Ancient Buddhist temples and pagodas
The ruins of Pagan cover about 16 square miles along the east bank of the Irrawaddy.
The monuments, temples and pagodas which are in various stages of decay were built from the 11th to 13th centuries when Bagan was the capital of the kingdom. From starting around 100 A.D. a line of fifty-five kings ruled until the twelve centuries.
The present city of Bagan, also named Phukam at one time long ago was started to be built under King Pyinbya, the 34th king of the dynasty, who moved the capital from Tampawadi in 874 A.D. There was some back and forward over this timeframe since Myanmar’s are well known to move their capitals around, the latest victim was Yangon. The “heydays” started only with the reign of King Anawrahta (1044-77 A.D.)In 1057 Anawrahta conquered Thaton for Theravada Buddhist scriptures in Pali, a large number of Buddhist monks, artists and craftsmen followed him back to Bagan.
From this cultural infusion, mainly Mon monks they adapted their alphabet and religion. This was the setup to ignite a artistic and architectural boost and within around two centuries thousands of magnificent Buddhist monuments of various size and shape were built, most were not only great from outside but also in the interior by the creation of beautiful wall paintings, actually often artistic frescoes.
Thambula Temple Bagan Fresco
A Panorama of Bagan
Balloons over the plains
Bagan Temple Murals
Bupaya Pagoda and Irrawaddy
Plenty of Temples
Thatbyinnyu Temple and Oxcarts
Realistic estimates are that around 5,000 buildings can still be traced. Just by considering the footprint size of of the monuments and multiply it with this amount plus comparing this with the known size of the city make this numbers realistic. Among the religious buildings in the city there were 2 types, one, the pagodas with their bell-shaped stupa of solid brickwork raised on terraces and crowned by a finial. The other were temples which is an open structure where people can walk in, a simple classification is:
Stupas with a modeled dome e.g. Bupaya Pagoda at the Irrawaddy River;
Stupa with a dome modeled on a tumulus; e.g. Shwezigon Shwesandaw;
Stupa of Indian Sinhalese type, e.g. Sapada;
Temples based on a North Indian model, e.g. Ananda Tempel
Temple of Central Indian type, e.g. Mahabodhi Temple;
Others based on the South Indian model, e.g. Gawdawpalin;
Cave temples based on Indian models, e.g. Kyaukku Umin;
Ordination halls, e.g. Upali Thein;
Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia with about 2200 monuments still standing and some 1000 in ruins, there were originally about 4500. As many as 600 monuments disappeared over time into the Ayeyarwady – Irrawaddy river during the summer flooding.
It is optically very similar to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya in neighboring Thailand but on a much bigger scale here is the Shwezigon Pagoda.