Bagan is a real playground for a treasure hunt inspired pagoda hopping excursion where each turn gives you a clue to unearth next surprise. With more than 2500 Buddhhist Temple and Stupas, few ancient sites can boast of such dense presence of archaeological sites like Bagan in Maynmar. Bagan presents a clutter free panoramic view of Pagoda laden landscapes with Irravady meandering through. With its raw and yet to be commercialized travel scene, Bagan is one of the best Buddhist Archeological sites rivaling Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Bagan’s landscapes have pagodas of all colors, hues, size and style making, this ancient town one of the fastest growing tourist attraction of the world.
My first tryst with this open air museum left me speechless and overwhelmed. I traversed through hundreds of Pagodas during my two days stay in Bagan, and witnessed many stunning and photogenic Pagodas some during sunrise, sunset and day time. The compounding aura of Bagan makes all its pagodas to exhume a peaceful and mystic charm that engulf every travelers into its glory.
Bagan Archeological Zone – Things to know
With its majestic skyline dotted with Pagodas as far as you can see, Bagan Archaeological Zone is one of the most rewarding and exquisite sites of Asia. Bagan, formerly known as ‘Pagan’ was the capital of the present day Myanmar between 9th and 13th century. Once it had more than 10000 Pagodas consisting of Stupas and Temples both, which now reduced to some 2500 pagodas mostly due to multiple earthquakes and some devastating invasion and plundering by Mongols.
Popular Legend of Bagan
Gautam Buddha traveled to the hills of Mount Tangyi overlooking Bagan on the opposite bank of the Irrawaddy River. He saw a white heron, a black crow, a lizard and a frog in a tree and with his divine power, prophesied that at this site the city of a great city would arise 651 years after his death. This prophecy is an important foundation myth of the kingdom of Bagan, which was at it height between the 11th and 13th centuries and unified tribes which is now Myanmar. At its prime, this part of the world was known as the Golden Earth and had more than 10000 pagodas.
- Its classical Pali name is Arimaddana-pura which means The city that tramples on enemies.
- Bagan Archeological Zone and its monuments are in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Total area of Archeological zone is defined as the 13 x 8 km area centered around Old Bagan, consisting of Nyaung U in the north and New Bagan in the south.
- An entry fee of USD25 per person is charged which is valid for 5 days. Always carry your Bagan Archaeological Zone Pass wherever you go.
- Difference between Pagoda, Stupa and Temple
- Pagoda is a generic name for stupa and temple and refers to any sacred place
- Stupa is a kind of structure usually with a relic chamber inside it. They are religions place where one can go around but generally can’t go into – because there is no entrance.
- Temples are the place of worship where one can go inside usually with a Buddha Statue.
- Riding an e–bike is the best way t explore Bagan. Its costs USD5 for a day.
- Make sure you take your shoes and socks off before entering any Pagoda.
- Best time to visit – October to February.
Bagan’s Best Pagodas – Photographer’s Delight
With its Pagoda laden vistas, Bagan is sure to be an overwhelming experience and feel you with overflowing delight. Its more than 2500 Pagodas are enough to spoil you with choices. We, here, list down must visit Pagodas which are stunning presenting an ideal setup for photographer in you specially during Sunrise and Sunset.
Stunning Pagodas of Bagan – Shwesandaw Pagoda
Shwesandaw Pagoda is the epicenter of Bagan as it offers most spectacular 360 degree views of Bagan stretching up to Irrawaddy River. It enshrines Buddha’s hair which makes it one of the most important Buddhist place. In earlier times, it was also known as Ganesha Temple for it had statues of Ganesha, the elephant God of Hindus, at each terrace. During Sunrise and Sunset, it is the best place to enjoy plains of Bagan dotted with bricked Pagodas.
Also read – MAJESTIC MYANMAR IN 5 DAYS
Best of Bagan – Dhammayangyi Temple
Dhammayangyi Temple, a pyramid-shaped Pagoda, is the largest monument of the Bagan. During my riding through Bagan’s plain, Dhammayangyi Temple was like a light house as it was almost visible from every where. This huge temple was started by King Narathu as a penance for murdering his father and thus to compensate for his bad karma. However, this temple could not be completed as King Narathu was killed by invaders and since then it is taken as a cursed place which no one wants to renovate.
Also Read – TOMB OF BAHADUR SHAH ZAFAR, THE LAST MUGHAL
Must visit pagoda of Bagan – Thatbyinnyu Temple
Located at north-east corner of Old Bagan, Thatbyinnyu Temple was built in 12th century and is the highest Pagoda of Bagan. The imposing pagoda with gilded top, towering above other nearby temples and pagodas is visible from much of the Bagan plains.
Hindu Temple of Bagan – Nathlaung Kyaung Temple
Nathlaung Kyaung Temple is one of the two last surviving Hindu Temples of Bagan. Earlier, there were many Hindu Temples and Hindu Gods were also present in many Buddhist Pagoras. Nathlaung Kyaung Temple is located next to Thabyinyu Temple and is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu.
Hindu Temple of Bagan – Nanpaya Temple
Nanpaya Temple is the another surviving Hindu Temple in Myinkaba VIllage of Bagan. It is built next to Manuha Temple and is dedicated to Hindu God Brahma. It has intricate carvings of depicting other Hindu Gods.
Stunning Pagodas of Bagan – Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple is one of the most accomplished monument of Bagan built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu. The remarkable top of the Sulamani comprises of a shikhara, a tower structure originating from North India was crushed to ground during a recent earthquake in August 2016. Reconstruction work is in full progress and hopefully Sulamani temple will achieve its full glory.
Sulamani temple is well known for its mural and frescos which depicts Jataka Stories, the stories from the previous incarnations of Buddha. The grand structure and wall paintings makes it one of the most visited monument of Bagan.
The latest & the last Pagoda of Bagan – Pyathat Gyi Temple
I find Pyathat Gyi Temple to be the most stunning and photogenic temple with its impressive brick work. It is one among few of the remaining double cave monasteries which were influenced by Indian style monument building. It is one of the last big Pagodas of Bagan that was built in 13th century by King Kyasa and thus represents the most evolved version of Bagan style of architecture.
Also read – A UNIQUE FESTIVAL AT INLE LAKE, MYANMAR
Pagoda hopping in Bagan – Gubyaukgyi Temple
Gubyaukgyi Temple located in Myinkaba VIllage, south of Bagan is a large Budhhist complex built in late 12th century. It has a large collection of well-preserved frescos totaling 547 depicting various Jataka tales. This temple is heavily inspired by Mahabodhi temple of India, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.
Mahabodhi Temple – Replica of Indian Temple at Bodhgaya
Built by the king Zeyatheinkha in 1215 AD, Mahabodhi Temple is a unique and one of its kind in Bagan as it was designed as replica a of Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar. It has 465 Buddha images in different postures placed in various niches on the surface of the spire. The temple complex also has seven places within depicting the seven weeks the Buddha spent after reaching enlightenment.
Some unknown yet profound pagodas of Bagan
Bagan is sheer delight for a photographer and a lover of ancient monuments. While riding through the verdant Bagan plain, i came across many stunning Pagodas which has no names but yet serving the purpose of their existence. I stopped on each turn and every curve to capture the unsung existence of these pagodas.
These are some of the must visit Pagodas of Bagan which will certainly give an itch to your feet and tickle your travel bone. It’s only a glimpse to what Bagan is; its only the foreword to the book called Bagan. Go there now to see the surviving raw beauty of this place. Once in Bagan, trust me, you would not like to come back as this place with its ancient monuments and dust from ruins captivates you in its magnanimous glory.
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