If you are visiting Myanmar, I am sure you wouldn’t skip Bagan. And among the top things to do in Bagan are temples. The fantastic pictures of Bagan Pagodas with hot air balloons and mountains in the backdrop will make you take the Bagan trip. At least, that’s what made me go. And, yes, you’ll be thrilled at first sight of thousands of Bagan Pagodas sprinkled all over. With over 1000 temples, how to pick the best Bagan Pagodas? Don’t worry, this Bagan travel guide for best Bagan temples will help you make the decisions. Read on to find out.
Introduction of Bagan – A brief history of Bagan Pagodas in Myanmar before moving to the best temples – The archaeological zone in Bagan is a UNESCO world heritage listed site. It used to consist of more than 10000 temples and monuments! Why are there so many temples in Bagan?
Well, in 1044, King Anawrahta established the Bagan Kingdom, which was called as Pagan. The kingdom was initially tiny. Plus, Bagan’s land is dry, and although located close to Irrawaddy, people relied on other means for living. But once the kingdom was formed, many dams, reservoirs and canals were built to use water for farming. It changed the landscape of Bagan, making it fertile inhabiting more people at the end of the 11th century.
Also, King Anawrahta got introduced to Theravada Buddhism soon after. To promote Buddhism, he took up construction of thousands of Bagan pagodas, temples and monuments. During his 30+ years of rule, the kingdom expanded, so did the number of Bagan Pagodas.
The kings in the 12th and 13th century added more and more Bagan temples because it gave merit. During these centuries, the Bagan Kingdom reached its glory, on par with the neighbouring Khmer Empire in Cambodia. These two were the richest and dominant kingdoms in SE Asia at that time.
Fall of Bagan Empire – Over 10,000 temples built, the land available for farming reduced, which unfortunately was one of the causes for its decline. The attacks by Mongol and other neighbouring kingdoms brought an end to the glory of Bagan.
With that, most of Bagan became abandoned again, and by the 15th century, it became a site of pilgrimage for the Burmese. Apart from the few prominent temples, most of the Bagan Pagodas, wooden Royal Palace and other buildings perished with time.
Bagan presently is home to over 2000 temples, many of which need maintenance. I guess these remaining Bagan temples will be preserved as I saw a lot of renovation and restoration going on.
If you found the history of Bagan interesting, wait for the best of Bagon Pagodas. Here is a list of best Bagan temples that you can visit on your first Bagan trip.
My favourite of all Bagan Pagodas is Dhammangayi Temple, the largest of all, which looks like one of the Incan pyramids. Its vast size makes it one of the dominating temples in the area. You can’t skip the biggest Bagan Pagoda.
Plus, the temple has a fascinating history. King Narathu, who built this temple, became the emperor after murdering his father and brother. Worried that bad Karma would get back at him and to seek some good merit, he constructed this vast temple.
This temple is exclusive because of its unique location. It is situated on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, from where you can get some stunning panoramic views of the mountains and the river.
It is also the oldest Bagan Pagoda in the city. Another reason not to skip this. The sign at the entrance states that it was built in the year 300 AD, many centuries before the Bagan Kingdom. Bu Phaya means the temple in the shape of a gourd. At this place, the farmers couldn’t grow due to gourds that destroyed crops. King Pyusawhti solved this problem and built a pagoda here. Go here during the evening to watch a fantastic sunset.
I know, the name is similar to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Well, it’s not just the name, the Pagoda is enormous and golden as well resembling the Yangon one. The best time to visit this temple is at night when it is lit, and the golden colour shines through.