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Koethaung Temple - Mrauk U

Excavations at Koethaung pagoda, "the shrine of 90,000 images" began in 1997. The shrine is the largest in Mrauk U, and was built by the son of Meng Bin, Meng Tikka, who ruled between 1553 and 1556. It stands northwest of the palace towards the outer forts and walls, on marsh lands which later caused the foundations to subside. The Koethaung is square in plan, measuring about seventy seven meters on each side. It was built of brick faced with sandstone said to have been brought up the Kaladan River (Gissapa Nadi) from the coast. As is the case with most other shrineds at Mrauk U, it is oriented to the east, and its central image faces that direction. The outer body of the shrine is composed of five receding terraces each ornamented with small pagodas, originally 108 in all.



It is Buddhist practice to worship the Buddha by walking around the central image of his shrine three times, at all times keeping the image to the right. At Koethaung this ritural circumambulation would therefore take place around the inner and outer passages and then the image itself in the center of the upper platform.

Koethaung Temple (right view)

Excavations

During excavations a number of non-structural remains were also unearthed. These include hundreds of stone and terracotta oil lamps, used to illuminate the Buddha images for personal devotion and in ceremonies. Among the various small bronze images discovered is an interesting standing Buddha from Sri Lanka, further evidence of contact between the Rakhine (Arakanese) and Sri Lankan Buddhist communities during the 16th century.


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