New on the UNESCO World Heritage list this year (2019) is Bagan. And that made me think back to our own wonderful trip to Mayanmar in February 2015, and the days spend in Bagan.
All the photos in the collage below are clickable, so you can view the larger photo.
Ballooning over Bagan
Sunrise over Bagan from our hot air balloon
It is still dark as we leave our hotel. Safety briefing before take off, picked up from the hotel around 5:30am
preparing our hot air balloon
The preparations are on the way....
We took some short videos of the preparations of the hot-air balloons that you can see below:
And we are up in the air....
And off we go
It is still so early in the morning; the sun is not even showing up over the horizon. The landscape is still embrased with a veil of fog......
Shwezigon pagoda in the distance
As soon we get above the treeline we see the Shwezigon pagoda in the distance.....The Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments of Bagan.
Gold plated pagoda built by the founder of the Bagan empire King
Anawrahta. Single storey. The Shwezigon Pagoda is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments of Bagan. Most noticeable is the huge gold plated pagoda glimmering in the sun. The design of the Shwezigon Pagoda has been copied many times across Burma over the centuries.
Several shrines and temple buildings have been added to the complex since construction of the stupa in the year 1090. As the pagoda enshrines a number of sacred Buddhist relics, it is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. The Shwezigon was damaged by several earthquakes including the large 1975 quake, but has been restored since.
The many temples and pagodas on the plains of Bagan
The temples and pagodas on the plains of Bagan... there are xxxx numbers of them
Pagan began to flourish in 874 AD when King Pyinbya moved the capital here, but it was not until the reign of Bamar King Anawrahta that the ‘golden period’ of Pagan commenced.
In 1057 Anawrahta overwhelmed the Mon capital of Thaton, capturing over 30,000 prisoners, including the Mon royal family. Yet the influence of the Mons was key to the development of Pagan.
During his 33 year reign the Mon language became the official language (instead of Pali and Sanskrit) and Theravada Buddhism became the state religion.
The city served as the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan: the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later become Myanmar as we now know it. In the mid 9th century, it was the central power base of Burmese Buddhism under King Anawratha. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, especially, the kingdom flourished, and over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries were built. “It is estimated that as many as 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar…” They were lovingly decorated with paintings, carvings and engravings depicting stories from the life of the Buddha, and filled with flowers and fabrics and examples of Burmese crafts.
Many of the religious buildings were constructed of wood – and those buildings have not survived. Even those built of clay and brick have been damaged by earthquakes and the passage of time. Still, the roughly 2200 temples and pagodas that remain today in various states of disrepair are a magnificent sight dotted over the plains in the ever-changing light.
If you look closely at the photo above, you can see some people sitting on top of the pagoda, waiting eagerly for the spectacle of sunrise to start. It is very popular to climb the pagodas to get a good spot to view the sunset and sunrise. All these people climbing the pagodas and temples is unfortunately damaging them, and they are being closed to the public one by one to prevent people climbing on them.
And than the sun comes up, turning the sky in a palette of orange and red tones. We are so lucky with the weather today....
Some temples are in urgent need of repair....
Some 400 pagodas and temples—out of a total of 3,252—across the Bagan plain were damaged when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Burma on August 24.
The Sulamani Temple was built in 1183 by King Narapatisithu. It is one of the most-frequently visited in Bagan
Is it a temple or a pagoda....
We slowly float towards the Pyathadar temple
The Pyathadar temple is absolutely gorgeous to view from the balloon, with its huge statue becoming visible as we slowly float by. It is one of the last of the large temples built in Bagan
Pyathadar temple, Pyathatgyi temple from First half of the 13th century by Kyaswa. Style: Late period, “Double cave” temple. Pyathatgyi is one of the few remaining “double cave” monasteries. Most of these temples were built of wood and have long gone. in the 13th century land was becoming scarce in the Bagan empire. The late period temple shows the progression in architectural skills of the Bagan builders in the use of large vaulted rooms and broad corridors. The Pyathadar enshrines several large sitting and standing images of the Buddha in various postures. A project to restore the Pyathadar temple was completed in 1998
The Pyathadar is a symmetrical structure but for the Western entrance porch which protrudes out from the building. The massive porch is flanked by two smaller entrances on either side.
At the center of the East wall is another huge vaulted entry porch. The central entrance is flanked by two smaller vaulted entrances. Inside the structure seated on a pedestal is a large Burmese style image of the Buddha in the “Calling the Earth to witness” posture, which is visible from the outside. Inner passageways lead around the temple’s entire structure. Niches in the walls enshrine images of the Buddha.
The temple’s terraces
A staircase leads to the large terrace on top of the Pyathadar. At its center is a smaller structure shaped like a temple. The symmetrical structure has en entrance hall on each of its sides, that protrude out from the structure. On top is a sikhara, similar to that of the Ananda pagoda. The sikhara is topped with a golden multi tiered ornamental spire, called hti.
From the terraces visitors have good views of the surrounding Bagan plains and its countless temples, including the Sulamani and the Dhammayangyi. The Pyathadar is a popular place to watch the sunset. Candles on the stairways illuminate the pitch dark way to the temple’s terrace. The temple is designed with large vaults and broad corridors to connect one building to the other.
There is a huge vaulted entry porch at the center of the wall. A large image of Buddha is placed inside the structure. Other images are enshrined in niches in the walls. The terrace on top of Pyathadar Temple is connected with a staircase. At the center of the temple, there is another temple-shaped structure. The Pyathadar is topped with sikharas on which hti-ornamental spires are adorned.
'Pyathadar Temple, also known as Pyathatgyi, is a massive brick temple that was constructed during the 13th A staircase leads you to the top terrace where you have great view of the plains of Bagan and its temples and pagodas. Pyathada Temple was started during the later period of temple building in Bagan. This huge, Indian-influenced pagoda features impressive arches vaulting over broad corridors and halls
Ta Wet Hpaya
Ta Wet Hpaya...
My eyes were unavoidably drawn to the Dhammayazika Pagoda,with its large gilded bell shaped dome glistering in the early mornings sunlight. The pagoda was build by King Narapatisithu towards the end of the 12th century to enshrine a number of sacred Buddhist relics given to him by the King of Sri Lanka.
Everyday life goes on around the ancient temple ruins..
Time for landing....
As we came in to land we were asked to put our cameras away and adopt the landing position (seated, head back against the basket and holding the two hand grips tight). One hard bump and a smaller follow-up got us safely onto the ground.
The flight took little over an hour...(70 min)
Time for champagne!
Simone & Åke, Bagan, February 2015
It would be great to hear from you! So please leave a comment or a question. :-) Simone