Bagan

BAGAN

The ancient city of Bagan with its thousands of sacred and historic pagodas is one of the main tourist attractions of Myanmar - an hour flight from Yangon (430 miles) or 30 minutes flight from Mandalay. This world famous archeological site stands in a stunningly beautiful setting on the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. More than 2000 well preserved temples and pagodas dating from 11th-13th centuries cover an area of 42 sq km.

It is possible to explore these marvels of the first Myanmar Empire - each one shows its uniqueness in architecture - on foot or by cycling, riding in a horse cart or taking a guided air conditioned car.

Stories of miraculous events, victory and defeat, love and royal grief surround countless temples, stupas and pagodas. Antique Buddha images - some are many metres tall and covered in gold while others miniature and carved in hundreds of tiny niches - can be seen in the most visited pagodas. In other pagodas paintings of religious and daily life done a millennium ago decorate the walls, and intricate carvings and remarkably ornate brickwork have survived the passage of time.

To fully appreciate the magnificent ancient city, we recommend at least two or three nights in one of the modern nearby hotels. Ascending to a temple’s rooftop vantage point to watch the sunset over the pagoda-scattered plain will create a precious lifelong memory.

Bagan is also the home of the ancient craft of lacquer ware and the highest quality work is still done in this town today. It is possible to watch the skill and dedication of artisans making beautiful home wares using age old natural processes.

We also highly recommend cruising up the Ayeyarwaddy from Bagan to Mandalay, a leisurely journey of seven hours. This will connect you to the powerful force of this mighty watercourse, its role in the lives of the local people and give ample opportunity for enjoying the scenery and the village activities riverside.

Another option while staying in Bagan is to make a half day excursion by road to sacred Mt. Popa. The view from the mountain across the river to the magical scene of ancient Bagan is well worth thedrive. (more information on Mt Popa on page ###)

 
WHERE TO GO—SIGHTSEEING IN BAGAN

Sulamani Temple
sulamani-templeIt is situated about three miles to the south-west of Nyaung-U. It was built in 1183 A.D. by Narapatisithu, and resembles the Thatbyinnyu in plan. The temple consists of two stories and each is crowned by terraces ornamented with battlemented parapets and small stupas at each corner surmounted a deeply moulded cornice set with glazed plaques of different sizes and patterns. The interior walls are entirely decorated with fine frescoes. The image of the seated Buddha inside the temple is much ruined. The structure may be assigned to mid 13th century A.D.

Dhammayazika Pagoda

dhammayazika-pagodaBuilt by King Narapatisithu in 1196 A.D, It is a solid circular pagoda of the Shwezigon type, but its design is elaborate and unusual. The three lower terraces, which are adorned with terracotta tablets illustrating the Jatakas or Birth Stories of the Buddha, are pentagonal, and at the base on each side, there is a small temple with a square basement enshrining an image of the Buddha. They are all built on a raised platform enclosed within a wall, and there is an outer circuit wall which is pierced with five gateways. There are some ink inscriptions on the interior walls of the projecting porches.

KyanzitthaUmin

kyanzittha-uminSituated close to the Shwezigon Pagoda at Nyaung-U, it is a low brick building half underground and half above. The interior of the building consists of long and dark corridors, some walls of which are ornamented with frescoes dating from 11th to 13th century. Those of later date were most probably painted during the Mongol occupation of the city in 1287 A.D. and represent Mongollan personages, captains and warriors. 


Nanpaya Temple

It is situated close to the Manuha temple. According to tradition, it was used as the residence of the captive Mon king, Manuha. It is built of brick and mud mortar and surfaced with stone, and is square in plan with a porch projection on the east face. Flanking the sanctuary in the main building are four stone pillars on the sides of each of which are carved triangular flora designs and the figures of the Brahma holding lotus flowers in each hand. Like other earlier temples at Pagan it has perforated stone windows to admit light into the building.

Ananda Temple

anada-templeIt is the most famous of the Bagan’s temples, and is considered the masterpiece of Mon architecture. It was built in 1091 by King Kyansitha. The structure of the Temple is that of a simple corridor temple. Other interesting features of the temple are the numerous glazed terracotta tiles ornamenting the base and the receding terraces which represent the Jataka stories of the Buddha and the hosts of Mara’s army. Each of these plaques is inscribed with a Mon legend. The inner walls are honey-combed with niches in which are set small stone Buddhas in various postures. The most notable among the sculptures is a series of eighty reliefs in the two lower tiers of niches in the outer corridor, illustrating the life of the Bodhisattva from his birth to the attainment of supreme wisdom. The western sanctum also enshrines the life-size statues of its founder, Kyanzittha and the primate, Shin Arahan.

Thatbyinnyu Temple

thatbyinnyu-templeIt lies in the centreBagan, half-kilometer away from Ananda. It is also known as the “Temple of Omniscience” and is the tallest building in Bagan , 201 feet high.

It was built by King Alaungsithu in the middle of the 12th century A.D. There are two tires of windows in each story of the Thatbyinnyu, as well as huge arches inlaid with flamboyant pediments making the interior bright and allowing a breeze to flow through. Entering by east porch one is confronted by the stairway guarded by two standing figures of the guardians. At the top was a stupa containing holy relics. The upper story can be reached by climbing interior stairs to the intermediate terraces, then taking an exterior staircase to the cella. Three Square terraces with medial stairways rest on this cubicle.

Bagan Museum

bagan-museumIn the proximity of Ananda and Thatbyinnyu, just south of Gawdawpalin, there is Bagan Museum which contains the exhibits of Bagan’s varied architecture iconography and religious history. Along the museum verandas are inscribed stones collected from the surrounding areas , bearing inscriptions in various languages such as Mon, Pyu, Pali, Tamil, Thai and Chinese. This exhibition was moved from a building near Ananda Temple several years ago. Now, a new museum is under construction on a grand scale.

Damayangyi Temple

damayangyi-templeIt is said to be Bagan’s largest shrine. It was built by King Narathu in 1660-65 who was also known as Kalagya Min or the King assassinated by Indians. The finest brickwork is to be seen in this temple because it is said that Narathu oversaw the construction himself, and he had masons executed if a needle could be pushed between the bricks they had laid. As he was seriously concerned about his future lives after having murdered his father, Narathu built it to atone for his misdeed.

Shwesandaw Pagoda

shwesandaw-pagodaOne of only three religious structures King Anawrahta built in Bagan, it was constructed in 1057 after his victorious return from Thaton. Its stupa enshrines some of the sacred hairs of Buddha obtained from the King of Bago (Pegu). The pagoda spire collapsed in the 1975 quake and it has already been replaced.



Htilominlo Temple

htilominlo-templeIt is 46 meters (150 ft) high and 43 meters (140 ft) on a side at its base. It is about 1 ½ kilometers (less than one mile) northeast of Bagan on the road to NyaungOo. It was built by King Nantaungya in 1211 at the place where he was chosen to be the Crown prince out of five brothers. He and his four brothers created the Council of Ministers which was also called Hluttaw (Parliament) to determine state policies. The mural paintings in the interior can be seen. Many horoscopes and charms are inscribed on the walls in order to secure them against damages and destruction. It is said to be the last Myanmar-style temple built in Bagan.

Minglazedi Pagoda

minglazedi-pagodaIt is the last mark of architecture of Temple Builders (Bagan Era) because it was built in 1284 by King Narathihapate, the last king of Bagan Dynasty, a few years before the fall of Bagan. It was noted for its beautiful unglazed Jataqka plaques round its terraces, called Gu or caves derived from the cave-temples of India. Its stupa rises high above three terraces mounted on a square superstructure. A narrow passage runs round the central pile. The distinguishing figure is the perfection of vaulting and pointed radiating arch. The door leading to the pagoda grounds is kept locked. Visitors should contact pagoda warden ahead of time if they wish to enter the enclosure.

Tharabba Gateway

tharabba-gatewayIf you enter the ancient city you’ll pass through the main gate on the east wall named Tharabba Gateway. It is the only structure left of the old city built by King Pyibya in the 9th century . Traces of stucco carving on the frieze are visible on the exterior walls. The entrance to it is guarded by two Bagan’s guardians-nats or spirits, called MahagiriNats. These two nats, brother and sister, are namely Maung Tint de (Mr. Handsome) and his sister Shwemyethna (Miss Golden Face0 whose images are deposited in a monastery shrine, the male on the left and the female on the right. They are the most important spirit beings in Myanmar history.

Mahabodi Temple

mahabodi-templeIt is the only temple of its kind in the Union of Myanmar. It lies across the main road of Bagan and is an exact replica of a structure of the same name in India’s Bihar state, built in 500 A.D at the site where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It was built in Bagan during the reign of King Nantaungmya (1210-1234). The basement is a quadrangular supporting the pyramidal structure. The whole structure is covered with niches bearing seated Buddhas. It has a renovation after the damage of 1975 earthquake.

Bupaya

bupayaIt is the oldest of the shrines and is situated on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River. It was built by King Pyusawhti, the 3rd King of Bagan (163-248 A.D) before Anawrahta period. Legend has it that the pagoda was built in p place where a gigantic Bu or gourd like climbing plant grew. It has the bulbous form and is built on rows of crenulated walls overlooking the river. Because if the way it stands out on the banks, it is used as a navigation aid by boats.


NathlaungKyaung Temple

nathlaung-kyaung-templeIt is supposed to have been built by King Taungthugyi in 931 A.D, more than a century, before theravadda Buddhism was introduced from Thaton. And it was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. It remained the greatest Hindu Temple in Bagan and still now exists in Bagan. The temples was housed 10 Vishnu images on the outer walls of the main hall, out of these seven can still be seen today. The temple, being essentially a Vishnu temple, the paintings represents seated figures of Vishnu cult of relief in brick.

U PaliThein

u-pali-theinIt is almost directly opposite to Htilominlo Temple named after celebrated monk U Pail in 13th century. It was renovated during Konbaung dynasty period in 1794 and 1795. Its walls and ceilings were decorated with fine and brilliant frescoes representing the 28 previous Buddhas as well as scenes from the life of Gautama Budha.



Shwezigon Pagoda

shwezigon-pagodaIt is one of the most venerated pagodas in Myanmar. King Anawrahta, thinking himself as a “universal monarch”, set about to obtain all possible relics of the Buddha. He got the Buddha’s collar bone and frontal bone from Pyay and an emerald Buddha figure from Yunan of China. All these sacred relics were enshrined in this pagoda. As he died in 1077, King Kyansitha supervised the completion of the structure in 1089. It is a solid sylindrical in style and is a prototype of other similar structures in Myanmar. On each of the four sides of pagoda is small temple which enshrines the standing Buddha of the Gupta style. At the northeast corner of the platform there are 37images of nats or spirits ina shrine hall. Shwezigon Pagoda festival is held annually during the month of November or December in honour of the pagoda.

Manuha Temple

manuha-templeIt was built by the captive King of Thaton in 1059 A.D, situated just south of Myinkaba village. The builder’s grievance is graphically demonstrated by representing one reclining and three seated Buddha images cramped uncomfortably within the narrow confines of the pagoda. It is said to symbolize the distressed soul of the defeated King, and is an example of early jail architecture in Myanmar. Unlike to most Mon-style temple, its upper story is smaller than the lower. It collapsed during 1975 earthquake and was renovated in 1981.grievance is graphically demonstrated by representing one reclining and three seated Buddha images cramped uncomfortably within the narrow confines of the pagoda. It is said to symbolize the distressed soul of the defeated King, and is an example of early jail architecture in Myanmar. Unlike to most Mon-style temple, its upper story is smaller than the lower. It collapsed during 1975 earthquake and was renovated in 1981.

Nagayone Temple

nagayone-templeIt is believed that the temple was built by king Kyansitha on the sport where he was given protection by a Naga (Dragon) during the flight from Anawrahta. It has a hall, a dark corridor, an inner chamber, and a character of Min style. There are stone reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Buddha in the interior of it. A standing Buddha, flanked by two smaller seated Buddhas, is housed in the shrines.


Abeyadana Temple

abeyadana-templeIt attributed to Kyansitha’s first wife Abeyadana whom he married as a young worrier and it is believed to mark the spot where his wife came and waited for him during his flight from King Anawrahta. Having become the king, this temple was built on this spot dedicated to his wife. Inside the temple visitor can see the frescoes on the outer walls of the corridors representing the Bodhisattvas or future Buddha and the figures of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra and other gods of India mythology on the inner walls.

Kubaukgyi Temple

kubaukgyi-templeIf you are approaching Myinkaba village famous for its fine lacquerware industry, a short distance after passing the Minglazedi Pagoda, you’ll see the Kubaukgyi temple. It was built by Prince Rajakumar on the death of his father Kyansitha in 13th century. This temple is built in pure Mon-style, and is of great importance for its inscriptions. The most notable feature of the Kubaukgyi is the Mahazedi stone, like Rosetta Stone, in which it was inscribed by Rajakumar in four Languages ( Myanmar, Mon, Pali and Pyu ) it is well known for its linguistic importance and it is invaluable in fixing the chronology of the Kings of Bagan.

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