The ancient city of Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the true spiritual hub of the country with over 2,000 pagodas, stupas & temples. The city sits in the center of the country, southwest of the Mandalay region and bordering the Irrawaddy River. The incredible preservation of sites here is said to rival that of Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat but with only a percentage of the visitors, for now. We have compiled a list of some of the famous landmarks of Bagan.
Ananda Temple– One of the most beautiful and best preserved in Bagan, Ananda Temple can be found near the Tharabar gate. The pagoda is a single-story structure that was built from 1090 – 1105 during the early Bagan age. The architectural style of Ananda shows Mon and Northern Indian influences. The highlight of the temple is the golden sikhara, or tower-like spire on top of the pagoda. The golden reflection is visible from miles away over the plains of the city and after dark the pagoda is lit up creating an ethereal glow.
Shwezigon Pagoda – The gold-plated pagodawas built around the year 1090 and is one of the oldest monuments in Bagan. This incredible structure glitters in the sun and is an extremely important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. The stupa sits in the center of a large area where several other shrines and temples were built later on. The pagoda’s design has been copied over and over again for temples and pagodas all over the city but Shwezigonis the original.
Dhammayangyi Temple – The Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest temple located in Bagan and is visible from almost all parts of the city. This massive temple was never completed and consists of a massive square base topped by six terraces. The temple does hold an interesting back story as it was started by King Narathu in 1170 as a way of atoning himself after he murdered his father and brother who were next in line to become king! King Narathu himself was later murdered under uncertain circumstances.
Shwesandaw Pagoda – One of the taller pagodas in Bagan, the Shwesandaw Pagoda is quite the imposing structure with 5 receding terraces topped by a cylindrical stupa. The pagoda tops out at 328 feet and is visible from far across the Bagan plains.The structure was built by King Anawrahta to further Buddhism in his empire and to enshrine hair relics of the Buddha that he had brought back from the town of Thaton.
Gubyaukgyi Cave Temple – This fascinating cave temple draws visitors to see the well-preserved, richly colored murals and carvings inside. The temple was originally constructed in 1113 in an Indian-influenced style that contains a large entrance attached to a smaller antechamber. The interior of the temple is lit by natural light that comes in from large stone windows giving plenty of light to see all the beauty inside.
Manuha Temple – The Manuha Temple was built by the Mon King Manuha after having spent a decade in captivity in the city of Bagan. It is thought that the temple is meant to represent the stresses of living in captivity for so long, as the images of the Buddha are large and crammed into their assigned spaces, much like a King in captivity. Four large gold painted images of Buddha are contained in separate rooms and each in a seated image. The temple is still an active place of worship for Buddhists in Burma to this day.