One of the most amazing construction projects ever undertaken was at Bagan, the ancient kingdom of the Burmese rulers. For here, there are thousands of pagodas spread across the dusty plains, and while most were built for no other reason than to accommodate a Buddha statue, they are, in number, an amazing sight.
While nearby Angkor Wat in Cambodia (plus Ayutthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand) are filled the brim with tourists, much of Bagan is comparatively tourist-free. Of course, things are beginning to change, and by the end of the decade it is supposed that Bagan will be just as busy as its more famous counterparts to the East. So when visiting this sleepy old town, it is best to come prepared so as to make the most of your temple-trampling, and the map above can give you an idea of where to go to see these beautiful Buddhist buildings. Some of the VERY BEST temples and pagodas in Bagan are listed below:
Shwezigon Pagoda was built in the year 1102, and is believed to enshrine both a tooth and a bone of Gautama Buddha himself. It’s golden appearance with a circular stupa brightens up everybody’s day in Nyaung-U.
Lawka Nanda Pagoda (meaning “joy of the world”) is a lovely and picturesque Buddhist place of worship on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. It contains a replica of the Buddha tooth relic.
Mingala Zedi Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa and was built in 1284. It remains one of the few temples in Bagan that contains a full set of glazed terracotta tiles depicting the Jataka (literature concerning the birth of Buddha).
Ananda Temple has been labelled as “the Westminster Abbey of Burma” and was built in 1105. It is one of the few complete original temples still standing in Bagan, and is one of the most popular with both locals and tourists. It features 4 Buddha inside its walls, each facing in a different direction of north, east, south, and west.
That Byin Nyu Temple was erected in 1161 and is very close to the Ananda Temple. Shaped like an asymmetrical cross, this temple contains an image of a seated Buddha on the second floor.
Htilo Minlo Temple is a tall red brick temple that was completed in 1211. On the first floor, there are 4 Buddha statues, and similar to the Ananda Temple, these statues are each facing in a different direction.
Gawdaw Palin Temple was completed in 1229 and is actually the second-tallest temple in the whole of Bagan, and does not feature a stupa, which is unusual in Burmese architecture. Heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1975, this temple is used primarily by monks for meditation.
Shwesandaw Pagoda is a popular place for travellers to witness the Burmese sunrise over the plains from one of its five terraces. It was built in 1057 and is said to contain sacred hairs of Buddha himself.
I would really like to hear from people who have visited the temples of Bagan. I am interested to hear about your opinion on the temples and pagodas here, and which were your favourites. Please let me know in the comments section below!