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BAGAN

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Bagan

Bagan - ok

Bagan

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Bagan

Bagan, bordering to the east bank of the mighty Ayeyarwady – Irrawaddy River, once was a splendid and glorious capital of the First Myanmar Empire. Bagan is now a 42 square kilometer area dotted with thousands of ancient pagodas, stupas, shrines, ordination halls and monuments.

 

Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Southeast Asia with 2230 monuments still standing and some 1000 in ruins, there were originally about 4500, as many as 600 disappeared into the Ayeyarwady – Irrawaddy during the summer flooding.

Time, man and nature, particularly earthquakes (there is a major one every two hundred years), have taken their toll on Bagan but the most important monuments have been restored to their original grandeur and there are plans to restore 287 more of the most historically important ruins.

 

Bagan is accessible by air from Yangon, Mandalay or Heho (Taungyi) in an hour or less, Bagan can also be reached by road from Yangon, a distance of around 683 kilometers. Buses make the trip in about 16 hours or an adventurous traveler can reduce the time by 2 hours by taking a car – provided the traveller can take the stress and strain of travel on Myanmar roads.

 

From Mandalay and Taungyi, distances of around 320 kilometres in both cases, travel by road to Bagan takes approximately 8 hours. One can also reach Bagan by boat, a 2 week journey from Yangon.

 

From Mandalay the 12-14 hour cruise down the Ayeyarwady to Bagan is very pleasant and rewarding. It is possible to get to Bagan from all 3 places by a combination of rail and road travel but it can be time consuming and complicated. 

 

UNESCO affirms that the rustic Bagan-Pagan, with over two thousand religious edifices and ruins, is an archaeological treasure not only of the Myanmar people but also of the whole of civilization. Ancient Bagan, even after so many years of waste and decay still stands as a unforgettable sight, depicting the greatness of human endeavors and aspirations. In Bagan around 2000 temples and stupas, are spread over just four square miles bordering the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady – Irrawaddy river in the dry zone of Central Myanmar.

 

Bagan had been the capital of Myanmar for two and a half centuries (1044-1286 A.D.) when the Myanmar empire, so to speak, reached the zenith of its power for the first time.

 

Actually the founding of Bagan city (a group of 19 villages) took place quite early in the dim past (about 107 A.D.), but the illustrious dynasty of temple-builders, which made Bagan strong and famous, started only in 1044 A.D. (i.e. 22 years before the Battle of Hastings in Britain).  

 

King Anawrahta (42 nd. of the whole dynasty of 55 kings) headed the temple-building era and in 242 years (1044 to 1286 A.D.) the zealous kings and people built, it is said, over four million pagodas, big and small ! Thus the Great wheel of Buddha’s Dhamma had been brought to Myanmars shores by missionaries since Asoka’s time. The wheel was then set up and ready, but it needed a strong person like King Anawrahta of Bagan to start turning the wheel in motion.
Glorious Bagan surely owes a great deal to the Mons of Thaton and Pyus of TharÈkhittaya. In fact, Bagan was born out of the two.

 

Bagan is notable for its expanse of sacred geography, the number and size of their individual ancient monuments. The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 16 square miles. The majority of its buildings were built in the 11th to 13th centuries, during the time Bagan was the capital of the Myanmar dynasty. Bagan is also the first place to have transformed into a religious and cultural centre, by Shin Arahan who brought Theravada Buddhism to this land. Bagan is full of ancient architectural designs, mural paintings, precious frescoes and stone inscriptions to see for yourself, and also it is the centre for the manufacturing of lacquerware products in Myanmar. Hence it is marked as a cultural heritage of the Myanmar People, and also a landmark full of ancient pagodas and monuments which can be rarely encountered today. Bagan is one of the major historical landmarks of Asia and represents the outstanding achievement of Theravada Buddhism. Most of the site were damaged by the 1975 earthquake and cooperation with UNESCO projects help some experimental conservation work, restoration of mural paintings and maintaining some of the rare monuments.

 

 

The 4 Wonders of Bagan (Pagan)

There is rhyme traditionally sung by the people of Bagan (Pagan):

 

 

Massiveness that is Dhammayangyi

Dhammayangyi Temple is noted for its massiveness. It is a cave pagoda built by King Narathu in A.D. 1170 and completed within 3 years. The name “Dhammayangyi” as interpreted by scholars, means “The Light of Buddha’s Teaching.”

 

Dhammayangyi Temple is the most massive structure in Bagan which has a similar architectural plan to Ananda Temple. It was built by King Narathu (1167-70), who was also known as Kalagya Min, the ‘king killed by Indians’. The temple is located about a kilometer to the southeast of the city walls directing Minnanthu. 

 

After murdering his own king father, Narathu ascended the throne of Bagan and due to that, he built this temple. It is said that Narathu oversaw the construction himself and that masons were excecuted if a needle could be pushed between bricks they had laid. But he never completed the construction because he was assassinated before the completion. It was said that he was displeased by the Hindu rituals and one of them who made those rituals was the Indian princess who was the daughter of Pateikkaya. So he executed her for such reasons. The princess’s father wanted revenge for his innocent daughter and sent 8 officers in the disguise of Brahmans and assassinated Narathu in this very temple.
The interior floor plan of the temple includes two ambulatories. Almost all the entire innermost passage, however, was intentionally filled with brick rubble centuries ago. Three out of the four Buddha sanctums were also filled with bricks. The remaining western shrine features two original side-by-side images of Gautama and Maitreya, the historical and future Buddhas. The interlocking, mortarless brickwork at Dhammayangyi, best appreciated on the upper terraces, is said to rank as the finest in Bagan. Unfortunately the highest terraces and hidden stairways leading to them are now off limits to visitors.

 

 

Loftiness that is Thatbyinnyu

“Thatbyinnyu” means “omniscience” which the Lord Buddha attained on becoming enlightened. Towering above the other monuments of Bagan, the magnificence in white which is the Thatbyinnyu takes its name from the Omniscience of the Buddha. Thatbyinnyutanyan in Myanmar language, Sabbannutanana in Pali, omniscience is given further explanation in contemporary inscriptions as “knowing thoroughly and seeing widely.”

 

Built by King Alaungsithu (1113-1163), the Thatbyinnyu is a transitional temple, standing between the Early Style of the Ananda, half a mile to the northeast, and the Late Style of the Gawdawpalin, half a mile to the northwest. It is one of the earliest double-storeyed temples, but the arrangement is different from that of later double-storeyed temples, much as if it were still an experiment in the new form.

 

The plan of the Thatbyinnyu is not unlike that of the Ananda-square, with porticoes on all four sides-but the eastern portico projects further than the others, breaking the symmetry. This plan is followed in such later temples as the Sulamani and the Gawdawpalin.

 

Three receding terraces rise above each storey, ornamented with crenellated parapets and corner stupas. Above the terraces of the upper storey rises a curvilinear spire, surmounted by a slim, tapering stupa which takes the temple up to a height of 201 feet. The great height of the temple and the vertical lines of the ornamental features-the plain pilasters, the flame-like arch pediments, the corner stupas-give a soaring effect to the Thatbyinnyu.

 

The eastern portico has a central stairway guarded by two standing door-guardians. The stairway leads to an intermediate storey where a corridor runs around the central mass. Two tiers of windows along the walls make the interior bright and airy, but the walls are bare of painting except for some traces in the western portico.

 

Two stairs built into the thickness of the walls provide access to the terrace above the eastern portico, from where an external flight of stairs leads to the upper storey. Here, a huge image of the Buddha is seated on a masonry throne. A further flight of narrow stairs built into the thickness of the walls leads to the terraces above the upper storey.

The terraces of the Thatbyinnyu provide a good panoramic view of Bagan- of the green and brown landscape, the innumerable monuments, the broad Ayeyarwaddy river, and the distant hills to the east and west.

 

To the southwest of the Thatbyinnyu, in a monastery compound, are two tall stone pillars with foliations in an inverted V pattern. They were the supports for a huge bronze bell of which the chronicles say:

 

“King Alaungsithu offered two great bells, one at the Thatbyinnyu and one at the Shwegugyi. They were cast of pure copper, 10,000 adula in weight, larger by far and nobler than the five great bells offered by his grandfather, King Kyansittha.”

To the northeast of the Thatbyinnyu is the small gayocho or “tally” temple. To keep count of the bricks in the building of the Thatbyinnyu, one brick was set aside for every 10,000 used, and this small temple was built with the bricks thus set aside

 

Grace that is Ananda

It is said that every Myanmar should visit Bagan (Pagan) and without visiting Ananda Temple, you cannot say that you have visited Bagan (Pagan).

 

Ananda temple is considered to be one of the most surviving masterpiece of the Mon architecture. Also known as the finest, largest, best preserved and most revered of the Bagan temples. During the 1975 earthquake, Ananda suffered considerable damage but has been totally restored.

 

It is said to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period. In 1990, on the 900th anniversary of the temple’s construction, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time.

 

There is a legend saying that there were 8 monks who arrived one day to the palace begging for alms. They told the king that once, they had lived in the Nandamula Cave temple in the Himalayas. The King was fascinated by the tales and invited the monks to return to his palace. The monks with their meditative powers they showed the king the mythical landscape of the place they have been. King Kyanzittha was overwhelmed by the sight and had a desire for building a temple which would be cool inside in the middle of the Bagan plains. After the construction of the temple, the king executed the architects just to make the style of the temple so unique.

 

The structure of Ananda temple is that of a simple corridor temple. The central square measures 53 metres along each side while the superstructure rises in terraces to a decorative cliff 51 metres above the ground. The entrance ways make the structure into a perfect cross, each entrance is crowned with a stupa finial. The base and the terraces are decorated with 554 glazed tiles showing jataka scenes (life stories of the Buddha) thought to be derived from Mon texts. Huge carved teak doors separate interior halls from cross passages on all four sides.

 

Facing outward from the centre of the cube, four 9.5-metre standing Buddhas represent the four Buddhas who have attained nibbana (nirvana). Only the Bagan-style images facing north and south are original; both display the dhammachakka mudra, a hand position symbolising the Buddha’s first sermon. The other two images are replacements for figures destroyed by fires. All four have bodies of solid teak, though guides may claim the southern image is made of a bronze alloy. If one stand by the donation box in front of the original southern Buddha his face looks sad; while from a distance he tends to look mirthful. The architecture of the images were so artistic that they happen to make such appearance.

 

The eastern and western standing Buddha images are done in the later Konbaung or Mandalay style. A small nutlike sphere held between thumb and middle finger of the east-facing image is said to resemble a herbal pill and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist philosophy) as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at the image’s sides with hands outstretched, a mudra unknown to traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple. The west-facing Buddha features the abhaya mudra with the hands outstretched in the gesture of ‘no fear’.

 

At the feet of the standing Buddha, in the western sanctum, sit two life-size lacquer statues said to represent King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan, the Mon monk who initiated the king into Theravada Buddhism. Inside the western portico are two Buddha footprint symbols on pedestals.

Ananda temple festival falls on the full moon of Pyatho (usually between December and January, according to the Lunar Calendar). The festival attracts thousands of locals from near and far. Up to a thousand monks chant day and night during the three days of the festival.

 

 

Almighty that is Shwezigon

Shwezigon is a magnificent monument in Bagan (Pagan). Shwezigon consists of Buddha Images, with their left hands exhibit exposition mudra while the right hands are held palm outward, fingers straight up, portraying the gesture of abhaya or ‘no fear’. Therefore, it is known as Bagan’s almighty pagoda.

 

Shwezigon was built as the most important reliquary shrine in Bagan, a centre of prayer and reflection for the new Theravada faith King Anawarahta had established in Bagan.

The pagoda is standing between the village of Wetkyi-in and Nyaung U. It is a beautiful pagoda and was commenced by King Anawrahta but not completed until the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1113). King Kyanzittha was thought to have built his palace nearby.

 

It was known that, the Shwezigon was built to enshrine one of the four replicas of the Buddha tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it was to mark the northern edge of the city. The other three tooth replicas were enshrined in other three more pagodas. The second tooth replica went to Lawkananda Pagoda, a smaller pagoda to the south end of the city. Then the third replica went to Tan Kyi Taung (Tant Kyi Hill) Pagoda, a pagoda on the western bank of the Ayeyarwady River.
The last one was enshrined into Tu Yuan Taung (Tu Yuan Hill), a pagoda on the summit of a hill 32 km to the east.

 

Nowadays, there is a legend saying that if one visit those all four tooth replicas in a day, it can bring one prosperity and luck.

 

The pagoda’s graceful bell shape became a prototype for virtually all later pagodas all over Myanmar. The gilded pagoda sits on three rising terraces. Enameled plaques in panels around the base of the pagoda illustrate scenes from the previous lives of the Buddha, also known as the 550 Jatakas. At the cardinal points, facing the terrace stairways, are four shrines, each of which houses a four-meter-high bronze standing Buddha. These bronze Buddha images are known to be the last survived images of the ancient time. Their left hands exhibit the vitarka or ‘exposition’ mudra while the right hands are held palm outward, fingers straight up, portraying the gesture of abhaya or ‘no fear’.

 

A10-cm circular indention in a stone slab near the eastern side of the pagoda was filled with water to allow former Myanmar monarchs to look at the reflection of the hti (or the tope umbrella of the pagoda) without tipping their heads backward (which might have caused them to lose their crowns).

 

Visitors can view the bejeweled hti through a telescope. Surrounding the pagoda are clusters of zayats (rest houses) and shrines, some of them old, others more modern, though none of them are original.

 

In addition to ranking as one of the oldest pagodas in Bagan, Shwezigon is known as the site where the 37 pre-Buddhist nats (the spirits) were first officially endorsed by the Myanmar monarchy. Images of the 37 nats can be seen in a shed to the southeast of the platform. At the eastern end of the shed stands an original stone statue of Thagyamin (Sakra), king of the nats and a direct appropriation of the Hindu god Indra. This is the oldest known free-standing Thagyamin figure in Myanmar. Flanked by tigers representing her forest home, another small shrine in the south-eastern corner of the grounds is reserved for Mae Wunna, the guardian nat of medicinal roots and herbs, near the region.

 

 

Other Attractions:         

                                                                                                               

Gadawtpalin Temple

Just to the west of the temple and near the Ayeyarwaddy River lies the Gadawtpalin Temple.

 

Gadawtpalin Temple is located about 3 miles south of the Bu Pagoda on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It is about 180 feet high and the structure is common like the Sulamani temple.

 

The Gadawtpalin Temple was built by King Narapatisithu after building the Sulamani Temple. But the king did not complete the construction. It was completed by his son Htilominlo.

 

There is a story saying that King Narapatisithu became so powerful and so proud that he proclaimed that his powers were more glorious accomplished matched to his ancestors. Just after that, he became blind until he came to give his regards and his forebears made, paid obeisance in atonement for his misdemeanor. As a punishment for his sin his eyes turned blind. At the advice of the Brahmen astrologers at the court, the king made idols of his ancestors and placed them on the thrones. The King worshipped them asking forgiveness for his sin. He regained his sight. On the place where this ceremony took place was built Gawdaw-palin Pagoda. The name Gawdaw-palin literally means “the throne which was worshipped.”

 

Gadawtpalin is counted as one of the largest shrines of Bagan. The temple is a double-storeyed temple in the late style. It is square in plan, with porticoes on all four sides, but with the eastern portico projecting further than the others. In the ground storey, a vaulted corridor runs around a central block against whose four sides are placed images of the Buddha.

 

There are four Buddha images on the upper storey and 10 Buddha images in the ground floor. At the, north-east corner of the brick platform there is a stone image of sitting Buddha in a house. It is an original artwork. Due to lime wash by the devotees of later period frescoes are visible only very faintly. At the south-east corner of the precinct is an octagonal Pagoda with two bell posts and at the north-east corner is a zedi of later period.

 

 

Shwesandaw Pagoda

King Anawrahta built Shwesandaw Pagoda after his conquest of Thaton in 1057. This graceful circular pagoda was constructed at the centre of his newly empowered kingdom. The pagoda was also known as Ganesh or Mahapeine after the elephant-headed Hindu god whose images once stood at the corners of the five successive terraces.  

 

The five terraces once bore terracotta plaques showing scenes from the jalakas, but traces of these, and of other sculptures, were covered by lather heavy-handed renovations.

 

The pagoda’s bell rises from two octagonal bases which top the five square terraces. This was the first monument in Bagan to feature stairways leading from the square bottom terraces to the round base of the pagoda itself. This pagoda supposedly enshrines a Buddha hair relic brought back from Thaton.

 

There are image housing at four sides. In them are hard stone images of Buddha in the posture of Jhana mudra, the intense concentration of mind posture. On the palms and soles of the images were incised eight petal lotus flowers. Below these images are stone slabs with grooves to let water go out. It is therefore assumed that lustral water was poured on these images.

 

The hti, which was toppled by the earthquake, can still be seen lying on the far side of the pagoda compound. A new one was fitted soon after tie quake. The Shwe Sandaw Pagoda was renovated as needed by the trustees of the Paogda with the help of the doners. So it now look likes a modern structure. During renovation 50 bronze statues of Buddha were discovered near Shwe Sandaw forest monk’s monastery. These statues are exhibited at Archeological Museum. Nine bronze Buddha statues discovered after the 1975 earth-quake took place were moved to the Bagan Archeological Museum.

Previously there were stone idols of deva placed back to back at the corners of the terraces. But they are now all damaged due to vandalism. Broken pieces are kept in the image house. Some of these idols are found to be Maha Peinhne devas (Ganesha). That is. why local people call this pagoda Maha Peinhne Pagoda. On the west of Shwe Sandaw Pagoda stands a huge reclining Buddha image of 70 feet long, heading towards south. It is sheltered inside an image house. On the walls of the house are original Bagan frescoes in a fair state of preservation.

 

Before when people were allowed to climb up the terrace of the pagoda, it was a great spot to view the sunset of Bagan. But nowadays, to keep the ancient monuments in good shape, the stairways have been closed down.

 

 

Bu Paya or Bu Pagoda

Bu Paya means the “a gourd shape pagoda”.

The legend says, the third king of Bagan, Pyusawhti (AD 162-243), got rid of the gourd-like climbing plant “bu” that infested the riverbanks, before becoming the king. He was rewarded by his predecessor, Thamuddarit, the founder of Bagan (AD 108) together with the hand of his daughter and the heir to the throne of Bagan. He then in the commemoration of his good luck built a gourd-shaped pagoda on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River.

 

This cylindrical Pyu-style stupa is said to be the oldest in Bagan. Bupaya was completely destroyed when it tumbled into the river in the 1975 earthquake, but has since been totally rebuilt. The distinctively shaped bulbous stupa stands above rows of crenellated terraces. The view from the river is also a breath-taking one.       

 

Mingalar Zedi Pagoda

Mingalar Zedi Pagoda or the “Blessing Stupa” lies close to the Ayeyarwaddy River Bank. The Pagoda was built in 1277 by King Narathihapati. It was the very last of the large late period monuments to be built before the kingdom’s decline, thus representing the final flowering of Bagan’s architectural skills. It took six whole years to complete the construction of this great monument.  

 

Mahabodhi Temple

Mahabodhi Temple of Bagan was known to have been modelled after the famous Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar State of India. The original Mahabodhi Temple of India was built during AD 500. It commemorates the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment; this monument was builtduring the reign of King Nantaungmya (1211-34).

 

Mahabodhi Temple was built by King Zeyatheinkha, also known as Nadaungmyar, and Htilominlo, in A.D 1215. The temple is a two-storey structure rising 140 feet above the ground level.

 

It consists of a staircase built in the south wall. This temple was built after seeing the Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar, India. The name was also taken from the original one. Like the temple from India, there is a sitting Buddha image in the lower storey and another standing Buddha image in the upper storey. There are 465 Buddha images in different postures placed in the niches of the whole surface of the spire. There are also seven monuments in the compound making the seven places (Satta Htana). Similar to the Mahabodhi is the Ratana Gara. Ratana Gara was built about 200 years earlier than Mahabodhi and therefore the floor levels are about eight feet in difference. There were coloured glazed plaques decorated inside the Rata Gara which is a very rare building of Bagan. Most of the building was destroyed by the earthquake during 1975. Some of the remaining is still displayed in the Bagan Museum today. There were also ink inscriptions describing the donation of the Mahabodhi, inside the east interior wall of the upper storey. Beautiful stuccos figures of various birds and nats can also be seen on the interior walls.

 

Seven sacred places

Seven places (or) Satta Htana After Gotama Buddha has gained the enlightenment, he stayed and meditated at seven places, each for one week. Therefore, there are seven holy places known as Satta Htana.

 

(1) Mahabodhi Tree and the Golden Throne

The first week, after gaining the enlightenment, Lord Buddha sat under the Mahabodhi tree and meditated.

(2) Animisa Hillock

The second week, Gotama Buddha gazed intently without on Animisa Hillock to his throne under the Mahabodhi tree.

(3) Ratanacar Krama

The third week, Buddha spent pacing up and down the jewelled walk, north of the Bodhi tree.

(4) Ratana Gara

The fourth week, Buddha stayed in this place and meditated. The Ratana Gara is now only seen as some ruins.

(5) Ajapala Banyan Tree (or) Seik Kyaung Nyaung Pin

The fifth week, Buddha was sitting under the Ajapala Banyan tree.

(6) Musalinda Lake

The sixth week, Musalinda Naga (dragon) protected the Buddha from rain during the sixth week after the enlightenment.

(7) Rajaratana Tree (or) Linlun Tree

The seventh week, the two merchants Tapussa and Bhalika offered rice cakes and honey to the Buddha under the Rajaratana tree (Buchanania latifolia) at the end of the seventh week.

 

 

Pahtothamya Temple

Pahtothamya Temple is popularly held to be one of five temples built by the non-historical King Taungthugyi (931-964) referred to history. But some of the archeologists also mark that it was built by King Sawlu by the references of the wall paintings which dates back only to the 11th Century. King Taungthugyi was also known as Nyaung U Sawrahan. This temple was known to have been built like one of those in Thaton. Therefore, the temple compose of many Mon style paintings in the inside. But the temple was renovated during the reign of King Kyanzittha (1084-1113).

 

Pahtothamya temple has a long hall which lengthens towards the East. This monument has a harmonious proportion, having a height of 26 meter, 30 meter on the side and the hall has 17m of length. The interior of this single-storey building is dimly lit, typical of the early type of Pyu-influenced temples with their small, perforated stone windows. In its vertical superstructure and lotus-bud sikhara, however, the monument is clearly beginning to move forward from the Early period.

 

The bell shaped principal stupa in the center was constructed differently entirely from other stupas. The main body has 12 angles. At the bases of the angles there used to be Nagar heads. Upon the main body is the relic chamber, on top of which are concentric rings of plaster moldings. The 1975 earthquake damaged the concentric rings which were now restored by the Archeology Department. In each of the four walls were installed five perforated brick windows. At the north and south devotional halls there is no such window. There is a spiral staircase built in the thickness of the north wall of the devotional hall. It leads to upper storey where there are small surrounding stupas. Inside the niches of these stupas are Buddha statues of plaster moulding. They are the original works still unspoilt. The earthquake of 1975 damaged one original statue of plaster in the northern niche but it had been restored. Painting remnants along the interior passages may rate as the earliest surviving murals in Bagan. There are four smaller temples surrounding Pahtothamya Temple and inside theses temples are magnificent artistic Buddha Images.

 

 

Nathlaung Kyaung

The Nathlaung Kyaung (or Nat-hlaung-kyaung), located slightly to the west of Thatbyinnyu and inside the old city walls, is the only remaining Hindu temple in Bagan. It was believed to be build during (A.D 931-964). In the early days of Bagan, people used to believe in Hinduism, and worshipped Vishu, Brahman and many other Hindu gods. This used to be a place to worship those gods. But afterwards, King Anawrahta brought Theravada Buddhism to Bagan with the conquest of Thaton, and made the Hinduism vanish. It clearly is one of the earliest of the Bagan temples.  

 

 

Ngakywenadaung Paya

Nga-kywe-na-daung is a medium size early Pyu type brick masonry stupa. Its date of construction remains uncertain. On the external walls and each face had been carved in brick the ten misadventures of Vishnu. These statues were placed upright in niches decorated with the pilasters. The murals are contemporary sculptures. The center of the temple is occupied by an enormous brick mass surrounded classically bricks. It is this mass which supports the dome and will sikhara it. The name even of the temple is curious, it means: “the temple where the spirits are confined” and perhaps announces a relation with the nats, which had taken refuge here, not being able to do it in a traditional Buddhist temple.

 

 

Tharabar Gate

Tharabar Gate is the main gateway to the ancient Bagan city. It is the eastern gate of the old wall. It is now the only structure left of the old city built by King Pyinbya. It was built in 849 A.D during the 9th century. The western and northern part of the city wall were washed away by the river. There was originally twelve gates during that time. Tharabar is derived from the Pali term “Sarabhanga” meaning “shielded against arrows”.

Although most of the structure is ruined, stucco carvings of the ogres can still be found. The gate is known to be guarded by spiritual beings. On the left is the side of the gate is the brother “Lord of the Great Mountain” and on the right side is the sister “Golden face”.  

 

 

Myoe Daung Kyaung

Myoe Daung Kyaung or Myo Daung Monastery means the Monastery at the corner of the city. It was the main monastery building in Bagan, with an east-west orientation, is approximately 130 ft. x 115 ft. Most of its significant elements are from the pre-colonial Kon-baung period, some of the rooms apparently are later. Its glory and what should be a major claim to prominence lies in its numerous woodcarvings which are also mostly from the late Kon-baung period of the mid- to late 19th century.

The Myoe Daung complex actually contains two monasteries, numerous pyathats, pavilions, rest houses and ancillary buildings.  

 

 

Bagan Archaeological Museum

Bagan Archaeological Museum The Bagan Archaeological Museum was opened on 17th April 1998 in the world renowned ancient city Bagan, in Mandalay Division, Upper Myanmar. It is situated near the Gawdawtpalin Pagoda.

 

 

The first museum

The first archaeology museum in the true sense of the term was built near the northern covered cause way of Ananda Temple in 1904, in a very modest way. A small oblong one storey brick building of 60 feet by 30 feet in which some ancient stone inscriptions, Buddha images and other cultural objects collected from the Bagan area were haphazardly displayed. After some years as a large number of new art objects and antiquities were added, the museum looked like an overstocked storehouse.

 

 

The new museum

In 1976 the site to the south of Gawdawt Palin Pagoda was selected and designated for Archaeological Museum Compound in which an octagonal shaped museum building was constructed. In it were displayed very rare and fragile artifacts excavated from ruined Bagan monuments. Three big oblong sheds were built near it as annexure under which stone inscriptions and stone statues of the Bagan Period were displayed. It was called Archaeological Site Museum Bagan and was officially opened in October 1979.

There are many display rooms. On the ground floor there is a fully decorated and air-con hall large enough to hold international conference, symposium, seminar or meeting. On this floor are the display room for objects of visual arts of the Bagan Period such as terra cotta, stucco works, wood carvings, stone sculptures, metal works, lacquer works, etc., the showroom exhibiting models of 55 different coiffeurs used by fashionable court ladies of the Bagan Period, the display room in which originals, replicas and ink copies of Bagan stone inscriptions and other forms of epigraphy, the gallery where paintings by famous Myanmar artists of to-day depicting the social life and military might of ancient Bagan, as well as copies of frescoes on walls and ceilings of ancient temples, and the display room in which models of Bagan monuments of architectural and artistic wonder.

Going up to the second floor by grand marble floored stairways, we reach the display rooms on religious themes. Here we find that exhibits are Buddha statues and images of various makes, postures, and styles providing us some knowledge of Buddhist iconography. In the room of Buddhist Art are displayed objects of all visual Buddhist arts. Viewers of these objects may well appreciate the depth and extent of Buddhist influence upon Myanmar culture. Here on the second floor is another art gallery, but it specialises in religious themes. Paintings by artists of to-day and murals by master painters of Bagan’s time on display in the gallery all represent Bagan pagodas and monuments or depict Buddhist stories – jatakas.

 

Next above the second floor is the flat roof of the whole building from where pilgrims, visitors and tourists can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire “pagoda land” of Bagan and patiently wait for the right moment to watch the “large orange coloured globe” gradually sinking behind the Tantkyi Taung hill range on the west bank of the mighty Ayeyawaddy River.

 

To crown the pleasures of your visit to Bagan a big bronze statue awaits your attention in the centre of the round-about lawn in the front of the museum’s portico. The statue represents the hero king Pyusawhti (A.D.167-242), the third king in the Bagan dynasty of 55 kings. Legend has it that he conquered the five enemies who had been molesting Bagan by slaying them with his mighty bow and arrows. The enemies were the big bird, the big boar, the big tiger, the big flying squirrel and the wild weed bu (gourd). The Bupaya Pagoda standing on the brink of the Ayeyawaddy River at Bagan is attributed to Pyusawhti. It stands on the site where the hero king finally eradicated the troublesome weed.

 

Visitors to Bagan have now two grand museums. The entire area of 16 square miles of Bagan Archaeological Zone itself is a field museum of nearly ten centuries old and a splendid modern museum of very recent time.

 

 

Shwegugyi Pagoda

Shwegugyi Pagoda was built by King Alaung Sithu during A.D 1141. This pagoda is located near the entrance of the Royal Palace therefore also known as Nan Oo Paya in Myanmar. Shwegugyi Pagoda was built ontop of a 13 feet high platform giving it an impression like a mushroom coming out of the ground. It is facing towards the north of Bagan. It lies on the north of Thabyinnyu Pagoda.

 

It is a cave Pagoda with a Sikhara on the top facing north. The wall of the brick plinth was adorned with glazed tiles of green color. There used to be plaster moldings presenting Deva figures in row. But now only three remain on the southern side. At the north- west corner of the chamber there is a stone stairway leading to the top. All along the base of the pagoda and the terraces are found decorative glazed tiles of green color, still in good condition.

 

Inside the image house, four Buddha images of brick and cement backing one another are seated around the central pillar. There are two inscribed stone slabs inlaid in the wall of the northern entrance.

 

 

Inscription

The inscription is in Pali, one slab has 47 lines and the other 45. They are Pali poem of 100 stanzas. At the end of the poem are two lines of Sanskrit. The inscription mentions the beginning and completion dates of the construction of the Pagoda. So we learn from it that it took 7 months and 7 days to build the Pagoda.

The last two lines in Sanskrit run as follows;

“The construction began on Sunday the 4th waning moon of Kason month in the Sakarit year 503 and Shwegugyi Pagoda was completed successfully on Monday the 11th waning moon of Nataw month in the Sakarit year 503. “

The inscription also mentions the regional title of King Alaung Sithu as

” Thihtibuvanaditya pavara dhammaraja”.

 

The inscription says that the king built this pagoda because he wished to attain Nirvana and that the king sought after the noble virtues, that he strove to become Buddha himself and that he took refuge in three Gems (The Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha). The inscription continues to mention the king’s wishes — he prayed that he would like to do the welfare of himself and of others, he would like to return the debt of gratitude whomsoever he owed he would like to save the sentient beings from the sufferings of the birth cycle (Samsara) and just like Miteya the future Buddha the king would like to become the one much worshipped and adored by humans and divas. There are plaster works of floral designs, intricate ornamental backdrops and other stuccos adorning the central pillar. In each of the devotional halls on the north, south, and west sides are two statues of Duara-pala deva, one leg up and the other leg down. At each of the four sides of the main building are two windows to let in the breeze, totally 6 windows in all. These are original artworks.

 

On the north-western corner of the pagoda is a small stone staircases leading up to the other levels. Shwegugyi pagoda was constructed between the early and mid Bagan periods. The architectural design of this monument is formed into a place of good lighting and ventilation. There are statues of nats around the platform of the pagoda. There is a great masonry work inside, but decorated with glazed greenish coloured plaques from the outside. There are about 20 pagodas with Bagan style glazed plaques and Shwegugyi represents one of those monuments. In the main hall of the pagoda lies the two original stone inscriptions of the Pagoda. There are also poems and phrases on the walls of the pagoda.

 

 

Wood carving

At the devotional halls on the east, west, and south sides and the vaulted corridor joining the main building are the big wooden door leaves dedicated by King Bayint Naung (A.D. 1551—81) who renovated Shwegugyi Pagoda, during his pilgrimage there. On the door leaves are found beautiful carvings of birds. On the east side only one door leaf survives.

 

 

Mural painting

The original fresco on the walls of the main building are visible but only faintly owing to lime wash over .them. After chemical cleaning they will appear in their original colors. The paintings above the great Buddha Image in the northern image house belong to the Kon Baung Period. There are 13 lines of ink inscription of the same period found on the wall left side of the .said image. Myanmar chronicles say that King Alaung Sithu, being seized by illness in his old age, was moved to this Pagoda where he died. King Bayint Naung, the “founder of the second Myanmar Empire renovated and embellished Shwegugyi Pagoda in the Sakarit year 913 (A.D. 1551). He also set up a stone pillar at the south-west corner of the devotional hall. It bears eleven lines of inscription, dated Sakarit year 913. The inscription says that; ” When the king’s elder brother became king, he repaired and built monasteries and monuments in his kingdom. He let the tax collectors levy only normal rate. Should they overtax, they are destroying Buddha Sasana, as well as persecuting the public, the clergy and laymen.”

 

 

Manuha Temple

The Manuha temple is on the right side of the main road going south from Bagan, and right in Myinkaba village. King Manuha’s inscription says that it was built in AD 1067 about a decade after the Mon king was brought to Bagan. The name of the temple was given after the name of the captive King Manuha. Traditionally, Manuha was considered one of the earliest temples at Bagan. Legend says that it was built by a Mon king named, Manuha, who had been defeated and brought to Bagan as a captive by Anawrahta. In Bagan the kings and queens, the princes and princesses all built pagodas large and small.

 

Manuha the Mon king, detained in Bagan, also wanted to build a temple of his own. He did not have ready money in cash, so he sold his priceless Manaw Maya jewel to a rich merchant of Myinkaba and obtained six cartloads of pure silver. He used this to build the impressive Manuha Temple. It is still a place of worship for the Buddhists.

 

The temple is a series of reduplicated squares with the lower storey larger than the upper. There is a large seated Buddha image, 46 feet high, with the right hand touching the earth. Two smaller Buddha images, each 33 feet high, flank this large image on each side. For devotees there is barely room to sit down to pray, the large image and the two smaller ones filling up nearly all the space in the cramped interior. Some say that Manuha purposely put the images in such cramped positions to denote his feelings under detention in Bagan. There is also a huge reclining Buddha image 90 feet long, in an adjoining chamber at the back, with the head pointing to the north which symbolises the dying Buddha about to enter Parinibbana, the Demise.

 

This image too is in a very cramped enclosed place and not in an open shed like the reclining Buddha image in Bago.At one time visitors could climb a tiny, winding stairway built into one of the side walls and view through an open aperture, the head of the huge seated Buddha. One can climb to the top of this pagoda via the stairs at the entrance to the reclining Buddha chamber, at the back of the temple. Through a window you can then see the face of the sitting Buddha, and from up at this level you’ll realize that the gigantic face, so grim from below, has an equally gigantic smile. During the earthquake of 1975, the central roof collapsed, badly damaging the largest, seated Buddha, which has since been repaired.

 

An outdoor corner of the temple compound is dedicated to Mt Popa’s presiding nats, Mae Wunna and her sons Min Lay and Min Gyi. Devotees of Manuha Paya celebrate a large paya pwe (or pagoda festival) on the full moon of Tabaung (which falls between February an March, depending on the Lunar Calendar).

 

A short path leads past two recent statues of King Manuha and his wife, Queen Ningala Devi to Nagayone.

 

 

Sulamani Temple

Sulamani Temple is located in Minnanthu region, in the center of Bagan. The temple was built by King Narapatisithu in 1183 AD. It is a cave pagoda and massive in Structure. It’s entrance was decorated by Superb architectural works of art.

Like the Htilominlo and the Gawdawpalin this is a prime example of later, more sophisticated temple style, with better internal lighting. It stands beyond the Dhammayangyi Temple and was built in 1181 by Narapatisithu. The interior was once painted with fine frescoes but only traces can be seen today.

 

This temple is one of Bagan’s premier temple attractions. The name itself means Crowning Jewel or Small Ruby. It was the first and most important temple of the late period (1170-1300) of Bagan monument building. It was one of many temples and stupas built by Narapatisithu. This temple is similar to Htilominlo and the Gawdawpalin in architecture but with better interior lighting. It stands beyond the Dhammayangyi Temple. Important features of the Sulamani include its fine brickwork and use of stone in both load-bearing areas as well as on vulnerable external corner elements. The interior was once painted with fine frescoes but only dim traces can be seen today.

Combining the horizontal planes of the early period with the vertical lines of the middle, the temple features two storeys standing on broad terraces assembled to create a pyramid effect. The brickwork throughout is considered some of the best in Bagan. Some part of the temple was damaged during 1975 by the earthquake. Pagodas stand at the corners of each terrace, and a high wall, fitted with elaborate gateways at each cardinal point, encloses the entire complex. The interior face of the wall was once lined with a hundred monastic cells, a feature unique among Bagan’s ancient monasteries. 

Sulamani represents some of Bagan’s finest ornamental work which are carved stucco on mouldings, pediments and pilasters. These are today in fairly good condition. Glazed plaques around the base and terraces are also still visible. Buddha images face the four directions from the ground floor; the image at the main eastern entrance sits in a recess built into the wall. The interior passage around the base is painted with fine frescoes from the Konbaung period, and there are traces of earlier frescoes. Stairways lead very close to the top of this temple, from where the views are superb. In the north of the compound contains the remains of Sulamani Kyaung, a monastery building that housed Sulamani’s senior monk and the Tripitaka (the Buddhist scriptures), which is walled enclosed. It may also have served as an ordination hall. A water tank in the compound is thought to be the only original Bagan reservoir.

 

 

Pyathatgyi

Southeast of the Sulamani is another ancient pagoda, known as the Pyathatgyi. Usually these monasteries were built out of wood.

 

 

Lawkananda Pagoda

The Lawkananda pagoda was built by King Anawrahta during his reign in 1059. The pagoda has enshrined the Buddha’s tooth relic in Bagan. The pagoda is erected on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River.

During the ancient days, with the power of Bagan Dynasty, the Mon region, Rakhine and even as far as Sri Lanka would anchor by the Ayeyarwaddy riverside. Lawkananda would be the first to see with its distinctive elongated cylindrical dome. It is still used as an everyday place of worship and is thought to house an important Buddha-tooth replica. The riverside and sunset views from Lawkananda are unforgettable scenes.

 

 

Ashe Petleik and Anauk Petleik Pagodas

The two Petleik pagodas the Ashe (Eastern) and Anauk (Western) – belong to the 11th century and have been assigned to the reign of Anawrahta (1044-1077). The Western pagoda is better preserved and has a bell-shaped dome, with rings of molding at the middle and towards the base. An unusual feature of the dome is the four deep niches at the cardinal points to house images of the Buddha. A damaged bowl-shaped disc rests on the dome in the Western Pagoda, while in the Eastern Pagoda a box-like relic chamber occupies the corresponding position. The finial, which rises above, is in the form of a truncated cone.

 

 

Mt. Popa 

Mt. Popa is about 50km away from Bagan. It takes about 45 minutes drive from Nyaung Oo Airport, Bagan.

 

Mt. Popa is an extinct volcano that is estimated to have erupted for the final time, over three hundred and twenty thousand years ago. However, popa’s attraction today lies not so much in its geological aspect, but more in its religious and mystical interests which are still prevalent. Popa is popularly recognized as an abode of many “Nats”.

H.L. Chhibber in his publication “The Igneous Rocks of the Mount Popa Region”, described it as “being in all respects an ideal example of a recently extinct volcano, suitable for text-book illustration. The main mountain originally had a circular crater, but the whole of the north-western side was blown away, probably by the final paroxysmal outburst, which suggests that the last eruption must have projected its discharge inclined to the sides of the volcano in that direction. The present mountain is, therefore shaped like a horse-shoe, and it is possible to walk into the crater through the breach in the northern wall.”Although the mountain appears to be a single peak from a distance, it is in fact a series of peaks; the highest points being 4981, 4801 and 4501 feet above sealevel. The main mass of Mt. Popa rests on a level plateau, roughly 1000 feet above the surrounding plains, and about 1800 feet above sealevel. The actual volcano rises about 3000 feet from this base. On the extremity of the south-western slopes lies the extremely precipitous isolated peak known as the “Taung-ga-Lat”. Some believe that this could be part of the main volcano, that was blown apart and landed as though plugged at its present location. Others theorize that it represents the infilled neck or plug of a subsidiary volcano.  

 

Whatever the theories may be, it is evident from the abundance of petrified trees within the Bagan area, and the extent of huge boulders strewn far and wide around the mountain, that this was once a land of violent explosions, turbulent earth movement and massive lava flows in ancient times, which caused the existing forests to be buried under. It is no a wonder then, that the mountain had also been historically known, as the “Dormant Fire Mountain”.

 

However, popa’s attraction today lies not so much in its geological aspect, but more in its religious and mystical interests which are still prevalent. Popa is popularly recognized as an abode of many “Nats” (spirits of ancient ancestors) who dwell in various parts of the mountain. In the days of old, it also used to be referred to as the “Mountain of Spirits”. The evidence of these beliefs is abundant in the form of “nat shrines”, leg- ends, rituals, ceremonial offerings, annual representative festivals, and the never- ending stream of pilgrims and believers in mysticism. Popa today is one of the most popular pilgrimage spots in the country. One would need to spend a sizeable amount of time in order to unearth the spiritual and legendary wealth of this sacred mountain.

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