Local Transport



Bagan Archeological Zone

Posted By : admin/ 101 0

Lost cities abound in Myanmar, but none approach the splendor of Bagan. Scattered across an arid plain in a bend of the Ayeyarwady are the ruins of around 2,000 monasteries, temples, shrines, and stupas – remnants of an imperial capital that reached its peak between the 11th and 13th centuries. Viewed at sunrise or sunset, with the warm light intensifying the red-brown hues of their brickwork, the hundreds of tapering, elegantly symmetrical towers and finials rising from the dusty sand flats create a superb spectacle.

Once a thriving metropolis of between 50,000 and 200,000 people, Bagan dazzled Marco Polo, who described its gilded skyline as “one of the finest sights in the world.” Monks and scholars from across Asia came here to study philosophy, law, grammar, astrology, and medicine, and religion permeated every aspect of life. Under the influence of Shin Arahan (see p51), Bagan’s kings gradually began to favor and promote Theravada Buddhism. But the faith overlayered a complex blend  of arcane beliefs rooted in the Tibetan- influenced Mahayana tradition and Hindu  cults of Shiva and Vishnu, as well as in the worship of local nature spirits, or nats.

It is possible to chart this cultural shift in Bagan’s religious architecture, where small, dark shrines swirling with Tantric murals were, over time, superseded by towering  temples and giant, bell-shaped stupas. While a handful of these remain active places of worship, visited in great numbers by Burmese pilgrims, many more stand all but forgotten in the scrub. Virtually none, however, remain in a ruinous state. Since the 1990s, the government has pursued a massive renovation program, restoring even smaller, off-track monuments. Local villages have been forcibly relocated, an unsightly viewing tower set up, and ruins rebuilt, often from scratch and with little regard for original appearances, much to the dismay of UNESCO, which has denied Bagan coveted World Heritage Site status. The heavy-handed government control of the site, however, is effortlessly eclipsed  by the phenomenal beauty of the monu- ments themselves, described as one of  the true wonders of the medieval world.

0 / 5

Your page rank:

Leave your comment