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4 Religious Symbols as Decorations on the Sikhara of Ancient Monuments in the Late Bagan Period Pyiet Phyo Kyaw Bagan iconography displayed syncretic traits from the 10th to the 13th centuries. Southeast Asian classic art combined traits from India, China and indigenous sources, disseminated through maritime trade. The Bagan period can be divided into three phases: early (10–11th centuries), middle (12th century) and late (13th century). The late phase of the Bagan period can plausibly be dated from the end of the reign of King Narapatisithu or Cañsū II (1165–1211) to that of King Narasihapate or Tayokpyay Min (1256–87). The successors of King Narapatisithu were patrons of Buddhist cultural heritage, evident in many monuments of various sizes, big, medium and small. Despite the short span of the late Bagan period, many monuments were constructed during this time. They can be dated by stone inscriptions and ink glosses concerning donations and Buddhist religious matters. The significant features of the later Bagan monuments include: 17-J02381 04 Bagan and the World.indd 57 9/10/17 8:46 AM 58 Pyiet Phyo Kyaw 1. The construction of pagoda complexes consisting of several structures; 2. The evolution of monastic complexes in the vertical dimension; 3. More complex stucco reliefs on the temple exteriors; 4. An increasing frequency of geometric items in the interior mural decorations; 5. Stone inscriptions providing factual information about donations (mostly written in Myanmar language); 6. Monumental complexes built at greater distances from the banks of the Ayeyarwady River; 7. An increasing tendency to build complexes consisting of a large number of smaller individual monuments rather than single massive structures. In the late Bagan period, many small monuments were built in the form of complexes of stupas or monasteries. Important groups of small buildings built during this period include complexes at Winīdo, Sambūla, Sin Phyū Shin, Su ton Pyit monastery and Tāmani. Despite the large number of small buildings, some larger buildings, such as temples at Tayokpyay, Pyatthatgyī, Tha Htay Mote Gu and Thitsāwaddy, were also erected. Additionally, there are medium size buildings such as the temples of Thambūla, Phayāthons and Thetkyamuni. The large number of 13th-century buildings in Bagan suggests that the population grew more rapidly in late Bagan than in earlier periods. The 13th-century buildings are characterized by informative stone inscriptions, ink glosses and rich decoration, but these decorative touches were not intended as static and massive sculptural forms and shapes; rather, they comprise many items or thematic objects related to the use of Buddhist Jataka and canonical motifs to decorate interior walls for didactic functions. Late Bagan monuments have more complicated ornamentation, such as anthropomorphic figures and foliage, than in earlier periods. Iconic symbols include gods and goddess (deva and devi), Bodhisattva, ogre faces or kirttimukha, Brahma, and other mythical creatures. The most beautiful and detailed achievements in the art of floral decoration appeared during the late Bagan period. Thus it can be stated that the 13th-century temples are smaller but decorative items became increasingly numerous. The designers wished to insert many items into restricted spaces in 13thcentury architecture. This study will concentrate on analysis of the upper portions of 13thcentury temples called sikhara, or square tower, in the context of Mahayana 17-J02381 04 Bagan and the World.indd 58 9/10/17 8:46 AM Religious Symbols as Decorations on the Sikhara of Ancient Monuments 59 Buddhism. The three main motifs emphasized in this study are the sikhara, goddesses, and ogre heads. Origin and Tradition of the Sikhara Sikhara means “tower” or “spire” (Brown 1995, p. 62). Etymologically the word sikhara originates from the Sanskrit word śikra, meaning the “peak of the mountain”. The sikhara is the tapering and pyramidal portion of temple-type buildings. Sikhara are important architectural features in all types of temple design in India. Several theories have been developed to account for the origin of the sikhara; the most acceptable is that the form originated from the Northern Indian or Indo-Aryan style (Brown 1995, p. 63). The Indo-Aryan sikhara may have originated from bamboo construction, but not directly from a primitive type: it is a later development, produced by the reduplication of vertically compressed storeys (Coomaraswamy 1927, p. 6). The sikhara evolved from the peaked or domed huts of eastern and central India before the beginning of the Christian era (Brown 1995, p. 63). The sikhara is the spire tower of the Northern Indian type of...


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