Carving in wall of Pyatthat of Queen's Monastery, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of carvings on the exterior of the Queen’s Kyaung (Monastery) in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Burma Circle, 1903-07. The photograph was taken by an unknown photographer in
1903 under the direction of Taw Sein Ko, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of Burma at the time. The monastery was constructed in 1885 on the orders of Queen Supayalat, wife of Thibaw, the last king of Burma (reigned 1878-1885). It was barely completed when she was exiled to India with her husband following the annexation of Upper Burma by the British Empire. Now destroyed, the monastery stood in the grounds of the Royal Palace and was a magnificent wooden building richly decorated with ornate woodcarving and mirrored glass mosaic, known as the Queen's Golden Monastery for its glittering appearance. This is a view of carvings on the exterior of the main shrine room at the eastern end of the monastery. The decoration consists of scrollwork panels inset on the corners with elephants and devas, celestial beings from the Burmese pantheon, and dragons flanking the steps. Burma has a long tradition of woodcarving, at which its artisans excel both technically and aesthetically, and the best work could usually be found on palaces, monasteries and pagodas. The shrine room was crowned by a seven-tiered spire known as a pyatthat. This was a symbolic form demarcating sacred space and their use was restricted to royal and religious architecture. Mandalay was Burma’s last great royal capital and was founded in 1857 by King Mindon Min (reigned 1853-78) in fulfilment of a Buddhist prophecy that a religious centre would be built at the foot of Mandalay Hill. As a consequence of royal patronage there were many religious foundations in the city and a wealth of monastic architecture.