The historical temple complex of old Bagan
Of course, not all of the historical structures that have survived around the ancient city of Bagan can be described. The following tiny selection only briefly introduces the most important ones.
This Buddhist temple was built in 1091 under the rule of King Kyanzittha. The name of what is certainly the most famous temple in Bagan refers to the Buddha’s cousin. But once it was called “Ananta-Temple” and corresponded with the words “ananta pinya”, which means “endless wisdom”. The temple, which is held in the Indian architectural style, contains four standing Buddha statues, which are decorated with gold leaf and each in one of the look four cardinal points. The temple consists of several terraces and ends in a small pagoda and an umbrella (= hti). On the sides of the terraces and on the foundation are terra cotta illustrations to see the scenes from the Jataka (= folkloric myth literature, which deals with the birth of the Buddha).
This small pagoda on the Ayeyarwady River was built around the 1000s and impresses with its round shape. The entire pagoda is adorned with gold leaf. The actual structure was completely destroyed in the 1975 earthquake and later rebuilt using modern materials – with little attention to the historical original.
Built in the 1100s, this temple was built under either King Narathu or King Alaungsithu. In any case, the Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest in Bagan. It was never completed and its design is closely related to the Ananda Temple.
The construction of this temple stretched from the rule of Narapatisithus (1174-1211) to that of King Htilominlo (1121-1234). The second largest temple in Bagan is similar to Thatbyinnyu Temple, has two floors and contains three lower and four higher terraces. After being badly damaged in the 1975 earthquake, it was rebuilt in the years that followed.
The temple was built under King Htilominlo in 1211, has three floors and is 46 m high. The building made of red brick shows four Buddha statues on the ground floor, each looking in one of the four cardinal directions. It was also damaged in the earthquake in 1975 and was later restored.
The “Joy of the World” is a Buddhist zedi that originated under King Anawrahta. The pagoda contains a copy of a tooth relic of the Buddha and in 2003 received an umbrella (= hti) adorned with precious stones, which today sits enthroned on the roof of the pagoda.
built under Htilominlo in the mid-1200s, it was designed based on the temple of the same name in Bihar (India). Most characteristic is the large pyramid tower with the many niches in which there are over 450 images of the Buddha according to franciscogardening. The temple was destroyed in the 1975 earthquake and later restored.
The pagoda, built under King Narathihapate in 1284, is one of the few temples in Bagan with a complete arrangement of glazed terra cotta tiles that tell of the life of the Buddha. Over several levels you get to the stupa, which is crowned by an umbrella with precious stones.
Nathlaung Kyaung Temple
This temple is dedicated to Vishnu and is the only surviving Hindu temple in Bagan. It is also one of the oldest temples in Bagan. Its creation falls in the 1000s and under the rule of King Anawratha. It contains statues of 7 avatars (= god or divine qualities in animal or human form).
Under the king Alaungsithu this temple was built in 1131, which stands on a huge stone foundation. The temple is known for its arched windows, among other things.
This Buddhist pagoda contains a series of five terraces topped by a cylindrical stupa. On the stupa lies an umbrella decorated with precious stones. The pagoda was founded in 1057 under Anawrahta. In it (allegedly) sacred hair of Gautama Buddha is kept.
The main gate to Bagan is to the east of the terrain and is one of the few remaining gates of the old city wall. The gate consists of two shrines facing each other. These represent two guardian spirits named Mahagiri and Shwemyitna.
The temple, built under Alaungsithu in the mid-1100s, is not symmetrical despite its cross shape. It has two floors, with a statue of the seated Buddha on the second.
When visiting the temple area, make sure that the old religious buildings are viewed by the Burmese as active holy places. Respectful behavior and appropriate clothing therefore characterize the prudent traveler!
More pagodas, stupas and temples in the vicinity of Bagan
This Buddhist temple is located in the village of Pwasaw, east of Bagan. It was built in 1196 under Narapatisithu and has three terraces containing terra cotta tiles with depictions of the birth of Buddha.
Hmyatha Umin and Thameewhet Umin
The underground temple is located east of Nyaung U and dates from the 13th century.
This pagoda with its many terraces and the stupa is located a few meters south of the Thetkya Muni Temple.
Kyaukku Umin Temple
Translated, the name means “rock cave temple “. It is located a few hundred meters southeast of the Kondawgyi Pagoda. The hard-to-find temple is best reached by boat or taxi.
This Buddhist temple in Myinkaba was built in 1067 by the Mon king Manuha and is therefore one of the oldest in Bagan. The rectangular building has two floors and shows three statues of the seated Buddha.
An example of the famous “Myazedi Inscription” (also “Rajakuma Inscription” or “Gubyaukgyi Stone Inscription”) can be seen in the Myazedi Pagoda in Myinkaba Village. This inscription dates back to 1113 and is considered the oldest surviving stone inscription Myanmar.
The Palace Temple is a Hindu sanctuary in Myinkaba, a village south of Bagan. It was built by the Mon king Manuha and also served as his residence. The temple contains representations of some Hindu gods.
The “Group of the Three Buddhas” is located in Minnanthu, a village southwest of Bagan. The temple actually consists of three temples, which are connected by narrow passages. There are frescoes inside the temple. The temple has recently been provided with lighter stupas.
amidst the city Nyaung U in the Anawratha-Road is this pagoda, which was created in the Sinhalese style.
The well-known pagoda is located in Nyaung U, probably the largest city near Bagan. It is a prototype of a Burmese stupa. The pagoda consists of a stupa decorated with gold leaf, which is surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. Its construction lasted from the reign of King Anawratha to that of Kyanzittha in 1102. The imposing structure is said to contain a bone and a tooth of the Buddha.
This Buddhist temple in Minnanthu is one of the most visited temples in Bagan. It was built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu and resembles both Thatbyinnyu Temple and Dhammayangyi Temple. It was restored after the 1975 earthquake.
The temple from the 13th century has three terraces with a stupa and has some wall paintings inside. It is located approximately 500 meters east of the boat dock in Nyaung U.
A word about architecture
The pagodas of Burma are usually crowned by stupas. The design of the stupa originally came from India and Sri Lanka, from where the practiced Theravada Buddhism originates. A stupa is a further development of the Indian burial mounds. In Burma, the stupas usually rise above a rectangular or square base. In Burma these are divided into:
Zedi : Massive, solid structures
Patho : Hollow stupas, which are criss-crossed with corridors and chambers.
Near Bagan was at times the pilgrimage site for Theravada Buddhists from mainland Southeast Asia. The ultimate goal in the life of a Burmese is to build a stupa. This is a credit to both the sponsor and his descendants. The founder received the name, honorable stupa builder, Paya-dagayi.
Ayeyarwady River (also Irrawady )
Bagan stretches along the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River, a 2,092 kilometer long river with a catchment area of around 414,000 km2.
The river has its source in the Himalayas and flows from there to Myanmar, where it enters the Gulf of Martaban