By Tee May
Bagan’s abundance of architecture of ancient temples and historical structures has earned it the title of ‘Sea of Temples.’ Situated by the Ayeyarwady River, this once-great capital is a reminder of the influence and stature of the Pagan Kingdom that prospered from the 9th to 13th century in modern day Myanmar.
Out of the 10,000 temples that were constructed during the Pagan rule, 2,200 still stand strong. Today, the Bagan Archaeological Zone has attracted tourists and visitors from all over the world, as well as Buddhist pilgrims. However, most are unaware of Bagan’s rich heritage.
- It was given UNESCO Heritage status in 2019
- The temple city was awarded World Heritage Status on 6th July 2019. The listing was approved after nearly quarter of a century had passed since the city was first nominated. As a living heritage, the government has passed a new heritage law and has limited high-impact development of hotels around the site.
- Bagan is often called the ‘sea of temples’
Currently, Bagan has more than 2,000 temples big and small spread across the banks of Ayeyarwady River. The most popular temples are Ananda Temple, Thatinnyu Temple, Myinkaba Gubyaukgyi Temple, Shwezigon Pagoda and Htilominlo Temple. If seen from above, it literally looks like a sea, with thousands of temple tops jutting out of the thick green canopy of trees.
- Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom
It served as a capital city until 1287AD. During that period, Bagan was visited by several scholars from other civilisations and was a hive for Buddhist activities.
- The Pagan Empire was the first to unite the country
The Pagan Kingdom was the first to unify the regions of Myanmar that finally went on to form modern Myanmar. It also firmly established Theradava Buddhism as part of the local culture in the country. The numerous religious temples that are built throughout the region stand witness to the prolific nature of the Pagan Kingdom during its golden era.
- There were originally 10,000 temples
Between 1044 and 1287 AD, Bagan was the cultural centre of the Pagan Empire. Over these years, rulers and wealthy subjects built over 10,000 religious monuments here. The city grew in size and prosperity as well and became a centre for religious and language studies. The temples have withstood several natural calamities over the years, which has destroyed many of the monuments.
- Bagan fell to the Mongols
The city of Bagan collapsed in 1287AD when the Mongols invaded the city for political reasons. This caused a massive decline in the population.
- Bagan has a dry climate
The city of Bagan is located at a site where there is more sunshine than any other city in Myanmar. Hence, don’t forget to carry umbrellas and caps while travelling to Bagan. Wear sunscreen, it’s absolutely essential.
- The city of Bagan covers 104 square kilometres
The Bagan Archaeological Zone is centred around Old Bagan, with New Bagan in the south, a new area which has been developed. With its vast landscape, the city once housed a population of 50,000 to 200,000 individuals.
- The hot air balloon is the best way to see Bagan
It is a great way to experience the sunrise and witness the entire landscape of the city coming to life. The view from up above is stunning as hundreds of temples on the ground are slowly illuminated by sunlight. It is a haven for photography lovers and has an equally magnificent sunset to end your journey on.
- Stupas and temples in Bagan can be climbed
Certain monuments such as Bulethi Stupa and Lawkananda Stupa have the perfect vantage point to catch the setting sun and to snap pictures of the panoramic Bagan landscape. For higher views, you can try Shwesandaw and Dhammayazika temple.
- Bagan is an affordable tourist destination
If you are looking to visit historic temples on a budget, Bagan is definitely the go-to place. You can get accommodation for as low as USD15 while a meal will cost you between USD1 to USD5.
- Bagan is well-connected
You can travel to Bagan from anywhere in the country. Nyaung U Airport, located only a few minutes away from Bagan is connected with Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw International Airports as well as the other domestic airports of Myanmar. You can take a bus or taxi to reach Bagan as well.
The local residents have been guarding and helping to maintain the temples for years as they take a lot of pride in them. They are highly venerated religious monuments and are considered sacred by the people. Some of the temples are active praying sites as well. So be sure to treat the temples with respect – wear appropriate clothing, remove your shoes where-ever required and avoid littering, vandalising or damaging the premises.