Locations: Bagan

BaganBagan is Myanmar’s most stunning archaeological spectacle – thousands of religious monuments are scattered across a dry and dusty plain on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River. The 5,000 or so temples that remain vary from small stupas to exalted soaring temples, and a massive crumbling brick wall that surrounded the king’s palace. All recall a former age of greatness, when this was a vast and populous city ruled over by numerous kings in two separate dynasties.

King Anawrahta 42nd ruler of Bagan was the city’s most influential ruler. In 1057 his forces captured Thaton – capital of the coastal Mon Kingdom, and established the first Myanmar Empire centered on Bagan. From Thaton he returned to Bagan with a large number of monks bearing Theravada Buddhist scriptures in Pali. He declared Theravada Buddhism the national religion, and – with the help of Thaton’s architects and craftmen – started a golden age of architecture that was to last 200 years. Most of Bagan’s construction happened during this period. Finally coming to an abrupt end with the abandonment of the city in the face Kublai Khan Mongol hordes in 1287.

Like other royal cities, only the major religious buildings were made of permanent materials – even the palaces were made of wood – so the magnificence that remains is only a shadow of Bagan at its peak. But its magic has not diminished, and time spent here is something to treasure. In the early morning mist the pagodas seem to "loom huge, remote and mysterious, like the vague recollections of a fantastic dream", as Somerset Maugham wrote in 1930


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