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Shwegugyi Phaya (ရွှေဂူကြီးဘုရား)

Burmese. ‘Great Golden Cave Pagoda’. Name of a Buddhist gu-style temple in Bagan, which was constructed in 1140 AD, during the reign of King Alaungsithu (fig.), who was also assassinated here. After the latter fell ill, his son Prince Narathu could not wait to become king and quickly moved his father away from the palace to this temple. However, when the King regained consciousness and latched on what his son was up to, he became furious for having been set aside, prompting Narathu to smother his father with his own bedclothes. This temple is located in front of the royal palace and may also be referred to as Nandaw Oo Phaya, i.e. Pagoda in front of the Palace. The temple is built on an expansive brick foundation of three meters tall that ‒according to legend‒ spontaneously sprouted from the ground in response to the king's greatness of accumulated merit. Two steles, i.e. stone slabs, with original historical inscriptions in Pali, mention that Shwegugyi Phaya was completed in 7 months and 7 days. The two-storey temple has a square base and two receding terraces, each adorned with crenellated parapets and square corner stupas, rise above each storey. At the top is a curvilinear sikhara-like tower (fig.), surmounted by a slim, tapering spire. Though essentially in the jaturamuk style, i.e. with four entrances, the northern portico projects further than the others, breaking the symmetry, akin to the nearby Sabbannu Phaya (fig.). There are four Buddha images seated around the sides of the central cellar block.