With several oversized statues of The Buddha crammed into spaces barely big enough to hold them, Manuha Temple is one of the easiest temples in Bagan to visit. It's also one of the oddest.
Manuha Temple is one of the easiest temples to visit. It’s in Myinkaba Village, just south of Old Bagan, and right on the main road.
It’s also one of the oddest, not at all like most of the other temples and pagodas in Bagan. The layout is very different, inside and out.
The main feature is three chambers that are filled with oversized statues of the Buddha, each of stucco and painted gold. They’re vastly outsized for their spaces, and it’s hard to get a good view of them.
In the back, an extension includes an even larger chamber taken up with a massive reclining Buddha.
The uniqueness of Manuha Temple also raises questions about its origins. Local lore dates it to the 11th century, which would place it part of the first major building wave on the Bagan (Pagan) plain. But its also possible it’s much more recent, perhaps from the 18th century.1
What is clear is that much of what we see today when we visit is much newer again. An earthquake in 1975 caused major damage, and the temple was rebuilt in the late 1970s, this time of reinforced concrete.
Manuha Temple is one of the easiest temples to visit. It’s in Myinkaba Village, just south of Old Bagan on the main road.
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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:
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.
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.
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).
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.