Cracks and Poor Restoration Threaten Collapse of Koe-Thaung Temple

Mrauk U: Large cracks and unskillful restorations on the Koe-Thaung Temple, the largest ancient architectural monument in Mrauk-U in western Burma’s Arakan State, are causing concern about a sudden collapse of the temple, said a retired local archaeologist and Buddhist monk on Saturday.

Buddha images in Koe Thaung temple

“There are now so many lines of cracks on the stone walls of the temple and it is worrisome to find that roofs with heavy wooden frames and tin sheets are being constructed above the walls to protect the cracks from rain. If a strong wind blows those heavy roofs down, then the walls will break into pieces,” said U Kyaw Tun Aung, a retired Assistant Director of the Archaeological Department and Curator of the Cultural Museum in Mrauk-U.

When asked how the temple should be preserved, he said, “The temple is one of the important ancient monuments and it would be better if restoration work on the temple were done after consulting with skilled archaeologists and architects. Now what has been done to the temple has destroyed its original design and the temple looks like a hotel building. I think it would be best to preserve the temple with its original design.”

U Nyarna, a local Buddhist monk who recently visited the temple, also said major cracks were found on the left wall of the first tunnel in the temple.

“I have found diagonal lines of major cracks on the left wall of the tunnel inside the temple. It is possible the heavy rains last year had left those cracks on the wall because there is no roof over the tunnel. I think the wall will collapse soon, if the cracks are not restored on time,” said U Nyarna.

Koe Thaung Temple built in 1553

The monk said it is very worrisome for the temple because the wall is the main partition of the outer and inner tunnels inside the temple.

According to the sources, the temple was first excavated by the Archaeological Department in Mrauk-U in 1996, after it had been abandoned without any restoration for centuries. Only 25% of the excavation work on the temple was done and a large portion of it still remains hidden in thick bushes and creepers.

They added that the temple is now being kept under preservation by the Central Archaeological Department of Burma, but it systematic and regular maintenance is still neglected due to the lack of state funding. The name of the temple, “Koe-Thaung”, means “The Temple of 90,000 Buddha Images”, and it was built by Arakanese King Dikkha in 1553 C.E. It is situated one and a half miles east of the palace site in Mrauk-U.