Myinkaba Gubyaukgyi

South face of the temple
Pagan, 1113


This is the Gubyaukgyi ("Great Painted Temple") in Myinkaba, not the temple of the same name in Wetkyi-in.

The temple was built by Prince Rajakumar (literally, "Prince Warrior-King"), the son of Kyanzittha, as an offering (more technically, a "work of merit") for the salvation of his father. The idea here is that the karmic advantage accruing from a person's virtuous actions, such as building and endowing a temple, could be spiritually "passed on" to anyone the merit-maker designated. (Similarly, in Medieval Europe, pious kings and princes might endow a church or monastery "for the soul of" a deceased relative. The impulse is the same in both cases, although the theologies are quite distinct.)

Three villages of slaves made up the endowment of the temple, and a consecration ceremony is reported in which Kyanzittha poured a libation of water to recognize the merit of his son's act. (Similarly, in the iconography of the Defeat of Mara, the Earth Goddess wrings out of her hair a flood of such merit-recognizing libations, which the Buddha had accumulated in all his past lives).

The towers on the temple are of the Indian sikhara type, their tips having been restored sometime after the photograph in Strachan, p.72 was taken, but before my visit in January of 2004.

The temple's date is recorded on an important inscription of Rajakumar, written in Pyu, Mon, Old Burman, and Pali. Although this inscription is sometimes called the "Rosetta Stone of Burma," such an appellation is very misleading. The Rosetta Stone provided the key to deciphering the previously untranslatable writing of Ancient Egypt. In the case of Rajakumar's stone, however, all four languages were already known to scholars; the stone's importance is rather historical than linguistic, since it is the earliest artifact (so far discovered) on which the Burmese language is written.

Alternate spelling: Kubyauk-gyi.