Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar.
From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is a main attraction for the country’s nascent tourism industry. It is seen by many as equal in attraction to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
History : According to the Burmese chronicles, Bagan was founded in the second century AD, and fortified in 849 AD by King Pyinbya, 34th successor of the founder of early Bagan. Mainstream scholarship however holds that Bagan was founded in the mid-to-late 9th century by the Mranma (Burmans), who had recently entered the Irrawaddy valley from the Nanzhao Kingdom. It was among several competing Pyu city-states until the late 10th century when the Burman settlement grew in authority and grandeur.
From 1044 to 1287, Bagan was the capital as well as the political, economic and cultural nerve center of the Pagan Empire. Over the course of 250 years, Bagan’s rulers and their wealthy subjects constructed over 10,000 religious monuments (approximately 1000 stupas, 10,000 small temples and 3000 monasteries) in an area of 104 square kilometres (40 sq mi) in the Bagan plains. The prosperous city grew in size and grandeur, and became a cosmopolitan center for religious and secular studies, specializing in Pali scholarship in grammar and philosophical-psychological (abhidhamma) studies as well as works in a variety of languages on prosody, phonology, grammar, astrology, alchemy, medicine, and legal studies. The city attracted monks and students from as far as India, Sri Lanka and the Khmer Empire.
The culture of Bagan was dominated by religion. The religion of Bagan was fluid, syncretic and by later standards, unorthodox. It was largely a continuation of religious trends in the Pyu era where Theravada Buddhism co-existed with Mahayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, various Hindu (Saivite, and Vaishana) schools as well as native animist (nat) traditions. While the royal patronage of Theravada Buddhism since the mid-11th century had enabled the Buddhist school to gradually gain primacy, other traditions continued to thrive throughout the Pagan period to degrees later unseen.
The Pagan Empire collapsed in 1287 due to repeated Mongol invasions (1277–1301). Recent research shows that Mongol armies may not have reached Bagan itself, and that even if they did, the damage they inflicted was probably minimal. However, the damage had already been done. The city, once home to some 50,000 to 200,000 people, had been reduced to a small town, never to regain its preeminence. The city formally ceased to be the capital of Burma in December 1297 when the Myinsaing Kingdom became the new power in Upper Burma
Bagan survived into the 15th century as a human settlement, and as a pilgrimage destination throughout the imperial period. A smaller number of “new and impressive” religious monuments still went up to the mid-15th century but afterward, new temple constructions slowed to a trickle with fewer than 200 temples built between the 15th and 20th centuries. The old capital remained a pilgrimage destination but pilgrimage was focused only on “a score or so” most prominent temples out of the thousands such as the Ananda, the Shwezigon, the Sulamani, the Htilominlo, the Dhammayazika, and a few other temples along an ancient road. The rest—thousands of less famous, out-of-the-way temples—fell into disrepair, and most did not survive the test of time.
For the few dozen temples that were regularly patronized, the continued patronage meant regular upkeep as well as architectural additions donated by the devotees. Many temples were repainted with new frescoes on top of their original Pagan era ones, or fitted with new Buddha statutes. Then came a series of state-sponsored “systematic” renovations in the Konbaung period (1752–1885), which by and large were not true to the original designs—some finished with “a rude plastered surface, scratched without taste, art or result”. The interiors of some temples were also whitewashed, such as the Thatbyinnyu and the Ananda. Many painted inscriptions and even murals were added in this period
Museums : Old palace site in Old Bagan. A new completely conjectural palace has been reconstructed since 2003.
The Bagan Archaeological Museum: The only museum in the Bagan Archaeological Zone, itself a field museum a millennium old. The three-story museum houses a number of rare Bagan period objects including the original Myazedi inscriptions, the Rosetta stone of Burma. Anawrahta’s Palace: It was rebuilt in 2003 based on the extant foundations at the old palace site. But the palace above the foundation is completely conjectural.
Acces : Boat : An ‘express’ ferry service runs between Bagan and Mandalay. Following the Irrawaddy river the fastest ferry takes around 9 hours to travel the 170 kilometres. The service runs daily during peak periods and slower sailings with overnight stops are also available.
Buses and cars : Overnight buses and cars also operate to and from Yangon and Mandalay taking approximately 9 and 6 hours respectively
By plane : The Airport is called Nyaung U (IATA NYU). You can fly to Bagan from Yangon on Asian Wings , Air KBZ , Golden Myanmar Airlines , Mann Yadanarpon Airlines and Myanmar National Airlines with tickets starting at US$118. Air KBZ and Myanmar National Airlines both offer instant online booking.
Attractions : Ananda Temple , Shwesandaw Temple , Shwezigon Temple , Thatbyinnyu Temple , Manuhar Pagoda , Dhamma Yangyi Temple , Sulamani Pahto , Gubyaukgyi Temple @ Wetkyi-Inn Village , Gawdaw Palin Temple , Bupaya Stupa , Shwezigon Pagoda , Kyan Ma Ba , Almost 3,000 other temples, monasteries, libraries, ordination halls, etc. Along the Bagan-Nyaung Oo Rd. (North of Old Bagan): Bulethi Pagoda, Shwezigon Pagoda, Gubuakgyi Temple @ Wetkyi-In Village, Thagyarhit Temple, Upalithein Ordination Hall, Htilominlo Temple, & Ananda Temple. Inside Old Bagan: Tharaba Gate, Maha-Bodi Pagoda, Pitakattaik Library, Thantawkyar, Shwegugyi, Thatbyinnyu Temple, Gawdaw Palin Temple, Mimalaung Kyaung Group Along Bagan-Chauk Rd (South of Old Bagan): Gubyaukgyi @ Myinkaba Village Temple, Manuhar Temple, Nonpayer Temple, Abeyadana Temple.
East Off Southern Anawratha Rd.: Dhamma Yangyi Temple, Sulamani Temple, Meenyeingone Temple, Lawkahteikpan Temple, Shinbinthalyaung Temple, Shwesandaw Pagoda. North and Around Minan Thu Village: Nandamannya Temple, Phayathonezu Temple Group, Tayokepyay Temple, Dhamayazaka Temple, East & West Petleik Temple, Lawkananda Pagoda. Bagan Archeological Museum , Palace Site
Activities : Rent a horse cart with driver , Go for hot air balloon ride , river cruises with a Bagan component,