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About Bagan

 

Age :founded in 1044 AD
Temperature :Min 10°C – Max 43°C
Location :Latitude 21° 10′ N. Longitude 94° 51′ E.
The main tourist destination in Myanmar is Bagan. capital of the first Myanmar Empire; one of the richest archaeological sites in South-east Asia. Situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River. The Magic of Bagan has inspired visitors to Myanmar for nearly 1000 years. Bagan covers an area of 42sq.km containing over 2000 well-preserved pagodas and temples of the 11th-13th century.

About Bagan

 

The town of Bagan (formerly spelled as “Pagan”). central Myanmar (Burma). situated on the left bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River and approximately 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Mandalay. The site of an old capital city of Myanmar. Pagan is a pilgrimage centre and contains ancient Buddhist shrines that have been restored and redecorated and are in current use. Ruins of other shrines and pagodas cover a wide area. An earthquake on July 8. 1975. severely damaged more than half of the important structures and irreparably destroyed many of them. The whole of the Buphaya Pagoda. for nine centuries a landmark for river-boatmen. tumbled into the Ayeyarwaddy and was carried off by the waters. The village also has a school for lacquerware. for which the region is noted.

Pagan’s importance lies in its heritage rather than its present. It was first built probably in AD 849 and. from the 11th century to the end of the 13th. was the capital of a region roughly the size of modern Myanmar. In 1287 it was overrun by the Mongols during their wide-ranging conquests. and it never recovered its position. though a little desultory building continued on Buddhist shrines.

Among these pagodas. there are four most famous pagodas which has the special features as follows :

Dhu = Dhammayan (The thickest)


Nyan = Thabinnyu (The Omniscient)


Anu = Ananda (The most sculptural )


Thakho = Shwezigon (The most powerful)

Old Pagan was a walled city. its western flank resting on the Ayeyarwaddy River. It was the focus of a network of high roads by means of which its rulers could command a large region of fertile plains and could dominate other major Myanmar dynastic cities. such as Pegu. From the port of Thiripyissaya. further down the river. important overseas trade was conducted with India. Ceylon. and other regions of Southeast Asia. The walls of the old city. within which lies a substantial area of the modern town. probably originally contained only royal. aristocratic. religious. and administrative buildings. The populace is thought to have lived outside in homes of light construction closely resembling those occupied by the present-day inhabitants.

The walled city. whose moats were fed by the Ayeyarwaddy . was thus a sacred dynastic fortress. The circuit of its walls and river frontage is some 2.5 miles (4 km). and there is evidence that perhaps as much as a third of the old city has been washed away by the river. Because building was principally in brick. decoration was carried out in carved brick. in stucco. and in terra-cotta. The earliest surviving structure is probably the 10th-century Nat Hlaung Gyaung. The shrines that stand by the Sarabha Gate in the eastern wall. although later than the wall they adjoin. are also early. These are shrines of protecting nats–the traditional spirit deities of the animist ethnic Burmans.

Between about 500 and 950. people of the Burman ethnic group had been infiltrating from the north into a region occupied by other peoples; these people already had been converted to Indian religion. especially the Mahayana Buddhism of Bihar and Bengal. Under King Anawrahta (reigned 1044-77). the ethnic Burmans finally conquered the other peoples of the region. including a people called the Mon. who were previously dominant in the south. They transported the Mon royal family and their scholars and craftsmen to Pagan. making it the capital and centre of an official. fundamentalist form of Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism adopted from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). about 1056. This initiated the period of Pagan’s greatness. which was sustained at first by Mon artistic traditions. The enormous number of monasteries and shrines built and maintained during the next 200 years was made possible both by the great wealth of the royal exchequer and by the large number of slaves. skilled and unskilled. whose working lives were dedicated to the support of each institution. The city became one of the most important centres of Buddhist learning.

Number of Pagodas in Bagan

 

Regarding the number of pagodas and monuments in Bagan. there is the traditional figure which was composed like a rhymed couplet for memorization. It runs thus:

“Hle Win Yoe Than Ta Nyan Nyan Bagan Paya Paung”

We should translate into figures only the four words in the first line because the remaining two lines are meant for rhyming with the first line. The four words in the first line give us the figure 4446. If we include in our translation the words in the other two lines. we will get an astronomical figure of pagodas which Bagan area could not accommodate.

The calculated number of Bagan pagodas registered in the reign of King Mo Hnyin Mintara of Inwa Period was

“Win Win Htein Hlyan”

which if converted into figure is 4474. This figure is quite close to the traditional figure.

There was yet another rhyme of later time which composed the total figure of Bagan pagodas. It is as follows:

“Myat Paya Su Ye Hpyu Shwe Lo Win Bagan Pyi

Bei taing Hta Ni Hma San Ma Hmi Lun Htin Sha Saw Mu Ni Mya”

If you translate this rhyme in a reverse order you will get the figure 4445 which has the difference of only one less than the traditional figure.

According to the Inventory of Bagan Pagodas made by the Archeology Department the total number is

” Kyaung Kyi Oak Ni”

which means 2217.

Types of monuments and pagodas

Inspite of having thousands of pagodas in Bagan. no two pagodas are identically alike. There are variations and differences and every pagoda has its own uniqueness. Few exceptions are groups of three or four which are seemingly similar.

Types

 

Pagodas in Bagan are principally of two types- solid type and hollow type.

They may be sub-divided into nine categories.

They are as follows:

1. Solid zedi

2. Zedi of Ceylonese type

3. One storey structure

4. Double. triple and quadruple storey structures

5. Underground Caves

6. Kala Kyaung or a single structure

7. Big monasteries

8. Pitaka” taik or library of religious literature and

9. Sima or ordination hall.

Since the dwellings of the people were built of wood and bamboo not a single remnant survived. Even palace buildings had disappeared except their brick foundations. In 1990 the big brick mound locally called ” Aung Myey Kon ” near Shwe Gu Gyi Pagoda was excavated and it was suggested that it was the site of an old palace. In the stone inscription set up by King Kyansittha. recording the building of his palace the name of the Palace was given as ” Zeyabon Yazahtan ” which in Myanmar means ” Aung Myey (the land of victory). the place of the king.” so the excavated ” Aung Myey Kon ” could have been the site of King Kyansittha’s Palace.

Many holes were discovered in row. with stone sockets in which huge teak pillars must have been fixed up. Some holes and brick walls belong to the extensions by kings of Ip.ter period. In some holes were dug up pieces of decayed teak wood. At Bagan. immense structures like Thatbyinnyu and Dhammayan Gyi were built. It may be assumed that Bagan palaces must have been much larger and more splendid than these monuments. But it seems that top priority was given to the religious buildings and in order to differentiate them from secular dwellings. brick and stone were used in religious monuments. and wood and bamboo in secular buildings. There are very few stone structures left at Bagan.

Out of the present total figure of over two thousand. only four were built of stones.

They are:

1. Shwezigon

2. Nan-paya

3. Kyauk Gu Umin and

4. Pitaka building

commonly known as Setku Taik at the foot of Tuyin Hill near Mya Kan Lake.

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