Large and historic temple like fortress with inner paths as a maze Shaitthaung, one of the famous temples in Mrauk U was built by King Thiri Thuriya Sandar Maha Dhamma Raza, Mong Bar Gri in 1535 A.D (897 Rakhine Era). The temple is located on Phoe Khaung hill which is far from about one kilometer north of the Royal Mrauk U palace.
Shaitt-Thaung translates to “temple of the 80,000 images of the Buddha” which is referred to the decoration of a large number of Buddha images inside the temple.
The temple is named after the memorial of victory which was meant the time when King Mong Bar reconquered twelve Bengal towns which were previously lost to the enemies. Therefore, the temple is also termed as the temple of victory commemorate.
Shaitthaung was erected as massive bunker leading archeologists to believe it was used as a fortress and place of refuge during times of battle. The architecture of 16th century Bengal style, stupas incorporates elements, were used for the temple’s turret.
The temple was constructed with large sandstones building halfway up a small hill. Solid walls were formed surrounding the temple except of the east side which adjoins the hill. The north and south walls are lined with small turret like pagodas. On the east side, Tazaung building and a stairway leading to the temple were built recently by standing on a platform.
At the center of the temple’s surface, a 26 meter high building shaped stupa was stood and four smaller stupas were surrounded at the corners. Then, other smaller ones were spread around there. A total of 27 stupas are found on the temple’s surface. More various styles of stupas were built outside of the temple’s walls.
In the inner part of the Temple, the main prayer hall, a large room, was displayed with thousands of Buddha images. From there, inner passageways, entrances lead to several arched dark, were encircled the hall with the principal Buddha image. An almost 100 meter long passageway through the temple’s interior is lined with portrayed figures cut out of stone in six rows placed one above the other.
Over a thousand of illustrators were descripted the bas relief depict ordinary Rakhine people such as boxers, wrestlers, dancers and humans praying as well as scenes from the Jataka tales, the stories about the previous lives of the Buddha. Moreover, portraits of Hindu characters like Indra on three elephants, the Earth Goddess Vasundhara and Surya, the Hindu God of the sun. Furthermore, the portrait of King Morn Bar and his queens were sculpted at one of the corners. After 100 meter, the path finally ends up again in the main prayer hall.
A building next to the entrance stairway contains the Shaitthaung pillar, which is more historic than the Shaitthaung temple itself. The pillar was brought by King Morn Bar over from Wethali, a Kingdom North of Mrauk U that existed from the 4th until the 8th century. The three meter high sandstone piller describes the inscriptions in ancient Sanskrit language, the oldest ones from the 5th century. One of its sides contains a list of Kings who ruled during the 7th and 8th centuries.
Near the pillar, a large stone slab was displayed that was likely a lintel over the temple entrance gate. A carving in relief shows a conch shell in the water with a lotus flower growing out of it and a Dhamma wheel, symbolizing the “setting in motion of the wheel of Dhamma”, the teachings of Buddha.