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PAGAN (BAGAN) : Bagan, the historical capital, known as the city of four million Pagodas, is the richest archaeological site in Asia. The enchanting city is situated on the eastern bank of Ayeyawaddy River about 193 km south of Mandalay, the Last Capital of Myanmar monarchy.
The ruin of the city of Bagan covers an area of 42 sq-km containing over 2000 Pagodas and religious edifices. The majority of well preserved temples and pagodas offer a rich architectural heritage from the 11th Centaury to 13th Centaury era.
Zone Charge - US 10 $ --- Museum Fee -  US 4  $

HOW TO GET THERE?: By all means of transportation. By plane, an hour 20 minutes by flight from Yangon Bagan/Nyaung-oo. By train, several trains make round-trip between Yangon and Mandalay but Bagan is to be gone by car from junction of Thazi to Kyaukpadaung-Nyaungoo. Everyday, the buses leave from Yangon to Mandalay, Taungyi, and Bagan, otherwise the renting of a car is more pleasant. Why? It's far more challenging and thus enjoyable to locate the area on your own using a map.

There is Ayeyawaddy River cruise between Mandalay and Bagan (express boat or ordinary). The cruise of private luxury (Road to Mandalay, Pandaw; the former British Irrawaddy flotilla company renovated boat, Ayeyawaddy princess) organize an overnight on board trips during the tourist season.

WHAT TO SEE? : The most of the things to be seen in Bagan are religious edifices and monuments. In whole of Myanmar the religious monuments can be classified into two categories; Pagoda (Stupa), and Temple.

Pagoda or popularly called "Pha-ya" derived from Pali word "Da-tu-ga-ba" and transformed by Singhalese into "Da-go-ba" commonly known as "Ze-dhi"  derived from Pali word "Cet-ti-ya" is a solid building in order to commemorate the Lord Buddha who had attained the perfect enlightenment, and eradicated all defilements. It has a relic chamber sometimes under ground and sometimes in the vault between circular rings and bell shaped dome, where relics of Buddha or Buddhist saint or other sacred spots are to be enshrined. The pagoda type of structure is a solid brick mass, almost pyramidal in silhouette but better defined, exquisitely articulated and meaningfully detailed. Normally, it is a bell-shaped dome placed on receding terraces with a finial crowning the dome.

Temple means "Gu" derived from Pali word "Gu-ha" is a hollow consturction based on a square structure and rise up with receding terraces in a shape of Pyramid. It has a one or two corridors inside, and mostly 4 sided inner walls are illustrated with mural paintings depicting the previous birth stories of Lord Buddha. The temple type is the most dominant type of religious architecture in Pagan. It is the temple that gives one the sensation of achievement in spatial concepts depicting space without light and light within space, moving one to a deeply emotional outlook or to an ultimate imagination. In the temple type of structure, there are two sub-types, one of which has a single entrance, with a main vestibule or hall and a central sanctum for the image. The other sub-type has four entrances all of them the same although in some exceptional temples there is a main entrance usually on the eastern side, with a larger vestibule than the other three entrances. Passages or corridors run around a central core on all four sides of which are vaults for images of the Buddha.

The monuments in Bagan are the silent witnesses of a a glorious past which lasted from the eleventh century until the fourteenth century. In this period Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Kingdom and one of the largest religious centres in Southeastern Asia.The construction of temples and pagodas reached its peak. Still it is hard to imagine the grandeur of Bagan in its glorious days. Only the religious monuments made of fired brick covered with plaster and decorated with stucco relief remain. The palaces and houses were made of wood and have been destroyed by the elements. Ironically the use of wood as a material for the construction of houses has led tot the preservation of the religious monuments. By logging trees for the construction of houses and palaces as well as for the heating of brick ovens the plain lost its forest. As a consequence the climate was to become exceptionally dry. These metrological circumstances favored the preservation of the religious monuments made of brick. The kings who reigned over Bagan during its golden period were: 

                List of Bagan Kings                                                                               Last King Dynasty

Sr. Name of the King Ruling Years (A.D)   Name of the King Ruling Years (A.D)
1

Pyu Saw Htee

167-242  

Pyin Pyar Min

846 - 876
2

Htee Min Yin

242-299  

Tan Nat

876 – 894
3

Yin Min Paik

299-324  

Salay Min Kway

894 – 924
4

Paik Thay Lai

324-344  

Thein Kho

924 – 946
5

Thay Lai Kyaung

344-387  

Saw Yahan

946 – 991
6

Kyaung Du Yit

387-412  

Kyaung Phyu

991 – 1013
7

The’ Htan

412-439  

Kyi Soe

1013 – 1019
8

Nga Tapar Min Myar

439-494  

Sukatay

1019 – 1044
9

Tharamon Phyar

494-516  

Anawrahtar

1044 – 1077
10

Thaik Taing

516-523  

Saw Lu

1077 – 1084
11

Thay Lai Kyaung Nge

523-532  

Kyansittar

1084 – 1113
12

Thay Lai Paik

532-547  

Alaung Sithu

1113 – 1160
13

Khan Laung

547-557  

Narathu

1160 – 1165
14

Khan Latt

557-569  

Narapati Sithu

1165 – 1211
15

Htun Taik

569-582  

Nadaung Pyar

1211 – 1231
16

Htun Pyait

582-598  

Naratheinga Uzana

1231 – 1235
17

Htun Chit

598-613  

Kya swa

1235 – 1249
18

Popa Saw Yahan

613-640  

Uzana

1249 – 1256
19

Shwe Ohn Thee

640-652  

Min Yin

1256
20

Pate Thone

652-660  

Narapate

1256 – 1287
21

Pate Taung

660-710  

Kyaw Swa

1287 – 1298
22

Nga Kway

710-716  

Saw Nit

1298 – 1325
23

Myin Kway

716-726  

Saw Mon Nit

1325 - 1368
24

Theinkha

726-734      
25

Thein Sone

734-744  

 

 
26

Shwe Laung

744-753  

 

 
27

Htun Htwin

753-762  

 

 
28

Shwe Mauk

762-785  

 

 
29 Mon Latt 785-802      
30 Saw Khin Nit 802-829      
31 Khe Lu 829-846      


Ananada Temple : "Ananda" is the word meaning the endless Wisdom of Buddha. This magnificent temple completed in 1090, is King "Kyan-sit-tha's masterpiece and the crowning achievement of early style of temple architecture. The plan is that of a perfect Greek cross. There are four huge Buddha Images in standing position, but the Buddha Images facing south and north are original and the Buddha images facing east and west are replacements. The original images were burnt down by the candle lights put up by of some pilgrims some years ago. A series of eighty reliefs depicting the Final Life of the Buddha, and eight scenes from his birth to attained Enlightenment is notable. The Ananda Pagoda festival held in January is a big event drawing many pilgrims from all over the country.

That-byin-nyu Temple : The meaning "That--byin-nyu" is omniscience and the further explanation is thoroughly and widely seeing of Lord Buddha. The temple was built by King "Alaung-sithu" in the middle of 12th centaury with the high over 66 meters. It overtops all over other monuments and once the access has been allowed to all visitors to view the magnificent panorama of Bagan plains. At present the stairways to the upper story has been closed for the preservation of the monument. It is the only temple in which one can learn the strange gesture of seated Buddha Image on a chair the two foots touching the earth, and believe all wishes come true.

Dhama-yan-gyi Temple : This most massive temple in Bagan was constructed by king "Na-ra-thu" in the mid of XXII century. The decreasing six terraces and the main structure resemble the plan of a pyramidal shape. It was the copy of Ananda temple, and has two corridors inside constructed in a plan in perfect Greek cross. But the interior passage has been closed by bricks for the unknown reason. The masonry job of this temple so remarkable that even a needle cannot penetrate between two bricks. Besides, the complicated architectural style of this temple creates the arguments on the number of floors and on the completion of the building. What is more is the founder of this temple was in a bad reputation for the killing of his father and his brother so as to get the throne. The story told again the founder had the killed of the persons who were responsible for the mistake of this amazing edifice during the construction. These reasons generate so many riddles and mysteries that lead to be known as ghost haunted temple for some inhabitants.

Sulamani Temple : "Sula-Mani "means" the jewel of crown" and at the same time it refers the name of the pagoda in the celestial being in which the hair of prince Sidharhta (the Gotama Buddha to be) at the time of his renunciation was enshrined. The temple was built by king "Narhapati-sithu" in 1183. It has one similar plan to "That-byin-nyu" temple and has two floors, the ground floor and the first floor. As in "Dhama-Yangyi" temple, the positioning of the bricks is remarkable. The architects used the sandstone among the bricks to re-enforce the building. That edifice was built in the contemporarily time of "Gawdaw-palin" temple, and the temple is well symmetrical from all directions. The ambulatory is decorated with the mural paintings of the XII and XVIII century. The exterior walls are decorated in stucco and pilaster and glazed lotus flowers of green and yellow. It was the time of Burmese architecture attained the highest point, and the ideal architectural was sought out after the following builders (for example; "Hti-lo-min-lo" temple).


Shwe-gu-gyi Temple :
Standing on high brick plinth, situated in the eastern part of Old Bagan Palace site. This temple was built by King "Along-sithu" in 1131 AD. The arch-pediments, pilasters, plinth and cornice are decorated with fine stucco carving which represent Myanmar style architecture in the early 12th centaury.


Gaw-daw-palin Temple :
Dating the XII century, this temple was built by king " Nara-pati-sithu" and offering the height of 60 meter. It is one of the most gracious and elegant temples of Bagan. Sitting on the first terrace of this temple, admiring the Sun going down on the top of the Tant-kyi-taung mountain above the water of River Ayeyawaddy is the most magnificent panoramic scene. The view of the ruins of the Bagan city at the twilight remained a good memory and un-forgettable to the tourists during their stay in the Myanmar. It was the building badly damaged by the earthquake of 1975, and renovated on its original style with the help of UNESCO. This temple is said to be the most elegant temple in Bagan by all visitors near and far.


Gu-byaunk-gyi temple(Wet-kyi-inn village):
The word "Gu-byauk-gyi" meaning the great spotted temple, built in 13th century, the temple with a spire resembling the Mahabodhi temple at Buddha-Gaya of India is noted for its' mural painting of 12th century. Most of the depictings are based on "Jatakas", the previous birth stories of Lord Buddha, and 28 pictures of previous Buddhas under the respective tress where each Lord Buddha attained the final enlightenment. Some of frescos were stolen by European-Tourists.

Hti-Lo-Minlo Temple:
The word "Htilominlo" literally means desired by the royal white umbrella, and desired by the king, and the temple built about 1211 AD by king "Nan-daung-mya-min", is one of the largest temples of Bagan. It is double storied structure rising 50 meters about the ground was the little bit repeating architecture of famous "Sula-mani" temple. This temple is noted for its fine plaster carving on the arch-pediment, frieze and pilaster.


Shwe-zi-gon Pagoda :
The "Shwe-zi-gon" pagoda has been built under the command of king "Anaw-ya-hta" and it has been finished by "Kyan-sit-tha", the third successor of Bagan in 1084. King "Anaw-ya-hta" has the tooth replica and collar bones of the  Lord Buddha un-earthed from Sri-khitra, the old Pyu capital city near modern Pyay (Prome). These sacred relics were brought to Bagan on the back of Royal white elephant. And the king made a wish, and the pagoda was built on the site where the royal elephant knelt-down. It was a sandbar called in Burmese "Zee-gon", and the pagoda was named after that word as "Shwe-zi-gon" (the golden sandbar).  It was constructed by sand stones extracted from a query called "To-ywin-taung", 3 km to the East of Bagan. The blocks of sandstone were carved there and passed by the hands of a huge human chain from that query to the construction of Pagoda site. It can be said the architecture of this Pagoda is the prototype of later Myanmar Stupa, and the terraces are decorated with green glazed plaques illustrating the scenes of Jataka. This pagoda is the most famous place, the pilgrims near and far visit and appreciates the nine wonders of the pagoda. The pagoda festival is annually held in the mid of October or the beginning of November.

Buphaya or Bu Pagoda : Standing on the bank of the Majestic River  Ayeyawaddy, the "Bu-phaya" is a conspicuous landmark of Ancient Capital Bagan for travelers along the River. This pagoda with a bulbous dome resembling the "Bu" or gourd fruit was the early pagoda type in Myanmar, and it is a favorite spot for visitors to watch the sunset pass-over the river. 


Gu-byauk-gyi (Myinkaba) :
The "Gu-byauk-gyi" (the great spotted cave) temple of 1113 belonging to early Mon style architecture was created by "Raja-kumar", the inherited son of king " Kyan-sitha " but price dis-inherited. It is located near "Myin-Kabar" village. Possessing the early Bagan period type temple, the eastern porch is tunnel like entrance into the temple. The inner walls of temple are well preserved fresco of Bagan period (1044-1287) depicting Jatakas, the previous birth stories of Buddha. They were cleaned with chemical ingredients with the help of UNESCO experts. One can also learn the life style, customs, and traditions of inhabitants during Bagan period from these wall paintings.

Shwe-san-daw Pagoda: The word "Shwe-san-daw" literally means "the golden hair of the Buddha". After the conquest of "Tha-hton", the king "Anaw-ya-hta" made this gracious royal construct this in 1057. The dome is super-imposed on five receding terraces on which were once applied with glazed plaques illustrating the Jatakas. The earth-quake of 1975 made the umbrella, "Hti" in Burmese, the crowning part of pagoda fall down on the ground. The original broken umbrella can be seen on the ground nearby Pagoda. In former days the corner of the terrace were adorned with Hindu god statues, and the access is possible to climb until the highest terrace from where watch the panorama of environs or the sunset.


Shin-bin--tha-lyaung :
Next to the foot of "Shwe-san-daw" pagoda is a long building made of brick that shelters a statue of lying Buddha of 18 meters dating back to XI century. The head of the statue directs towards the south that represents the Buddha's resting. For the representation to entering " Nivana", the head pointed toward the North.


Mingalar-zedi Pagoda:
"Mingalar-zedi" literally means the "Auspicious pagoda" and situated near the Bank of "Aye-ya-waddy" River, close to the "Thiri-pyit-saya" hotel. Built by king "Nara-thiha-pa-ti" in 1277 under the models "Shwe-zee-gon". The pagoda testifies the supreme achievement of the Stupa architecture decorated with glazed plaques, and of the last religious edifice in Bagan. There was a prophecy or rumor while the pagoda was in progress stating that "the kingdom will be ended when the pagoda is completed". Therefore the king believing the prediction totally stopped all construction. The 6 years later, the king learnt the teaching of Lord Buddha "Nothing is permanent", then the king had to continue the finishing of pagoda. Finally the prediction showed true that the kingdom was destroyed by the invasion of Tata-Mongol in 1287.


Ma-nu-ha Temple :
Situated in the "Myin-kaba" village, the temple carried its name after the Mτn king "Ma-nu-ha", who has been brought to Bagan as a captive in 1059. Under the authorization of king "Anwa-ya-hta", the Mon King had built this temple financing by the selling of his royal properties. The temple shelters three big statues of Buddha as well as the one reclining Buddha Image in the back chamber. One can learn the attitude of the captive king under King "Anaw-ya-hta" from the light of immense Buddha Image in a narrow chamber.


Archaeological Museum:
This museum run by Archaeological department is rightly next to the "Ga-daw-palin" temple. It is probably the largest collections of artifact from all over the country displaying more than 2000 objects some of which are of the original pieces of Pagoda and temples. It shelters the various statues of Buddha from different times, the relief of Buddha and Hindu divinities made of sandstone, the terracotta plaques, the statues and the pieces of stucco and wall paintings, the fragments of textiles painted, the leaflets of manuscripts. In the center of the museum, has been deposited by the famous "Mya-zedi" inscription carved in the beginning of the XII century written in Mτn, in Burmese, in Pyu and Pali. It is also known as the rosette stone of Myanmar and depicting the story of "Gyu-byauk-gyi" temple. A trunk of petrified wood and some fossils are also exposed. The several style of traditional hairdressing ways during Bagan period (1044-1287) are of interest item. The museum is every day open of 9 hs at 16 hs 30 close on Monday and gazette holidays.
Entry fee - USD 4.

 

BAGAN ENVIRONS

 

Mount Popa : The Mount Popa, the unique oasis in the semi - desert region is a extinct volcano that is located in the Southeast of Bagan, about 97 km by the road via "Kyauk-pa-daund" and more than 50 km by the road NyaungU-Popa. With an altitude of 1518 meters, it is the culminating point in the central Burma. Due to the volcanic ashes, hill-sides are fertile and various kinds of trees with flowers naturally grow well. The name "Popa" comes from the word Sanskrit that means "flowers". To the west foot of the big mountain a dick, a peg of perpendicular lava of 700 meters of height stands. The summit of this dick is occupied by pagodas and recently built religious pavilions which can be reached by a set of stairs of which some parts are nearly vertical. There is a pavilion at the foot of rock formation which houses the life-sized statues of 37 "Nats" equipped with their respective colorful costumes. The site is not known for great historical evidence, but known as the abode of legendary Nats, "Min-maha-giri", the lord of Great Mountain in Burmese, the oldest of the list of 37 Nats, and "Mae-wanna" well known as an ogress who diet with vegetables and flowers.Since Mount Popa is abundant of medicinal herbs and plants, one believes that it becomes a preferable area for the legendary alchemists. And then, the site becomes once again popular like a holy place due to a religious patronage in the years 50. That is why; Mount Popa is a place of cult for the Burmese. The big yearly feast of the Nats takes place there at the month Burmese month "Nadaw" (month of November and December).

Salay : "Sale" is a small city situated to 46 km due south of Bagan, up-river "Aye-ya-waddy". There are about forty religious edifices dating back to XIII century  within the 7 km squares. It can be reached from Bagan by boat and by  road that parallel to "Aye-ya-waddy" by passing small villages and another small city named "Chauk" where the crude-oil is extracted. According to the legend, it was a small village from where a king of Bagan has welcomed the text of Buddhist cannons, and conveyed it until Bagan. In the XIX century, 'Sale" was known for the poet named "U-pon-nya". Under the reign of the last Burmese kings and at the time of colonial period, a few beautiful monasteries decorated with sculptures made of teak-wood have been constructed. During the British time, "Sale" became commercial and administrative city and some buildings of colonial style remain until today. The monuments of the site are less decorated and less interesting compare with to those of Bagan but its environment is more living.

As most interesting site, one can visit a monastery made of teak-wood dating back to the 1882 named "Yoke-soan-kyaung", richly sculpted monastery. It has been offered by a rich tradesman. It measures 50 meters of length on 25 m width composed of 150 teak pillars offered by king "Thi-baw", the last king of Myanmar Kingdom. It presents a classic plan with 7 compartments which are accessible by stairs. It has a verandah whose periphery is decorated of sculptured panels in wood illustrating the Jatakas, the scenes of the court of this time and some legends of the "Nats". Some represent vices (the drunkenness, debauchery) and the virtues. The ceiling of the compartments is decorated of sculpted caissons. After the renovation in 1994, the monastery has been transformed into a museum. Objects found in the site dating back from the prehistoric period to the XIX century exposed in the compartments; antique objects in lacquer, relief made of wood, heads of Buddha, statuary of Buddha, manuscripts on palm leaves or on folded  papers.

In the opposite site, among the monasteries and the pagodas is a temple that shelters a statue of Buddha of 3 m high named "Man-phaya". According to record in the precinct of pagoda, the statue was brought there by the waves of the "Aye-ya-waddy" river. It is hollow and light because the statue was made of cloth, lacquer and sawdust. To verify it, a passage is preserved in the Buddha's back.

There is another monastery named "Thar-thana-yaung-chi" that preserves a case of the end of XIX century well decorated of a continuation of the very small colorful pictures. The superior monk gives courses of meditation.

To the North of the site, there are small pagodas and temples in the style of Bagan. The temple of " Phaya-thone-su" decorated of the stucco and the pagoda of "Shin-bin-sa.kyo" are the venerable objects for the visitors.

Pakhan : There is two "Pha-khan"; "Pha-khan-Gyi"(Big Pha-khan) and "Pha-khan-Ngae" (small Phan Khan).

"Pha-khan-gyi" is located about 30 km due north of " Pa-khoke-ku ". It was once a walled garrison city constructed to a strategic place against the Mongol invasions after the fall of Bagan, at the beginning of XIV century. It also became an important administrative city of the region in the XIX century. The remains of the defensive walls and the pagodas in a dilapidate situation remain as the traces of the important city in the past. The most famous pagoda named " Sie-thu-shin " houses a statuette of Buddha covered with gold leaves and studded with precious stones. According to the legend, the king of Bagan "Along-sithu" built the sanctuary to accommodate this statuette made of very fragrant wood (" Tha-rat-khan" in Burmese) offered by the king of celestial beings. There is also a monastery made of teak wood dated back to XIX century which plan reminds the one of "Bar-ga-yar" of Ava. The stage is decorated of bas-reliefs that represent the Jatakas. An archaeological museum stores the objects found in the site of "Pha-khan". Close to "Pha-khan-gyi", on an island to the confluent of The Aye-ya-waddy and the "Chin-twin" is a small village called "Pha-khan-ngae". This village is known as the sanctuary of a very famous "Nat of drinks"; "U Min Kyaw" lived in the XVI century and he was born in " Pha-khan-gyi". He is adopted by the governor of "Pha-khan-gyi" and to his death, U-min-kyaw assassinated his successor and became the chief. He was very fond of drinking and gambling of cock-fights. He died with the suffocation by his vomits and die to become a "Nat". This Nat is the protector of the gamblers and the players of lottery. His abode was that small village "Pha-khan-ngae" and a big annual festival in his honor is celebrated in March. It lasts two weeks and participated by so many pilgrims of the whole Burma.

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