdawpalin with an 'upwardly directed movement' that is "tall, refined and quite elegant" and, I would add, majestically unique. Such a sublime style was never again attempted at Bagan.
Bagan Monument number 1622
Text by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska
The approximate location of the site is 21.170026' N, 94.856476' E (WGS 84 map datum).
All images copyright 2002 by Professor Robert D. Fiala of Concordia University, Nebraska, USA
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