Bagan stands, in many aspects, as not only one of the most remarkable religious sites in the world but also a genuine wonder of the world. The remains and the temple ruins highlight the glory days of ancient Bagan. Bagan empire was founded by a Burmese King Anawrahtta from 1044 with a succession of eleven kings throughout the dynasty. The conquest over Mon kingdom in the south in 1057AD was a turning point in Bagan’s history as the southern school of Buddhism was introduced by the Mon people. Many skilled artists and architects were also brought to Bagan for temple building. Although Bagan was invaded by Kublai Khan’s forces, it still remains as an important centre of Buddhist religion and culture of Burmese people well until the mid of 14th century before it was left deserted over centuries.
entering into the temple building era as the southern school of Buddhism was introduced by the Mon people and many of the skilled artists & architects were imported from India. In 1287, Kublai Khan’s forces invaded Bagan but it’s continued as an important centre of Buddhist faith and the culture of Burmese people well into mid 14th century, and then left deserted over centuries.
Nyaung U market is an ideal for tourists to enjoy bargaining for souvenirs alike from home-made quality lacquer-wares, colorful outfits, and postcards to woodcarvings. The best time to visit the busy bustling place is in the morning where hundreds of locals exchange their goods typically produced from central Myanmar including various shapes & sizes of woven bamboo baskets, stalks of Thanaka, palm sugar balls made from sweet toddy juice, packets of bean paste, trays of fresh vegetables & fruits, and all the materials & groceries for cooking of a Burmese family needs. Above all, the most interesting are the vendor women with beautiful patterns of Thanaka beautified on their cheeks.
The Shwezigon Paya was built by the King Anawrahta and his son, the successor King Kyansit made the finishing touch. The Shwezigon is a prototype of all later Myanmar styled stupas starting from 11th Century. The King Anawrahta built this stupa to house the holy relics he brought from China and Sri Lanka and also to mark the northern corner of his majestic city. The stone inscriptions in Mon language was done by King Kyansit at the western entrance. Like all Bagan monuments, this great pagoda has been damaged by earthquakes and other factors over the centuries. It has often been repaired, most notably by King Bayinnaung (r. 1551-1581), and the devastating earthquake of 1975 caused extensive damage that necessitated repairs to the top of the dome and the spire.
There are several caves like Kyansitthar Cave in Bagan is a fine example of its kind with interesting frescos using black and yellow pigments mainly, suggesting of its early age. The cave is named after the famous king Kyansit of 1090-1113 but the archeologists suggest that it might have originally been built that of his pre-successor. A cave in Bagan area is an ideal place for those who are practicing the meditation. The dark cells inside the caves not only provide coolness, serenity but also cut the noises from the outside world so that one can concentrate.
Htilominlo temple, built in 1218, is one of the biggest, multi-storied transitional styles of the last period of Bagan era. The temple was decorated with fine exterior pilaster-carvings and interior mural painting but some parts of the temple walls inside have been demised by the temple dwellers of WWII period.
Anada temple & Brick Monastery, built by Kyansitthar around 1090 AD, is one of the most well-known monuments in Bagan. The temple architecture indicates the achievement of apex of the first temple building period, from the single entrance east facing dimly lit single passage to the four-sided entrances, multi-passages for well ventilation & abounded light.
The two 9.5 meters high standing Buddha of 11th century origin with perspective effect on the faces can be found on the south, and the north sides of the temple.
It was built by King Alaungsithu in 1140 A.D. There is a legend saying, that there was a huge block of brick about 12 feet high sprouted from the ground in response to the king's greatness of accumulated merit. So with the huge block of brick, formed the plinth in the formation of the temple. It was mentioned that the Shwegugyi was completed in 7 months and 7 days. Shwegugyi Temple, which literally means the Great Golden Cave Temple, was built unusually on the raised platform in order to probably magnify this holy site than to the king’s palace right beside the temple.
Nathlaung kyaung means the place where the Nat spiritual figures are confined. Nathlaung Kyaung also means the monastery where the Nat spirits are reclining as there is a figure of Brahma reclining on the cosmic serpent inside the inner sanctum. As the story goes with King Anawrahtta efforts to banish the worshipping of other beliefs than Theravada Buddhism, assumptions were that the Nathlaung temple was the place where all the Nat spiritual figures and statues from other religions were confined in this place.
Nathlaung Kyaung was believed to be built around 930s AD, while others suggest to the early 11th century. The temple was believed to be built with the contribution of some Indian labors or architects from India during the Bagan’s primetime.
Manuha was named after the Mon king from Thaton who was held captive in Bagan by Anawrahta.
This temple was built by the king himself to express his stress and discomfort being as a captive king in the hand of his own enemy. Although it looks unimpressive from the outside, this temple houses figures of Buddhas that are far larger than life or odd to the Buddhist iconography. There are three gigantic Buddha images placed uncomfortably inside the small sanctums and a dead Buddha with a smile on his face. You can climb to the top of this paya via the stairs at the entrance to the reclining Buddha chamber, at the back of the temple. An outdoor corner of the temple compound is dedicated to Mt Popa's presiding nats, Mae Wanna and her sons Min Gyi and Min Lay.
The biggest temple in Bagan, and one can never wrong to orientate this pyramidal shaped temple from any accessible temple terrace. The temple was built in 1167 by the King called Narathu, famed for his bad deeds for killing his wife of an Indian emperor’s daughter, and his own father by smothering on his sickbed. The king ruled only for three years but he managed to finish this massive one in a short time. The temple is also rated as “best brickwork” as he often came to inspect the construction work and examine the brickworks by pushing a needle pin between two bricks. The punishment was awful. He cut the hands of masons if the pin went through! Later he was assassinated by eight Indians who where disguise as the Brahmans sent by the angry Indian emperor. Some also suggest that it was his temple builders as revenge. The temple was built on the same form of Ananda, with two passage ways. But the inner passage was blocked by the bricks and the rubbles without knowing the reason. It might be the payback of his workers or to support the heavy top by filling up the inner sanctum as a result of architectural faults.
Sulamani means "Crowning Jewel", was built in 1181 by King Narapati Sithu, who reigned from 1174 to 1211 and architecturally characterized as the achievement of Myanmar style with flat-roofs in sequences producing pyramidal effect. It has beautiful plaster works on the exterior walls.
The art of making lacquer ware can be found throughout Asia, yet it has various techniques to apply, different type of products, and diverse beauties. The production of Myanmar lacquer ware, can be traced back to Bagan era according to the archaeological findings, was probably arrived from northern Thailand or south China. In Myanmar alone, you can find four kinds of product variation excluding recent techniques adopted from Japan, Vietnam and China. For the visitors to Myanmar, various lacquer ware items ranging from simple boxes, flower vases, to the blinds are probably the best souvenirs from Myanmar. Of course, it is best to hunt the ones you like from the production workshops based in Bagan, although you can find cheap items selling in the market and pagoda stalls. One should be aware that lacquer wares can be produced within three days to one week when it is necessary to make it cheap. The authentic lacquer wares need from at least five to six months depending on the number of colors used, design patterns, and the number of layers. The right type of bamboo or the wood & the amount of time for seasoning, the quality of lacquer (produce from a tree called Kusam, Melanorihia Usitatar), following the correct steps to produce, and the design workmanship can largely affect the price of a lacquer item.