Ancient City BAGAN
Bagan and its beautiful surroundings
One of the premier tourist destinations in Myanmar is Bagan. Located on the Eastern side of a major river, Ayeyarwaddy, it spans across an area of 42 Sq Km. It is also a prominent archaeological site and has well over 2000 ancient pagodas and temples.
Out of these temples, many are revered as destinations for peace seekers. Some major temples and their description is as follows:
• Shwezigon Pagoda: This is one of the oldest Pagodas built in Myanmar. It is said to be the inspiration for some of the temples to be built later in history. King Anawrahta started its construction and it was finally completed by The next predecessor, King Kyansittha in 1087. The famous spirit images called ‘Nat’, can be found engraved on the walls of the pagoda.
• Ananda Temple: This was the next temple in line after The Shwezigon Pagoda. Its construction started in 1090 AD and it considered being an early temple architectural masterpiece. Inside the temple, four huge idols of Buddha are seen in standing position. Alongside these are over eighty statues of Buddha, which depict the life span of Buddha, right from his birth to his enlightenment.
• Thatbyinnyu Temple: This pagoda is highest in Bagan. It is made up of white stucco and it shines like ivory in the Bagan skyline. King Alaungsithu started its construction in mid-12th century and gave due consideration to its architectural design and beauty. Fantastic views can be seen at any time of the day from the terrace of this temple.
• Gawdawpalin Temple: Made in the 13th century, this temple too is pretty high (60 m) and presents spectacular views of the Bagan plains.
• Dhammayangyi Temple: Floor area wise, this is the largest temple in the Bagan. Built in 1167 by King Narathu, this temple could not be finished for unknown reasons. But still, the exquisite brickwork done is something to be acknowledged even today.
• Shwesandaw Pagoda: This pagoda has a dominant Monk influence in its architecture. Commissioned by King Anawrahta in 11th century, it too took a long time to complete. To reach the terrace, one has to take a steep staircase. But all the effort does not go waste as the terrace has some spectacular views of the Bagan.
• Sulamani Temple: It was built by King Narapatisithu in 1181 AD. It is famous for murals which date back to11th century. It is constantly studied by archaeologists.
• Gubyaukgyi Temple: Indian influence and culture is pre-dominant in this 13th century temple. In the temple, there are a total 28 Buddha Statues. All are made in sitting position.
Being a religious hub of the ancient times, this city has many more famous temples, which are frequented by tourists like Mingala Zedi Pagoda, Manuha Temple, Lawkanada Temple, Bupaya Pagoda and Bagan Museum.
But the main travel destinations are not limited to just ancient temples. The city has beautiful natural surroundings. One of the main attractions is Popa Mountains. It is an extinct volcano, which is located 50 Km southeast of the city of Bagan. It is believed to be home to Spirits (nats). It makes for a beautiful picture as the mountains can be seen even from a considerable distance. The mountain range and its surroundings have been declared a National Park, which has increased its eco-tourism recently. Also in the foothills of the range is located a museum, which houses 37 spirits (nats). This serves as a spiritual spot for the devotees. To reach the pagodas or temples at the top of the summit, you have to do a lot of effort. There is a very steep staircase to be climbed but the view at the top makes this effort worth doing. The country side view os simply breathtakingly beautiful.
Next up in Bagan’s tourist attractions is the Sale, pronounced as Sa-ley. This small town is located along River Ayeyerwaddy. Sale has a prominent destination called ‘U Pone Nya Museum’. It was formerly known as the Yoke Sone Monastery. Ancient exhibition of antique laquer wares, wooden relief’s and a large standing gilded Buddha image can be seen in the museum. A nearby tourist stop is The Keythar Monastery (Tha-ta-na Kyaung). In here ancient Tipitaka texts are preserved in a big red colored lacquered cabinet.
All in all, Bagan offers a spiritual as well as adventurous tourist destination. It is worth a visit if you wish to see true Asian cultural heritage.