Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple (built mid-19th century)
The Shwenandaw (or Shwe Nandaw; Shwe-Kyaung-pyi to Burmese) monastery is the most significant of Mandalay�s historic buildings, since this �Golden Palace Monastery� remains the sole major survivor of the former wooden Royal Palace built by King Mindon in the mid-nineteenth century. Originally part of the royal palace at Amarapura, it was moved to Mandalay, and, with the name Mya Nan San Kyaw, became the northern section of the Glass Palace and part of the king�s royal apartments. King Mindon died in this structure in 1878, and his son and successor, King Thibaw (r. 1878-1885), often went there to meditate. He soon became convinced, however, that Mindon�s spirit was haunting the building, and on October 1878 he ordered it dismantled and removed from the Royal City. Over the next five years it was reconstructed as a monastery--and dedicated as a work of merit to the memory of King Mindon--on a plot adjoining the Atumashi Monastery near the northeast corner of the Royal City. The rest of the old Royal Palace within the old Royal City (now Mandalay Fort) burned during the latter stages of the Second World War as a result of allied bombing of the Japanese ensconced in the old Royal Palace. King Thibow�s superstition thus had preserved a significant remnant of the Royal Palace.
The Shwenandaw is a wonderfully fragile yet grand example of 19th century Burmese teak architecture and also a significant masterpiece of the wood-carver�s art. It is a large multi-tiered building with four separate �zei-ta-wun� roof levels. Newly recarved or restored �a-saw�, flame-like decorations define the roof lines, which also contain profuse �sein-taung� ("mountains of relief work") embellishment and �daung� corner roof ornaments as well as numerous avian creatures. Rich carvings on the bargeboards and balustrades/parapets and wooden entries further hint at the glory of the former royal palace. Surrounding the building at the main entry level is an imposing teak platform with elaborate carvings and marble finials on the parapets. There are rich ornamental carvings, wonderful serpentine dragons, lively figures at dance, mythical animals, flowers and vines on carved teak panels both on the outside and the inside. Many of the exterior panels are crumbling because of the ravages of time, with some being replaced by later and inferior reproductions that lack the depth of the originals. The structure was once gilded and covered with glass mosaics. Unfortunately, I was unable to enter the main hall golden interior to see the massive teak pillars, the imposing ceiling, the replica of the Lion Throne the rich carvings away from the outside elements and the carving of the nats, spirit beings, worshiping the Buddha image.
Text by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska
All images copyright 2002 by Professor Robert D. Fiala of Concordia University, Nebraska, USA
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