With over 2,000 monuments covering an area of 16 square miles, Bagan’s landscape can be overwhelming for visitors at first sight. Bagan is one of the many legacies left by ancient Myanmar civilizations. Thought to have been founded by Thamoddarit in the early 2nd century, the earliest monument found in Bagan was the city wall with twelve gates and a mote, built by King Pyinbya in 849 CE. At its peak, Bagan Kingdom stretched from Bamo (current Myanmar Kachin state) in the north to Thanlwin River in the south (further down from Yangon). The most revered king in Myanmar history from Bagan era, King Aanwratha (1044-1077), is accredited for development of Buddhism in Myanmar. His votive clay tablets, the inscriptions of prayers and donations are found widely in Myanmar. It is thought to be that the builders of Bagan used both wood and brick materials for the buildings, however, only remains of the brick buildings can be found after about a thousand years. Rich with ruins from the 11th century, Bagan is a must see for all visitors. There are several daily direct flights from Yangon to Bagan (Nyaung-U) and it takes about 1 hour 20 minutes. Flights from Mandalay to Bagan (Nyaung-U) take only 30 minutes and it is also the same travel time for Heho (Inlay) flights to Bagan. See our flight schedule to look at flights to and from Bagan.
Famous Pagodas in Bagan
Shwezigon was first built by King Anaweahta (1044-1077), then completed by Kyansittha (1084-1113). Situated between the village of Wetkyi-in and Nyaung U, Shwezigon enshrines one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth from Sri Lanka. Read More
The Ananda temple, found near the Tharaba gate (the only gate remaining of the original 12 in the old Bagan city walls) is one of the Bagan’s best known temples.Read More
The Dhammayan-gyi (gyi mean large in Burmese) is the largest temple in Bagan, built in a similar plan as the Ananda Temple. Legend has it that it was built by King Narathu as atonement to redeem for his evil actions during his rule.Read More
Thatbyinnyu Temple is the tallest structure in Bagan (201 feet from the base to the tip), built by King Alaung Sithu in 1144 CE. Thatbyinnyu means omniscience in Pali, embodying the omniscience attained on becoming enlightened.Read More
Bu Paya or Bu Pagoda (Paya means Pagoda in Burmese) is said to be constructed in about 850 CE by King Phyusaw. Bu meaning “gourd”, the pagoda is cylindrical shaped. The pagoda is located on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River and it was completely destroyed in the 1975 earthquake, tumbled into the river during the quake. It has since been rebuilt, with steps leading into the river. The Pyu-style pagoda enshrined Buddha’s relics.
Tharabar Gate is the only structure left of the old city built by King Pyinbya in 849 CE. Tharabar means ‘shielded against arrows’, it is derived from Pali word ‘Sarabhanga’.The gate is the eastern gate of the old city wall. The western and northern part of the city wall were destroyed and washed away by the river. One of the original twelve gates of the old city, it is known to be guarded by spiritual beings. According to the local belief, there are two spiritual beings, brother and sister, guarding the gate; the left side of the gate is guarded by the brother, Lord of the Great Mountain, and the right side is guarded by the sister, Golden Face. Even though most of the structures were destroyed, the stucco carvings of the ogres remained in good structure.
Myoe Daung Monastery
Myoe Daung Kyaung or Myoe Daung Monastery is the main monastery building in Bagan. Myo Daung means corner of the city. Unlike other structures in Bagan, it is a wooden monastery built in the 19th century. It is the main monastery building in Bagan, built in Kon-baung style. Although most of its significant elements, particularly the woodcarvings, are from the pre-colonial period, some of the rooms are added later.
Mingala Zedi Pagoda
Mingala Zedi Pagoda is situated close to Ayeyawaddy River bank, built by King Narathiha-pate in 1284 CE. Modeled on Shwezigon, it is one the late period monuments in Bagan built during the declining years. Often noted as the high water marks of Myanmar Buddhist architecture, the Mingalar Zedi sets a standard model for later pagodas in the country. The three terraces are decorated with beautiful glazed plaques depicting 550 Jataka stories in reliefs. Mingala Zedi is frequented by visitors for a panoramic view of the monuments as the top terrace is one of the highest points accessible.
Gawdaw Palin Temple
Gawdaw Palin pagoda is one of the big cave pagodas in Bagan. It was built by King Narapatisithu in 1175 CE to commemorate paying homage ceremony to the ancestors. According to the legend, the king turned blind as a punishment for a sin against his ancestors – by thinking that they were not as great as he. As advised by astrologers, the king made idols of his ancestors to put them on thrones and asked for forgiveness. Gawdaw Palin, which means ‘the throne which was once worshipped’, is where the ceremony took place.
An original art work from the era can be found on the north-east corner of the brick platform, a stone image of sitting Buddha I a house, however, due to whitewash by the devotees, the later period frescoes are visible only faintly. After the 1975 earthquake, a secret passage around the base of the Sikhara was discovered. The earthquake also damaged the Pagoda badly and the heads of many Buddha statues inside fell down which are now exhibited in Bagan Archeological Museum. The glazed plaques adorning the structure were vandalized and only few are left to be seen today.
The Bagan Archaeological Museum is situated within the Old Bagan city near the Gawdawpalin Temple. The Museum was first opened in 1979 and opens Tuesday to Sunday between 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except for gazette public holidays. The old archeological museum is on the precinct of the Ananda Temple, established in 1904. As the old museum became congested, the new museum began constructions in 1967 to house all the new acquisitions. Exhibits include Buddha images of bronze, stone and wood from 11th to 13th century, as well some Prehistoric Age fossils and bronze tools.
The Mahabodhi Temple was built by King Zeya Thein Kha in 1215 CE and it is almost identical to the Maha Bodhi Pagoda at Bodhgya in India. Built as a copy of the Maha Bodhi at Bodhgya, it also holds seven sacred places in the Pagoda compound except for the slight differences in position. The seven sacred places represent where the Lord Buddha adjourned for seven days at each place after the enlightenment. Of the seven places, the lake of Muncalinda represented near Maha Bdi Pagoda in Bodhgya, lies on the north-west, as the rain-water coming down from the Pagoda flows, whereas it should be on the south.
Inside the niches on the faces of the Sikhara, there are 469 Buddha statues with different postures- standing, sitting,and reclining. The north, south and west side of the main structure was decorated with plaster moldings of deva figures and birds and floral designs. There is an inscription on the eastern wall of the upper vaulted corridor. The thirteen links started that the Pagoda was built and dedicated by Nan Taung Mya, son of King Narapatisitu, that the measurement of the land he donated to was recorded in history, that he prayed and made a vow to the Pagoda, a curse may fall onto those who destroyed his donated properties.
Patho Thamya Temple is a cave pagoda built in the early period of Bagan. It was believed to have been built by Kind Taung Thu Gyi , however, the designs and inner mural paintings suggest that it could have been the time of King Saw Lu (1077-84) or King Kyansittha (1084-1113). Potho Thamya means ‘sons of the stupa’ referring to the many stupas along the terrace and at corners surrounding the stupa on the top. The niches inside the stupas hold original Buddha statues of plaster molding. Sadly, only five of the Buddha statues in the niches are left due to problems with thefts. Inner walls of the surrounding stupas are decorated with frescos in which the artists depicted scenes of musicians and dancers performing.
Gu Byauk Gyi and Gu Byauk Nge, Myinkaba
Gu Byauk Gyi Pagoda is a cave pagoda of early time; built in 1113 CE by Prince Yaza Kumaya, it is believed to be the cave pagoda once held a gold cast of Buddha’s image. The design of it allows very little light inside, hence, mural paintings on its walls are preserved.
Gu Byauk Nge Temple was built by King Nadaungmyar in 1198 CE. The Temple is decorated with floral designs depicting flowers and animals inside. The stone inscription indicated that the land and the slaves villages were donated to the temples by the king.
Shwe Gu Gyi Temple
Shwegu Gyi Temple, often referred to as Nan-U Paya due to being built at the front of the palace, was built by King Alaung Sikhara (or Sithu) in 1141 CE. The brick plinth wall was adorned with green glazed tiles. Only three of the deva figures remained on the southern side of the wall. The Temple houses two stone slab inscriptions in Pali. The inscriptions indicated that it took 7 months and 7 days to build the Pagoda. It also referred to King Alaung Sithu as ‘Thiritibuvanaditya pavara dhammaraja’, his regional title, and that the king built the pagoda to attain Nivirna and he took refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (also known as the three gems of Buddhism). It also scribed the king’s prayers, that he would be able to do welfare for others and himself, returns the debt of gratitude to whomever owed to, saves all the beings from sufferings of Samsara (cycle of re-briths) and to become one worshipped and adored by humans and devas just like Miteya, the future Buddha.
Mya Zedi Pagoda
Mya Zedi, is renowned for an inscription, often referred to as Myanmar Rosetta Stone. The inscription is written in four languages, Pyu, Mon, Old Burmese and Pali; this enabled modern day scholars to translate texts written in Phyu, an ancient language based on the inscription. The four stone pillars with inscription on each language, it tells the story of Prince Raza Kumar and King Kyansittha. Mya Zedi, ‘Emerald Pagoda’, was built by Prince Raza Kumar in memory of his mother the queen.
Shwe Sandaw Pagoda
Built by King Anawratha in 1057 CE, Shwe Sandaw pagoda is famous for stone, brick and bronze Buddha images, crafted during Anawratha’s time. There are several image houses at Shwe Sandaw pagoda. A reclining Buddha image of 70 feet long is housed inside an image house on the west of the pagoda. The original frescoes inside the walls of the image house are fairly preserved. The bronze images, 50 bronze statues of Buddha, were found at the pagoda during renovation in 1957. They are now on exhibited at the Bagan Archeological Museum. Nine more bronze Buddha statues were discovered after the 1975 Earthquake and they were also moved to the museum.
Nanphaya Temple is one of the four standstone monuments in Bagan. It is believed that the great grandson of King Manuha built the temple in late 11th century or early 12th century. The stone reliefs on the four pillars of the interior chamber are well-preserved and the master’s craftsmanship can be admired for the intricate floral details. The stone reliefs also depicted the Brahmas and ogres figures. There are Buddhist and Mon motifs on the decorative artworks found adorning the external base of the structure.
The Sulamani Temple, meaning the crowning jewel (in Pali Culamcini) and also referred to as the ‘small ruby’ temple, was built in 1183 CE by King Narapatisithu. Legend has it that the king saw a ruby shining in a hollow when returning to Baga from climbing Mount Tuywin and took it as a sign to offer merit at the site. Glazed terracotta plaques decorate the terraces of the Temple and several original Buddha images can be found inside the Temple.
Htilominlo Temple was built by king Zeya Theinkha in 1218 CE. According to the legend, the King Narapati Sithu (father of king Zeya Theinkha) favored him to succeed him, however, he wants to fair amongst his five sons so he places a white umbrella (symbolizing the kingship) in the center of the sons and prayed that ‘may the white umbrella incline towards the son who deserves to be the Crown Prince’. The white umbrella inclined towards Zeya Theinkha and he later built Htilominlo on the site.
The main pagoda is noted for the brick laying work, there were no iron, or wooden, beams used at the buttress. The structure was decorated with green and yellow glazed sandstone tiles. Original paintings can be found on the ceilings of the vaulted corridors of the temple, also ink inscriptions and the horoscopes of certain personages.
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