Bagan: Ancient Capital of Myanmar


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Bagan (Pagan) History

Bagan is a plain in the middle of Myanmar, covering a tract of country measuring about 16 square miles along the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy. The monuments which are now in all stages of decay were erected mostly from the 11th to 13th centuries A.D., when Bagan was the seat of the Myanmar dynasty. Tradition carried by the local chronicles, has it that a long line of fifty-five kings ruled over this kingdom during the twelve centuries.

King Pyinbya was the builder of the present-day Bagan city wall. King Pyinbya was the 34th king of the dynasty, who in 874 A.D. transferred the capital from Tampawaddy, now known as Pwasato. The latter was built by Thaiktaing, the 12th king, and there were two other capitals, namely, Thiripyitsaya' built by Thelegyaung, the 7th king and Paukkan built by Thamudrit, the founder of the dynasty in 108 A.D.

But the authentic history of the dynasty as supported by epigraphic evidence begins only with, the reign of Anawrahta (1044-77 A.D.). In 1057 Anawrahta conquered Thaton and brought back to his capital the Theravada scriptures in Pali, a large number of Buddhist monks, and artists and craftsmen of every description. From the Mon monks the Bagan people received their alphabet, religion and scriptures. It was from this momentous date that there began the extraordinary architectural and artistic activity which, in a little more than two centuries, covered the city and its environs with thousands of splendid monuments of every shape and size, the inner walls of most of which are decorated with incredible frescoes.

The square temples dominated by Mon influence are distinguished by their dark corridors which are dimly lighted by perforated windows and the bright frescoes of variegated colour with Mon writing on the walls. The typical Bagan Style temples are bright and airy within, with imposing plan and height. But there are also some temples with intermediate forms.

The end of the thirteenth century witnessed the fall of the Bagan dynasty. Thousands of pagodas were despoiled by the invaders and vandals and the king, who fled from the Chinese, is believed to have dismantled a considerable number of the monuments to collect materials for building forts. Since then the great mass of the religious edifices were left to decay and ruin and today we see no more than a hundred splendid monuments which attract and retain attention and since their foundation, have remained as places of worship.

For more information about Bagan History, click here to see the Kings of Bagan.



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