Bagan is the most beautiful jewel of Myanmar, a country in southeast Asia which newly opened themselves a few years ago.
What makes Bagan so special? What makes this ancient city so sought after by travelers? You can’t not love Bagan, with its morning view of fog enveloping the pagodas giving them a calming silhouette, trees warming their leaves in the sunlight and colorful air balloons rising up into the clouds that gives you a sense of paradise on earth. I wish I can go there! I have to watch all of it! And this wish of mine came true.
Home of Thousands Pagodas
Bagan is almost synonymous with pagoda. This ancient city, also known as Aramaddana-pura (literally, the “City that Tramples on Enemies”) or Tampadipa (bronzed country”), is home to over 10,000 Buddhist temples. From 11th to 13th centuries more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries were built in Bagan. Still standing now are just 2,000 because others were destroyed in several earthquakes. Just this year, an earthquake in central Myanmar damaged over 150 pagodas in one of the world’s best archaeological zones, prompting UNESCO to help in reconstruction.
Let’s explore Bagan. Choose among the thousands of pagodas the one that suits you best – the highest, the grandest, the most beautiful carvings, or the most historical. All in this enchanting city.
My first stop was the Ananda Temple, which some compare to the artistic and classical Westminster Abbey in London. It was built around 1105 during the reign of King Kyanzittha from Pagan Dynasty and is said to be one of his greatest accomplishments. The Buddhist temple is an architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon and Indian architecture. Laid out in a perfectly symmetrical cruciform with several terraces leading to a small pagoda, it is covered at the top by an umbrella structure known as hti which is found in almost all Myanmar pagodas. Four alcoves each house one golden standing Buddha statue made of teak wood facing East, North, West and South. You’ll be totally captivated by the statues’ faces glow with a surreal radiance an effect of natural light entering through the high dormer windows.
If you think that the golden Buddha statues are all there is to Ananda, you’re way off the mark! This temple packs in quite a lot of interesting stuff, including some of the best stone sculptures in Bagan. Especially beautiful and well preserved are the stone sculptures depicting episodes from Buddha’s life which are just excellent works of art. Equally interesting are the restored mural paintings of Buddha, Arahats and lotus flowers on the walls of the devotional hall.