Bagan View

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If you think Sukhothai, Angkor Wat, and temples in Laos and China describe what a Buddhist kingdom looked like in its hay day, well a visit to Bagan will change your view forever. The kingdom of Bagan is on a different scale altogether. You can travel for 2 weeks in this majestic plain, and still not be able to explore all of these thousand year-old temples, pagodas, stupa and their unique history. There is a saying in Myanmar  about Bagan that one can’t move his/her finger to a direction without pointing to a pagoda.  Well it’s hard to argue why. The ruins of medieval Bagan are stretching out across the plain, as far as one’s eyes could see.  If you couldn’t make it to see Bagan, it means you’ve never made it to Myanmar. Here is our Happyfootprints’ must visit temples & pagodas.

1) Ananda Temple (Old Bagan)

Ananda-Temple Some places more than live up to the hype and the famous Ananda temple is one of them. In terms of architecture, this glowing masterpiece proudly holds the title as the most beautiful and best preserved in Bagan. It’s spires are covered in gold which glows in the sun. It is probably the most revered of the Bagan temples. It has four standing Buddha statues around the outside of the inner passage facing to the four points of the compass. Each of these statues are said to represent different parts of Buddha’s teachings. The base and the terraces are decorated with glazed tiles. Around the inner courtyard are also reliefs that are interesting. Standing up close, the Buddah statues in Ananda appear to scowl. The further you step back, the broader the smile becomes till it becomes a full grin showing a very clever piece of sculpturing. After the construction of the temple, King Kyanzittha  executed the architects just to make the style of the temple so unique.

2) Dhammayangyi Temple (Old Bagan)

Dhammayangyi-temple Famous for the ” largest of them all”, Dhammayangyi Temple is one of the most popular tourist places in Bagan with imposing structure from the outside, and its even more majestic and imposing hallways inside. Long, narrow corridors with an extremely high ceiling will make you feel surreal as if you were in one of the Hollywood films. But this temple has a very dark and grim history. It is built by the sadistic King Narathu who killed his own father, brother, and his queen. Legends say building of this temple was so demanding. The tyrant king mandated the mortar less brickwork fit together so tightly so that even a pin couldn’t pass between any two bricks. If a pin could penetrate in between the bricks, then the slaves were killed assumed as they lack of efficient work. Locals believe that the temple is haunted with the sin of those killings.

3) Shwesandaw Pagoda (Old Bagan)

Shwesandaw-Pagoda This is the place that everyone talks about going to watch the sunrise and the sunset in Bagan, and it’s hard to argue why. The panoramic view from this pagoda is purely majestic, breathtaking and one of the best in Asia. But the steep climb to the top that’s not for the faint of heart!  King Anawrahta, founder of first Burmese Kingdom, built Shwesandaw Pagoda after his conquest of then Mon Capital, Thaton.

4) Shwezigon Pagoda (Nyaung U & Wetkyi-in)

Shwezigon-Pagoda Considered to be the most significant monument for then- newly found Theravada Buddhism in Bagan, Shwezigon is very popular among local travellers and monks. Tourists normally says this pagoda is very similar the “Shwedagon of Yangon”, but make no mistakes, it was built way earlier than the Yangon’s jewel. Grand and majestic, Its graceful bell shape became a prototype for virtually all later pagodas all over Myanmar. It was first commenced by King Anawrahta and later completed by his successor, King Kyanzittha. It narrowly misses our top 3 due to lack of its architecture value and distinct history.

5) Sulamani Guphaya Temple (Minnanthu)

Sulamani-Guphaya-temple This red-brick temple is often left behind by the tourists. But this hidden treasure, Sulamani represents some of Bagan’s finest ornamental work which are carved stucco on mouldings, pediments and pilasters Built by King Narapatisithu, the interior face of the temple wall was once lined with a hundred monastic cells, a feature unique among Bagan’s ancient monasteries. Guphaya means small ruby and the name goes well with the place.

6) Thatbyinnyu Temple (Nyaung U & Wetkyi-In)

Thatbyinnyu-temple Towering above the other monuments of Bagan, this temple is famous for being the tallest in Bagan and its neat brickwork, which is so carefully done that a knife blade can’t pass between the bricks. Unfortunately, an earthquake years ago made the structure unstable, so climbing up the temple is now prohibited. The temple is visible from nearly every vantage point around Bagan. Try this out. No matter which angle you aim through your camera, it will always give you a perfect host.

7) Manuha Temple (Myinkaba)

Manuha-temple The temple has a very unique structure, and an even more intriguing history. The name “Manuha” was given after the captive Mon king from Thaton. The Buddha statues all seem too large for their enclosures, and their cramped, uncomfortable positions are said to represent the stress and lack of comfort the ‘captive king’ had to endure. It is said that only the reclining Buddha, in the act of entering nibbana, has a smile on its face, showing that for Manuha only death was a release from his suffering. This is one of the first places that Aung San Suu Kyi visited when she was released from the house-arrest.

8) Gawdawpalin Temple (Old Bagan)

Gawdawpalin-temple Famous for the “temple of forgiveness”, Gawdawpalin was built in 1175 by King Narapatisithu. History says that the King has committed a terrible crime against his ancestors and as punishment went blind until he came to give his regards and his forebears made, paid obeisance in atonement for his misdemeanor. Gawdawpalin is counted as one of the largest shrines of Bagan. The temple is a double-storeyed temple in the late style. It is square in plan, with porticoes on all four sides, but with the eastern portico projecting further than the others. In the ground storey, a vaulted corridor runs around a central block against whose four sides are placed images of the Buddha.


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