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.
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
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
List of Bagan
Last King Dynasty
Name of the King
Ruling Years (A.D)
Name of the King
Ruling Years (A.D)
Pyu Saw Htee
Pyin Pyar Min
|846 - 876
Htee Min Yin
Yin Min Paik
Salay Min Kway
Paik Thay Lai
Thay Lai Kyaung
Kyaung Du Yit
Nga Tapar Min
Thay Lai Kyaung
Thay Lai Paik
Popa Saw Yahan
Shwe Ohn Thee
Saw Mon Nit
|1325 - 1368
Saw Khin Nit
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Entry fee - USD 4.
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
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
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
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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