It's located about a kilometer to the southeast of the city walls directing Minnanthu village. It's a cave pagoda with a similar architectural plan to Ananda Temple. It is just a single story, but is topped with six pyramidal terraces that rise to its blunt rounded top (the stupa finial has collapsed). Most of the arches and the major portion of the structure are still sound.
The remarkable feature of this temple is the excellent technique of brick-laying. Although only mud mortar was used, the massive structure has survived several earthquakes of the past centuries due to its best brick-laying method. Bricks were laid so close and neat that they looked as if they were just one piece.
The interior floor plan of the temple includes two parallel corridors. All the entrances to the inner passage are blocked for some unknown reasons. So only the four entrances and the outer corridors are accessible. Each entrance at the cardinal direction contains a seated Buddha image. Inside the temple are two original images of Gautama Buddha and future Maitreya Buddha.
The interlocking, mortarless brickwork on the upper terraces is said to rank as the finest in Bagan. Now the highest terraces and hidden stairways leading to them are off limits to visitors.
According to the chronicle, the Dhammayan Gyi Temple was built by King Narathu in A.D 1170 and well noted for its "massiveness and incredibly fine brickwork". It is assumed that the name of the temple is derived from Dhammaramsi, which means “The rays of Dhamma.” Dhammayan Gyi is one of the two temples which consist of four vestibules and two parallel corridors.
Legend has it that King Narathu built the temple to atone for his sins; he smothered his father and brother to death and had one of his wives, an Indian princess, the daughter of Pateikkaya, executed for practicing her Hindu rituals. He oversaw the construction himself and masons were executed if a needle could be pushed between bricks.