Burmese temple painted gold over its original white

The Myanmar government’s done it again… a prominent ancient pagoda in northwest Myanmar has been given a repaint from its original white to gold without consultation with monks, scholars or the public. The change of colour is rumoured to fulfil ‘magical’ conditions.

The Yaza Mani Sula Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda is given a new coat of gold paint over its original white. The Irrawady, 20110311

Locals Unhappy About Ancient Pagoda’s Golden Facelift
The Irrawaddy, 11 March 2011

The Yaza Mani Sula Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda, a revered Buddhist religious monument in northern Burma’s Sagaing Division, has become the latest victim of the ruling regime’s meddling with national heritage sites, according to local residents.

The pagoda, which has been undergoing renovations since January, is expected to emerge from its facelift a bright golden hue after centuries of pristine whiteness. Local people say the transformation, ordered by the country’s top general, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, will destroy its historic character and diminish its magnificence.

A poet living in Mandalay said that because of the pagoda’s religious and historical significance, the public, senior monks and scholars should have been consulted before the changes were made.

“This is not the same thing as slapping a coat of paint on an ordinary pagoda along the roadside,” he said. “Yaza Mani Sula Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda’s white color represents purity, and brings tranquility to those who behold it.”

According to local rumors, the decision to paint the pagoda gold originated with Than Shwe’s wife, Kyaing Kyaing, who wanted the change of color for “magical” reasons.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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