Bagan is the main tourist attraction in Myanmar. One of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, Bagan is located on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. Bagan was the capital of the first unified Empire of Anawrahta founded in 849 AD. It is just 193 km south of Mandalay in Upper Myanmar. Known as the city of four million pagodas, Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia. There, one can find over 2,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries built during the Bagan Dynasty founded by King Anawrahta in 1044 A.D.
The name is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning flower. So Mt. Popa means a mountain of flowers. There is a monastery situated in the crater of this extinct volcano. To reach the top, you need to remove shoes and socks and climb the 777 steps to the summit. Along the way you will come across monkeys expecting treats.
Mt. Popa is located not far from the cultural and archaeological area of Bagan .
They can get a little aggressive at times, so you are advised to keep a tight grip on your personal belongings.
When King Kyansittha asked eight Arahats (Saints) to provide him with a design for the religious monument he was about to build, they created the image of Nanda Mula Cave Hall held to be in the Himalayas. So the temple was constructed on the model of that image and it came to be known as "Nandamu" which in course of time corrupted to sound "Ananda.
Bagan's holiest temple, built in 1091. There are three different versions regarding the name of this temple.
The Sanscrit word "Anand” means "very beautiful." The name "Ananda" must have been derived from this Sanscrit word. The Temple is extremely beautiful.
There is a Pali word " Ananta Panna" which means " the endless wisdom of the Buddha." The temple sym¬bolizes this attribute of the Buddha. Hence it is called "Ananta Temple."It is believed Ananda comes from the Pali word "anantapannya", which means "boundless wisdom". The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. Ananda Temple is like a museum. You can study all kinds of Myanmar arts here — architecture, stone sculpture, stucco, glazed plaques, terra cotta, wood carving, artwork of blacksmith etc.
The Nine Wonders of Shwezigon Pagoda are mentioned below.
In architecture Shwezigon is a prototype of Myanmar Zedi. There are several glazed stone plaques adorning its terraces, on which scenes from 550 Jatakas (Buddha's birth stories) are depicted. The color of glaze is mostly green.
1. The Hti (umbrella) on the top has no iron buttresses.
2. The shadows of the enclosure walls do not change position.
3. Papers holding gold foils are dropped from the height of the Pagoda after gilding, but they never land outside the precinct.
4. The precinct can accommodate any number of visitors and pilgrims.
5. There is always an early morning offering of steamed rice to the Pagoda.
6. The sound of the beating of a big drum on one side of the Pagoda cannot be heard on the other side.
7. The Pagoda gives you the illusion of it being on a ridge.
8. Regardless of heavy rainfall, no rain water remains in its compound.
9. The Khayey trees and Chayar trees in the precinct bloom all the year round
Thatbyinnyu Temple was built by King Alaung Sithu in A. D. 1144. It is the tallest structure in Bagan. Thatbyinnyu Temple is the tallest in height, from the base to the finial is 201 feet high.
The name 'Thatbyinnyu ' is one of the attributes of the Lord Buddha., 'Thatbyinnyu' means 'Omniscience' which the Lord Buddha attained on becoming enlightened.
In the Temple are circumambulatory vaulted corri-dors, four-terraced devotional stupa, vihara (monastery) and the library. It is a big complex structure with seven terraces in all facing east. On the upper terrace there is a big statue of Buddha made of brick and plaster, sitting on a lotus throne. Its head was damaged by the earthquake of 1975. A dolomite Buddha statue was discovered inside the damaged head. It is now on display at the archeological museum, Bagan.
Dhammayan Gyi Temple
Dhammayan Gyi Temple, a cave pagoda, is noted for its massiveness. It is said that King Narathu built it in A.D.1170 and finished it in 3 years. The king reigned only 3 years. Viewed from a distance its shape is like an Egyptian pyramid.
In ground plan it resembles that of Ananda, which was built by his royal grandfather Kyansittha. It has two circumambutatory vaulted corridors and four devotional halls, each at one of the four cardinal points. But for some unknown reason, the inner vaulted corridor, its entrances, and light wells were blocked.
It is quite evident that they were blocked immediately after the structure was completed because the bricks used in the structure and those used in blocking are found to be identical in size and texture. Besides the cement applied to the blocks and that applied to the walls of the structure proved to be of the same type and belonged to the same period. There is a theory put forward by some historians that Narathu was a tyrant who had committed many political killings, his old father Alaung Sithu, his elder brother Min Shin Saw, and his queen Pe-thida were his victims. After building such a massive religious movement, repented Narathu, obsessed with his crimes and so overcome by remorse, blocked the inner corridors, windows and light wells so as to rescind his sins.
The Sulamani consists of two stories, each of which is square in plan, with porches on all four sides but with the eastern porch extending farther than the others.
The upper story is set back from the lower, but it is of the same height. Both stories are surmounted by receding terraces, with crenellated parapets and small stupas at the corners.
Glazed terracotta plaques of different sizes and patterns decorate the terraces but the damaged spire above conveys a feeling of incompleteness. In the ground story, a vaulted corridor runs around the central pile of solid brickwork, each side of which has a seated image of the Buddha on a pedestal. The image on the eastern side differs slightly from the others, being set into a deep recess. Two narrow flights of steps set into the thick walls lead to the terrace above the eastern porch. From there, two broad stairways lead to the upper story. Here, too, a vaulted corridor runs around the central block, which has a recess on the eastern side to form an image chamber. The inner walls of the temple were once decorated with paintings, but they are now obliterated or overlaid with more recent paintings of no great artistic merit.
Htilo Minlo Temple
He had to appoint one of them Crown Prince. He had in mind Zeya Theinkha to succeed him. But to be fair he let the white umbrella, which was one of the royal regalia to choose the deserving son. He placed the white umbrella in the center of the sons who were gathered around it. He prayed, " May the white umbrella incline towards the son who deserves to be Crown Prince." The white umbrella inclined towards Zeya Theinkha. When Zeya Theinkha became king he built this Pagoda on the site of the white umbrella that inclined toward him. " Htilo Minlo Min" means the king favoured by the white umbrella and the father king.
This cave Pagoda was built in A.D. 1218 by the king who bore three names,
This Pagoda has three vaulted corridors. The middle corridor is like a dark secret passage going around the central structure, it is reached via entrance hole at the top of a spiral staircase built in the thickness of the wall.
In the main Pagoda, and the surrounding walls, bricks were laid with excellent skill. The spans at the four corners of the main hall are in a square shape. They have no iron or wooden beams to buttress. They were built of bricks and cement only. Glazed sandstone tiles of green and yellow color decorated the structure. They reflect brilliantly in the sunlight. Glazed sandstone tiles are rare decorative artwork. Glazing requires very high temperature. High temperature can cause sandstone tiles to crack. Only skilled technicians could produce such decorative pieces.