Carving on base moulding of Queen's Monastery, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Archaeological Survey of India
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a carved panel in the Queen’s Kyaung (Monastery) at 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. This is a view of a triangular panel set at the base of a pillar in the monastery interior. It is carved in deep relief with a narrative scene interlaced with foliage and small figures of devas, celestial beings from the Burmese pantheon. 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 where it was often gilded. Woodcarving was one of the main elements of monastic decoration, along with glittering mirrored glass mosaic and gilding which can also be seen in this view. The monastery was a wooden building 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, it stood in the grounds of the Royal Palace and was known as the Queen's Golden Monastery for the splendour and magnificence of its exterior and interior decoration. 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.