The gold stupa of the Dhammayazika Pagoda certainly stands out, especially at sunrise and sunset. But it wasn’t always this opulent. Until the 1990s when it was restored, it was basically deserted.
The renovations included a gleaming gold finish for the massive stupa. They also destroyed some of the original stucco work, very little of which now survives.
Dhammayazika Pagoda lies in the eastern part of the Bagan plain, and it was completed in 1198–despite its massive size, it took only two years to build and consumed an estimated 6 million bricks
Unusually, its footprint is 5-sided, with each side representing one of the five principal Buddhas: the historical Gautama Buddha, his three predecessors, and the Buddha of the Future, Metteyya.1
Photos of Dhammayazika Pagoda
Jataka Story Tiles
One of the highlights of Dhammayazika Pagoda is the collection of several hundred plaques telling the jataka stories which tell of the previous lives of the Buddha. Based on the number of niches, there were probably 601 tiles originally, but only 371 remain today.
With its glistening gold stupa, Dhammayazika Pagoda stands out and is pretty easy to find in the eastern part fo the Bagan plain.
As with many Burmese names, it has been transliterated several ways. You’ll also see it written as Dhamma-ya-ka Zedi and Dhamma-Yazika.
- Donald M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (Bangkok: River Books, 2013) ↩
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Traveling to Bagan?
Very few of the temples, pagodas, or stupas in the Bagan Archeological Zone have any information about them on site. And with literally thousands of sites to choose from, it's handy to go armed with information on what to see and where to start--especially for independent travelers without a guide.
If you're looking for something that goes beyond the patchy information in the standard guide books, I've found these to be good:
David Raezer and Jennifer Raezer, Myanmar (Burma): Temples of Bagan
Approach Guides, 2017
With maps, diagrams, and pictures, it's pitched as a "travel guidebook for the ultra curious." It offers detailed profiles of 21 of the major sites. It's an especially good option if you traveling with a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone and don't want to take up any space in your luggage or deal with the extra weight of a hard copy.
David M. Stadtner, Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit
Bangkok: River Books, 2013
Written by a former professor of Art History who has authored many books on Indian and Burmese art, this book offers authoritative and detailed information on not just the architecture and art of the temples of Bagan but also the history of the region. It focuses on 33 of the major sites. Its photos by Michael Freeman are a standout feature. It's only available in paperback.
Ma Thanegi, Bagan Mystique
Yangon: Tanintaye Sarpay, 2011
Ma Thanegi is a Burmese writer and journalist. The book doesn't offer the level of detail of the other two and is harder to find in the West, but it still offers useful summaries of a number of the major sites. It's available in paperback only (when you can find it).
Director of Archaeological Survey (Burma), A Pictorial Guide to Pagan
Rangoon: Ministry of Union Culture, 2nd rev. ed. 1963
This is a guide compiled under the auspices of the Burmese government in the mid-1950s and early-1960s. Despite being quite outdated, it has its own value with background on a number of pagodas and temples as well as fascinating historical photos of how the monuments looked in the middle of 20th century--sometimes quite different to how they appear today after being renovated. It's long out of print and hard to find, but I've scanned it and posted it here.
Maps: When you get to Bagan, there are good local maps available for free at the hotels that show many of the major sites.