Possibly the most impressive and the richest
archaeological sight in South East Asia was the capital of the first
unified empire of King Anawyahta in 849 AD. Numerous pagodas and
temples were built with the flourishing of Buddhism around 1057 AD.
Nowadays, the majorities of these well-preserved temples offer and
stand testimony to the rich architectural heritage of Myanmar from
11th to 13th centuries. Approximately 2,200 temples stretching as
far as the eye can see remain standing. Enjoy the amazing edifices,
panoramic view of Bagan and beautiful sunset over the mighty
Bagan is possibly the most impressive and the richest archaeological sight
in South East Asia, and one of the man-made wonders of the world. This
enchanting city is situated on the eastern bank of the River Ayeyarwaddy
about 500 km north of Yangon. The ruins of Bagan city cover an area of
Bagan was the capital of the first unified empire of King Anawrahta and
was founded in 849 AD. After unifying the country, Anawrahta accomplished
another noble deed for the country. He introduced Theravada Buddhism into
Myanmar with the help of Shin Arahan, a missionary monk from Thaton. It
was Buddhism that influenced the rulers of Bagan Dynasty to build
innumerable pagodas and temples in and around the city. Bagan only entered
its golden age with the conquest of Thaton (Mon Kingdom) by King Anawrahta
in 1057 AD, gaining the holy Buddhist scripts, the Tipitaka. The holy
Buddhist scripts were not the only trophies gained from the war, the
Myanmar army took some 30,000 Mon prisoners of war to Bagan. Among them,
numerous craftsmen and artisans, who in following decades not only
enriched, but also even determined Bagan's culture. The Pagodas of the
following period were almost exclusively built in Mon style.
From this time, until Bagan was overrun by Kublai Khan's forces in 1287
AD, more than 13,000 temples, pagodas and other religious structures were
built in the relatively small valley of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Each of
them has a different style, size, and decoration. Some have gilded domes,
mural paintings, intricate carvings, and steep staircases leading to
expensive views. The majority of these well-preserved temples and pagodas
offer a rich architectural heritage from the 11th to 13th centuries.
Today, seven centuries later, approximately 2,200 temples stretching as
far as the eye can see remain standing. The River Ayeyarwaddy has washed
away nearly one-third of the original city area, thieves and treasure
hunters have torn apart many temples in search of treasures, while
earthquakes and the invaders of time have reduced hundreds of others to
great piles of crumbled stones. Near the Ananda Temples is the Bagan
Museum. It houses many of the artifacts found in temples around Bagan,
preserving them for future generations.
Bagan is accessible by air from Yangon, Mandalay or Heho (Taunggyi) in an
hour or less. It can also be reached by road from Yangon, Mandalay and
Taunggyi. From Mandalay the 12-14 hour cruise down the Ayeyarwaddy is very
pleasant and rewarding. Apart from these normal transports, there are more
luxury cruise service like Road to Mandalay and the RV Pan Daw ply
regularly between these two ancient capitals, Mandalay and Bagan.
Enjoy the panoramic views of Bagan and there is no sunset like this
anywhere else in the world. The endless pagodas stand testimony to the
rich cultural heritage of the Myanmar and also to the beauty and grandeur
of ancient pagodas. You can be sure that your visit to Bagan will be a
most memorable one enjoying amazing edifices, the magnificent Ayeyarwaddy
River and the delicate flora of Myanmar's dry zone.
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The Bagan Archaeological Museum, situated within old
Bagan city near the Gawdawpalin Temple was established in 1998. It is not
only imposing but also adorned inside and outside with Myanmar decorated
art. On entering the museum, one will first view bronze statue of four
famous Kings of Bagan period namely Anawyahta, Kyansitthar, Alaungsethu
and Kjaswa and large three dimension of mural painting on the wall
depicted Bagan Archaeological Site.
This is where one can enjoy the grand history of Bagan through many
masterpieces of excavated objects and concrete evidences. It has a
collection of more than 2500 items including Buddha statues, stucco
pieces, terra-cotta cups and pots. Museum also houses stone sculptures,
wood carvings, metal works, lacquer works, etc.,
One can also view paintings of pagodas, Buddha images with different
posture (Mudra) made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. Among them,
one can see the significant bronze lotus Bud, a masterpiece of bronze
sculpture of Bagan period.
Tens of thousands of tourists from at home and abroad turned up every year
to admire and marvel at Museum's objects and to gain some knowledge from
the ancient inscriptions. Myazedi lithographed inscription of four
languages in Pali, Pyu, Mon, and Myanmar will surely catch your curious
mind. Actually, all these exhibits displayed in the Bagan Archaeological
Museum are witnessing high great of Myanmar cultural standard of ancient
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Ananda Temple Front View
Ananda Buddha Image
King Kyansittha completed this temple in 1091 A.D. He
built his meritorious edifice with the best artistic decorations all
sphere of arts. It is the "mother of all temples" in Bagan, containing
representative works of all the arts, architecture, glazed plaque,
woodcarvings, stucco, terra cotta and stone sculptures found in all
Myanmar temples. It is King Kyansittha's masterpiece and the crowning
achievement of the early style of temple architecture. The plan is that of
a perfect Greek cross, soaring to 51 metres. The main hall in the centre
is a square shape one with porches of arched entrances on four sides.
There is a corridor all around and well ventilated, showing the sign of
superiority of the architecture of that time. It received its golden
gilding in 1990 in commemoration of the 900th anniversary of its
construction. Contained within the temple are four standing great statues
of the four previous Buddhas. Kakusandha Buddha faces north, Konagamana
Buddha faces east, Kassapa Buddha faces south, and Guatama Buddha, the
most recent Buddha faces west.
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This 60 metre high temple was built in the 12th century
by King Narapatisithu. The temple was badly damaged in a 1975 earthquake
but has been completely reconstructed. From the upper terrace of the
temple, one can leisurely watch the panoramic view of ancient Bagan and
the sunset over the scenic beauty of the Ayeyarwaddy River.
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The all largest temples of Bagan were built by King Narathu who reigned from 1167 to 1170. The Dhammayangyi Temple is a very
large square single storey
pyramidal temple with six monumental ascending exterior terraces. There
are two inner ambulatories around a solid square central core. The huge
and pyramid-shaped Dhammayangyi looks a little clumsy from the distance.
The high and narrow arch shaped corridors look like those of European
castles. The Dhammayangyi's brickwork is finely crafted - perhaps it is
the finest brickwork in Bagan.
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The Gubyaukgyi Temple at Myinkaba was built in 1113 AD
by Prince Rajakumar, son of King Kyansittha. In form, it is much like the
Apeyadana Temple but the richness of its decoration executed in plaster,
contrasts with the Apeyadana's simplicity. Dormer windows lighting the
cellar underneath, are set above the stepped pyramid that raises a mitre-shaped
tower like that of Ananda Temple. Moreover, a replica of a temple in a
slightly different form is set above the vestibule at its western end.
Gubyaukgyi Temple (Myingaba)
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The Gubyaukgyi Temple (Wetkyi-in), having a spire
resembling the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodha Gaya in India, was built in the
early 13th century. The main chamber is rectangular in plan rather than
square and the vestibule in the east is very much shortened. There is an
absence of windows and light is provided by latticed false doorways. This
temple is known for its wall paintings depicting scenes from the Jataka
(life stories of the Buddha). Stucco sculptures on the exterior of this
temple are in particularly good shape.
Gubyaukgyi Temple (Wetkyi-in)
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The Htilominlo Temple was built by King Nadaungmya in
1210 AD, early in his reign to commemorate his selection on this spot as
crown prince from among five sons of the king and he became his father's
successor. The Htilominlo Temple is a large three story red brick (with
some stones) temple on a low platform. It is originally covered in carved
white stucco and some of its exquisite finely detailed plasters still
remaining are worth seeing. The temple is similar in design and even in
detail to the earlier Sulamani Temple and the Gawdawpalin Temple both
built by the king's father. There are receding square terraces with stupas
or spires at each corner on the second and third levels. Each terrace was
originally decorated with terracotta plaques. Htilominlo's imposing
central spire rises a bit over 46 metres. The main shrine entrance hall is
extended on the eastern side of the structure. There are the remains of
fine murals on the interior walls. The damage from the earthquake of 1975
was repaired between 1976-1979.
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Mount Popa, also known as Myanmar's Mt. Olympus is
situated 80 kilometres southeast of Bagan. Popa derived from Sanskrit word
"Pushpa" meaning "Flower". Mount Popa, solitary massive volcanic peak, is
1500 metres above sea level. It was created by a violent volcanic eruption
in 442 BC.
It is a place of special importance in both the country's history and
culture. The natural springs, flowers and wooded hillsides offer greatly
contrast to the dry lands surrounding it. Therefore, it is called the "
Oasis of the Myanmar dry zone ". The climate is also totally different
from neighboring Bagan.
Mount Popa is considered as home of the Nats (Sprits). In Myanmar, Nat
worship remains and coexists with Buddhism and also remains an important
aspect of everyday life. The top of Mt. Popa, a major pilgrimage
destination, is covered by numerous shrines. Climbing to the top via a
winding, covered stairway complete with curious monkeys is interesting.
On the way, one can enjoy the cool mountain air, natural flora and fauna,
when reaching the top the views are fantastic. Nowadays, Mt. Popa area has
also been designated as a National Park, a perfect place for eco-tourism.
National Park covers an area of 49.63 square miles and is established in
1983. Ministry of Forestry is making concerted efforts to preserve the
forest area of Popa Mountain and to conserve the
unique dry zone ecosystem and biodiversity with various plants and
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The graceful bell shape of Shwezigon Stupa, situated
four miles northeast of Old Bagan is a prototype for later stupas of
Myanmar. It was built in the mid 11th century. Two great kings, Anawrahta
(1044 - 1077) and Kyansittha (1084 - 1113), are associated with the
construction of this massive pagoda. It was first built by King Anawrahta
who was able to finish only three terraces before he died. King Kyansittha
took up the task of completing the unfinished pagoda begun by his father.
In 1089, only in the reign of King Kyansittha, the pagoda was completed.
According to historical accounts, King Anawrahta had requested a copy of
the Tooth Relic from Sri Lanka. When the relic arrived by royal barge at
the shore of Bagan, the King himself descended neck-deep into the river to
receive it. Then he carried the Relic to the forepart of his palace and
installed it there for his private worship. Shin Arahan, a missionary monk
from Thaton, advised the king that for the benefit of men, devas and
brahmas, he should build a pagoda and enshrine the Relic within it so that
it might be worshipped for as long as the Sasana prevails in the world.
Accepting this advice, the king placed the Relic on the back of his white
elephant and set the animal free with this oath, " May my white elephant
bow down at the spot where the Tooth Relic wishes to reside". And the king
enshrined the Tooth Relic on the sand bank where the white elephant had
bowed its head and there began to build a pagoda. Chronicles describe that
Holly Tooth, Collar - Bone and other Relics of Buddha are enshrined in the
The stupa sits on three rising terraces. Enameled plaques in panels around
the base of the stupa illustrate scenes of the previous lives of the
Buddha. At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four
shrines where each of which houses a 4m high bronze standing Buddha cast
in 1102. These figures are Bagan's largest surviving bronze Buddhas.
The pagoda festival is held annually in October and November. It lasts for
several days during-which one can find food stalls, fun-fairs, shops
selling local products, dance, theatrical shows, magic shows, puppet shows
and so on. Usually the whole week is devoted to the celebration of the
pagoda festival and it is very lively because a great number of pilgrims
from all parts of the country come to the festival.
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Thatbyinnyu Temple ("omniscient" Temple), the highest temple in Bagan,
rises to 66 metres, standing proudly on the plain and is located just
inside the southeastern corner of the old city wall. It was built by King
Alaungsithu in the middle of 15th century.
Lengthy corridors and chambers within the temple are worth exploring. And
the flamboyant doorways are also worth a snap. This temple represents a
transition from the Mon period to a new architectural style that would
soon be followed at the Sulamani, the Gawdawpalin, and at the Htilominlo
The temple itself reflected that era's innovative architectural and
artistic creativity. Thatbyinnyu is a brick masonry building covered in
white stucco and with stone in pavements. There is a series of square
terraces on both the lower (three terraces) and upper (four terraces)
levels. The terraces contain indentations for the planned series of over
500 ceramic plaques.
The heavy damage was caused by the 1975 earthquake and repairs to
earthquake damages were being completed in 1979. Being the highest, it
overtops all other monuments and offers visitors a magnificent panoramic
view over Bagan although it is no longer permitted to climb right to the
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Bupaya is standing close to the Ayeyarwaddy River. The name Bupaya comes
from its bulbous resemblance to the "Bu or Gourd", while Paya means
pagoda. It is not clear when the original Bupaya was built. Tradition
suggests it had its origin during the reign of King Pyusawhti in the 3rd
As a result of the disastrous earthquake of 1975, the old Bupaya fell into
the nearby Ayeyarwaddy River and was totally destroyed. The former brick
masonry construct has since been replaced by a hallow reinforced concrete
structure in 1976-78.
The Bupaya is a small stupa setting on a polygonal platform made up of a
series of semi-circular terraces overlooking the river. It has long served
as a conspicuous landmark for river travelers. The Bupaya is also a
favorite place to watch the sunset.