It foreshadows his crowning achievement, the Ananda. So, there are the same sloping roofs, the same terraces, the same corner stupas, the same spire and the same stupa finial. However, they are here used in a much more subdued manner than in the Ananda. A portico in the north, paved with green glazed stones and having niches holding stone reliefs of the life of the Buddha, provides access to the Nagayon.
Within the temple itself, the central shrine contains a huge standing image of the Buddha protected by the hood of a naga serpent. Two smaller images flank the main one. A corridor, also paved with green glazed stones, runs around the central shrine.
Dim light comes in through the perforated windows of the outer walls. The walls of the corridor have niches holding stone sculptures depicting the Buddhas preceding Gotama, as well as paintings showing scenes from the Jatakas and the Final Life of Gotama Buddha.
According to tradition, the name of the temple "Nagayon", meaning '"Protected by the Naga Serpent', derives from an incident in Kyansittha's life. Once, when he was fleeing from the wrath of his predecessor, King Sawlu (1077-1084), he was watched over by a young naga while he slept. The place then became the site of the Nagayon temple.