It’s the most amazing sight in Burma, if not Southeast Asia. Across 40 km2 of land, stretching from Ayeyyarwardy, stand thousands of pagodas and temples. Everywhere you look stand ruins of all sizes – huge and glorious temples like Ananda soar towards the sky, graceful small pagodas stand alone in fields. There are places full of history, others which are indentified only by number.
|Around Old Bagan village:|
What you will able to see is very much limited by the amout of time at your disposal and how you intend to use it. If you can afford to hire a jeep and a guide, you’ll be able to visit more temples, particularly those further off beaten track. The availability of electric bicycles, horse rickshaw to rent also makes the temples much more accessible than on foot for sure. If your time is very limited – just an afternoon or a day, for example, we recommend tha you restrict yourself to the temples close to Old Bagan village. This is where the greatest concentration of temples and pagodas can be found, plus the Bagan museum.
One of finest, largest and best preserved temple in Old Bagan (formerly called “Pagan”). Ananda suffered considerable damage in an earthquake (1975) but now it been totally restored. Built in 1901 by king Kyanzittha, the temple is said to represent the endless wisdom of the Buddha. Entranceways, lined with shop stalls, make the structure into a perfect cross. In the center of this, there are four standing Buddhas, represent the four Budhha who have attained Nirvana.
Located on the road from Nyaung-U town to Old Bagan area, this large temple was built by king Nantaungmya around 1211. The name is a mysterious story about how the king was choosen to be the crown prince. Inside temple there are four Buddhas on the lower and upper floor, and traces of muraals can still be seen. Fragments of the original fine plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations have survived on the outside.
Like the Htilominlo, this is a prime example of later, more sophisticated temple styles, with better internal lighting. It stands beyond the Dhammayanggyi temple and was built in 1181 by king Narapatisithu. The temple has two storeys and small stupas at the corner of each terrace. Buddha images face the four directions from the ground floor. The image at the main east entrance sits in a recess built into the wall. The interior was once painted with fine frescoes, but only traces can be seen today. The walls have been painted over with later, inferior, though nevertheless interesting frescoes. You can get very close to the top of this temple, where the views are superb.
Similar in plan to the Ananda, this later temple is much more massive looking. It was built by Narathu (1160-1165), who was also known as Kalagya Min. There are so much mystyrious stories about the shapre of this temple, such as king Narathu killed all the workers that built this temple to keep the secret of temple construction technology. The interior of the temple is blocked by brickwork. If you climb to the upper terraces, make sure you know how to get back down. It’s quite a maze on top, with many false paths hiding the single stairway built into the outer wall. This temple is said to have the finest brickwork in Bagan.
Following his conquest of Thaton, this very graceful circular pagoda was built by king Anawrahta in 1057. This five terraces once had terracota plaques showing scenes from the Jataka, but traces of these and of other sculptures, were covered by rather heavy-hand renovations. This is the most famous place for reaching sunrise and sunset in Bagan, very crowded at dawn and sunset time.
The highest temple in Bagan, the “omniscient” temple rises to 61 meters and was built by king Alaungsithu around mid 12th century. Reconstruction was completed in 1979 after an earthquake (1975). The structure consists of two huge cube, the lower one merges into the upper with three diminishing terraces from which a sikhara rises. It’s quite a maze climbing to the top from the main east entrance you ascend a stairway flanked by two guardian figures.
Close to the village of Nyaung-U, this circular pagoda was commenced by Anawratha but not completed until the reign of Kyanzittha (1084-1113). Unfortunately, some misguided and rather ham-fisted renovations have rather spoilt what is basically a very fine pagoda – an ugly metal-roofed walkway leads to it and the pagoda is festooned with electrical wiring and neon lights. Enamelled plaques in panels around the terraces illustrate scenes from the previous lives of the Buddha. Small temples on each of the four sides house four-metre-high standing Buddhas of the Gupta school. The Shwezigon is said to house a tooth and a bone from the Buddha and is a prototype for later Burmese pagodas.
If you have more free time then go further and around Ananda temple, you will see a traditional life around there. Nochanthar pagaoda located among these village, not far from the main entrance of Ananda temple. You can spend an interesting time wandering there and along the road in Bagan to see how the people live and work. There will be a calm emotion and peaceful feeling for all.
Right on the bank of the Ayeyyarwardy river, this pagoda has been claimed to be the oldest in Bagan, dating from the 3rd century A.D., although there is little proof for this belief. It was completely destroyed when it tumbled into the river in 1975’s earthquake, but has been totally rebuilt. The distinctively shaped bulbous pagoda stands above rows of crenellated terraces.