Manussiha, The Man Lion

Manussiha (or) The Man Lion

What is a Man Lion?

A Man Lion is a symbol that represents the guardian of a precious place. Such as the Sphinx of the Egypt, in Myanmar theses guardians are called as Manussiha (or) the Man Lion.

To describe a Man Lion in detail, we can say that it is a creature with a blend of two Pali words. The first one is "Manussa" meaning a human being and the second word is "Siha" meaning a lion. The lion represents the Strength of it and the human part represents the wisdom, converting it into a better creature. And the Manussiha is usually considered as a male.

It can be found at each of the four corners of some pagodas in Myanmar. The human head and torso on top of the forked haunches of a lion into which the corner of a block like the plinth of a pagoda. Since time has changed, the head of the modern Manussiha can be seen wearing a crown finished with a motif of tier upon tier of upright.


The manussiha is said to have originated more than two thousand years ago. According to traditional belief, it is associated with the coming of Buddhist monks Sona and Uttara who brought Buddhism to Suvannabhumi, not too far from modern Thaton. It was said that the royal city was plagued by ogres who rose from the sea whenever a child was born in the palace, invaded it and carried away the infant to eat.

Just as the monks arrived, it was said, the chief queen gave birth and a contingent of ogresses was soon converging on the palace. However, the monks prevented the ogresses from snatching the royal infant by using their powers to create a monster with a human head and torso on top of the forked haunches of a lion that was twice the size of the ogresses which frightened them and prevented them from carrying out their macabre plan.

On that day, likenesses of this monster were drawn on various species of palm leaf to be worn as amulets to ward off danger and a stone inscription from the 15th century mentions that a stone sculpture of that monster existed at the northeastern part of the said city on top of the Kelasa mountain right up to the time of its inscription.

The Name

Some other names for the Man Lion are Narasimha for the same monster while others use the term Rakkhasimha in referring to it. Narasimha is a Sanskrit term, which is also to be found in Pali made up of nara, meaning man, and simha / siha, denoting a lion.

Some have also attempted to draw a distinction between the two terms for a man-lion by saying that narasiha has a face like one modelled from a death mask while the manussiha is a narasiha decked out in all kinds of ornaments.

The classical categorization of lions into four kinds in accordance with the Buddhist Scriptures do not include either manussiha or narasiha. However, dictionaries of the Pali language usually carry narasiha as an entry while this does not seem to be the case with Manussiha.

From the foregoing, I would like to infer that the term Manussiha, although having the meaning of a man-lion in Pali, in as much as the term narasimha/ narasiha expresses it in another way, owes its existence to some indigenous writer who referred to this episode in the course of his writings and not finding a term, but a description of the man-lion in the original tract, coined it from Pali stems.

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