Bagan, located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, is home to the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world with many dating from the 11th and 12th centuries. The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.
With regards to tour comparison between this immense archeological site and the other significant archeological gem of Southeast Asia, the Angkor sites, this analogy may be helpful:
Angkor ruins are like a Chinese Lauriat banquet where food is presented in spectacular servings with a suspenseful wait between items which are hidden beneath curtains of forests. On the other hand, Bagan is served in Spanish Tapas style, the ingredients exposed to the customer and shown in small bite-size servings, with the next attraction close and visible at hand, in shorter intervals.
Another analogy between Angkor and Bagan Sites when distinguishing temple structures is through their stupa and spire shapes.
Artichokes and corncobs = Angkor while gourds and durians (or pineapple) = Bagan.
An example is gourd for Shwezigon Pagoda and durian for Ananda, Thatbyinnyu, and Mahabodi Temples. In another way of imagining, Bagan temples are like topped with inverted ice cream cones.
What makes the temples look romantic is the process of graceful aging. For some reason, there are no windbreakers around as shown by the barren, desert-dry mountain range to the west past the river, spinning occasional micro twisters that spawn loose dust particles everywhere from the eroded earth to the structures. This phenomenon had peeled off so much the stucco coating of the temples to reveal the brick structural blocks with its rusty, reddish, and sometimes golden brown-like patina when hit by the sun's rays.
Erosion is a significant threat to this area, not only the wind chipping away the buildings' plastering but also water from the mighty Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River threatens the riverbanks. The strong river current has already washed away half of the area of Old Bagan. It used to be a rectangular-shaped piece of enclave protected by a perimeter wall. Now what remains is roughly the triangular eastern half part.
Other images of Bagan which make a lasting impression to tourists aside from the spire-fringed skyline; stupas sporting that tumbledown look yet crowned with glitter-studded golden miter-like sikaras; the ubiquitous pair of ferocious stone lions flanking a temple's door; the spiky and lacy eave fascia woodcarvings lining a monastery's ascending tiers of roofs; tall palmyras or toddy palms with willowy trunks, bougainvilleas, exotic cotton trees, and the likes bringing life to the arid landscape and abandoned ruins; squirrels playfully and acrobatically scampering on the walls and pediments of temples; horse drawn carriages lazily carrying drop-jawed tourists; sleepy moving grandfather's bullock carts grinding on a dust-choked trail; not to mention the garbage left around, stray dogs loitering, longyiclad men spitting betel chews in copious amounts everywhere, overgrown weeds and the pestering dust.
Baganbecame a central powerbase in the mid-9th century under King Anawratha (The First Myanmar Empire Kingdom), who’s unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar, and Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes". Approximately 2,200 remain today, in various states of disrepair. Some are large and well maintained, such as the AnandaPahto, others are small tumbledown relics in the middle of overgrown grass. All sites are considered sacred, so when visiting, be respectful including removing shoes as well as socks before entering or stepping onto them.
Bagan's golden age ended in 1287 when the Kingdom and its capital city was invaded and sacked by the Mongols. Its population was reduced to a village that remained amongst the ruins of the once larger city. In 1998, this village and its inhabitants were forcibly relocated a few kilometers to the south of Bagan, forming "New Bagan" where you will find accommodation in its handful of cheap, quaint, clean hotels and religious centers.
Despite the majesty and importance of Bagan, UNESCO did not include it on its World Heritage Site, because it says some temples were rebuilt in anun-historicway. Nonetheless, the site is arguably as impressive as the Pyramids of Egypt: a dry, vast open landscape dominated entirely by votive architecture.
Bagan was a sample in the wake of generosity and awareness such religious monuments as pagodas, stupas, caves and monasteries. The ceiling and the walls were full with paintings of Buddha and its stories, images, picture of Bagan people, their music and dance and animals with decorations. Nowadays Bagan is well known for very unique, boasting a long-running lacquer ware tradition. It is located in an active earthquake zone, had suffered from many earthquakes over the ages, and with over 400 recorded earthquakes between 1900 to present. The last major earthquake came on 8 July 1975, reaching 8 MM in Bagan. Many of these damaged pagodas underwent restorations in the 1990s by the Government which sought to make Bagan an international tourist destination.
Bagan today is a main tourist destination in the country. There is a well-known saying of Myanmar people: "If you are a real Myanmar, you must have been to Bagan." Bagan is a true spirit of history of Myanmar.
Different ways of transportation are available to tour around the pagodas such as by car, horse cart, by cycling for those who would like to do sightseeing around Bagan. What is more, visitors can also enjoy an idyllic sunset boat trip along the Ayeyarwaddy River to enjoy the beautiful sunset while enjoying a cold drink.
Due to the archaeological heritage effort, Bagan will be unchanged forever.
It means "Rock Cave Tunnel" is meant Rock Cave Tunnel is interesting because of the use it makes of a nature topographical feature. Much of Bagan is flat land, but it is also cut up by ravines and the site chosen for this temple is the precipitous side of a deep ravine. The temple is built into the cliff side and consists of high ground storey surmounted by two receding terraces on which stands a small step. A high - archway flanked by perforated window on either side provides entry into the temple,which has a large square hall. Two huge pillars in the center provide support for the roof and terraces above.
Gubyaukgyi Temple (Myinkaba)
This Gubyaukgyi - meaning "Great Painted Cave Temple" - which is located in Myinkaba is to be differentiated from another temple of the same name situated near Wetkyi-in village.
The Gubyaukgyi has as its back - ground the romance of Kyansittha and Thambula. The chronicles relate that, once,fleeing from the wrath of King Anawrahta (1044 - 1077). Kyansittha came to a place where lived a monk with his niece Thambula, who was fair to behold and endowed with all the signs of royalty. There he tarried until he was recalled to the court. On leaving, he gave a ring to Thambula, now heavy with child,telling her to sell the ring to Thambula, now heavy with child,telling her to sell the ring to nurture the child if it were a girl, but to bring the ring and the child to court if it were a boy. Seven years passed, and Kyansittha was now king, when Thambula operated at the court with the ring and a young boy Kyansittha, filed with joy,madeThambula his queen and gave her the title Triokavatan-sakadevi, "Chaplet of the Three Worlds" On the song, Rajukumarb has also showered favours , although it was not Pajakumar but a grandson by a daughter whom he made Hair - Apparent . The dedicatory inscription of the Gubyaukgyi goes on to relate the circumstances under which the temple was built.
After 1,628 years of the Religion,Sri Tribhuvanadityadhammararaja became King at Anmaddanapura. The King's beloved wife was Trilokavatamsakadevi.The son of the beloved wife was Rajakumar.The King gave three villages of slaves to the beloved wife. Whenthe beloved wife died the king gave all her ornaments and the village of slaves to Rajakumar.
Standing on a site close to what was once the busy harbor of Pagan , the Lawkananda - Lokananda in Pali ,meaning "Joy of the world" was built by King Anawrahta (1044 - 1077) to enshrine a holy tooth replica .The chronicles relate that the King of Ceylon sent Anawrahta a holy tooth relic and that , when the ship from Ceylon arrived in the harbourAnawrahta himself descended neck - deep into the water to bear on his head the jeweled casket holding the holy tooth relic and carry it to the palace. The holy relic was enshrined in the Shwezigon but when Anawrahta made a solemn vow, and said "if I am to attain Buddha hood let another holy tooth appeared.
Again he made a vow, and there was another tooth.... and still another... until there were four replicas. One of these holy tooth replicas he enshrined in the Lawkananda which he built near the place where the holy tooth relic had first arrived and where he had descended into the water to receive it. The Lawkananda has three receding octagonal terraces the - lower two of which can be ascended by flights of steps. The bell - shaped dome,much more elongated than that of later pagodas,rises above the terraces and merges directly into a ringed conical finial.