Bagan become more famous day by day and many tourists visit this wonderful place. In 2016, the government decided to change some of the rules there. In this post, I will share about the most famous pagodas and places in Bagan. If you want to know the location exactly, please click the bold letter. When I was there in around 2016 or 2017, the issuing authority did not allow to take photos in the temple in order to protect the decay of depicting plaques. Not every temple, just some temples. Moreover, we Now, let me inform about the most essential and updated information about Bagan.
- 1 Introduction about Bagan
- 2 Things to do in Bagan
- 3 Earthquakes in Bagan
- 4 Bagan Temples – History of Pagodas and Stupas
- 4.1 Dhammayazika Pagoda
- 4.2 The Seinnyet Sisters Temple and Pagoda
- 4.3 Ananda Temple
- 4.4 Shwesandaw Temple
- 4.5 Dhammayangyi Temple
- 4.6 Thatbyinnyu Temple
- 4.7 Shwezigon Pagoda
- 4.8 Pyathatgyi temple
- 4.9 Sulamuni Temple
- 4.10 Bupaya Pagoda
- 4.11 Pahtothamya Temple
- 4.12 Myazedi Pagoda
- 4.13 Manuha Temple
- 4.14 Gubyaukgyi Temple
- 4.15 Lawkananda Pagoda
- 4.16 Htilominlo Temple
- 4.17 Gawdawpalin Temple
- 4.18 Mingalazedi
- 4.19 Mahabodi Pagoda
- 4.20 Tu Yin Taung Pagoda
- 4.21 Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda
- 4.22 Swe Daw Lay Su
- 4.23 Tharabar Gate
- 5 Accommodations in Bagan
Introduction about Bagan
Bagan is also known as the land of temples, located on the banks of Ayeyarwaddy River. There are over 2000 temples, pagodas and stupas. Most of them are small stupas and solid brick temples with entrances. The shape and construction of temples and stupas are highly significant in Buddhism. A temple has at least one entrance but most of them have 4 entrances. Why does it stand out as one of the most famous attractions in worldwide? The most important reason is because it is very ancient as Bagan temples are dated from the 11th centuries. Most of the people recognize that The Bagan Archaeological Zone and the Angkor Watt complex are similar. The width of Bagan Archaeological Zone is about 100 square kilometres while Angkor Watt is about 400 square kilometres. So Angkor Site is 4 times wider than that. Most of the people say that it is the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas in Myanmar. It is actually the second one as the first one in Myanmar is Rakhine.
Things to do in Bagan
I would recommend you to enjoy ballooning in Bagan. Ballooning will allow you to explore the over 2000 temples on the Bagan Plain, slowly floating and it also gives you the best possible view of Bagan. A few years ago, only the company Balloon Over Bagan provided this amazing experience but now, there are two more, Oriental Ballooning and Golden Eagle Ballooning. Therefore, you can enjoy a flight with all of them. There is no big difference in prices. Furthermore, you can go to the Nann Myint tower and enjoy the bird eye view of Bagan. The tower has a height of 60 metres and a total of 13 levels. You can have an access to 11th or 12th floor with the elevator. Then you have to use ladder to reach level 13. At the first floor, there is a gallery and souvenir shop. There are also some restaurants at the top level. At the bottom of the tower, you can see a huge 5 stars hotel, Aureum Palace, the largest resort in Bagan. Moreover, you will see that some villas are constructed with Myanmar Teak. Although there are many famous pagodas in there, most visitors’ must-see lists are Ananda, Dhammayazika and Sulamani temple. Another thing you should do before leaving is watching the sunset while taking a boat along Ayeyarwaddy River. A few years ago, we could watch the sunset from many other pagodas. After 2016 earthquake, government restricted to enjoy sunset from pagodas.
Earthquakes in Bagan
Bagan faced two enormous earthquakes in 1975 and 2016. Both of the earthquakes left deleterious effects to many famous stupas and temples. In 2016, the earthquake destroyed over 400 temples and some of the small temples became rubble. Although, there are other temples which have just minor structural damage and can be accessible. As a result, the famous pagodas such as the Sulamani, North Guni and Mingalazedi temples were seriously damaged. Therefore, visitors are not allowed anymore to enter some temples and pagodas. However, almost all of the major temples are open and it is still worth visiting.
Bagan Temples – History of Pagodas and Stupas
Now I would like to share about the most famous and visiting pagodas in Bagan. You can visit these places with E-bike, bicycle and horse cart. Furthermore, you can enjoy the art of painting on your hand in some places. In addition, take the photo with the puppets which hang on the tree.
Most of the pagodas in Bagan have square floor plans, however, Dhammayazika pagoda is pentagonal layout. There is an entrance on each side. 4 of the 5 entrances are for the veneration of Buddha. The last one is for the future Buddha who will appear on the earth.The earthquake destructed the front entrance and the top of the dome of Dhammayazika pagoda. Even though they repair the dome with scaffolding, visitors can enter the temple.
The Seinnyet Sisters Temple and Pagoda
You can find these temple and pagoda between New Bagan and Myinkaba, just north of New Bagan.The Seinnyet Ama Pahto which means elder sister temple is the closest to the road. Behind it is the Seinnyet Nyima Paya which means younger sister pagoda.The queen Seinnyet built the Seinnyet Ama Pahto. The sister of the queen constructed the Seinnyet Nyima Paya. Pahto is temple and Paya means pagoda, so one of them is temple and another one is pagoda. It is the same with the Ananda Pahto which is therefore a temple and Dhammayangyi Pahto, a temple.
Ananda temple is the most famous and the holiest one in Bagan. In 1091, the third king, Kyan-zit-tha built it. Furthermore, this temple is close to Tharapa Gate. Tharapa is the only gate which remains of the original 12 in the old Bagan city panels.This temple is a single storey structure and influenced by the Mon and North Indian architectural style. It is an elegant and symmetrical structure. The total height of the structure is almost 51 meters.On the ground of the Ananda Temple, there is an Ananda Oak Kyaung or Ananda brick monastery.Furthermore, the Ananda Temple festival is celebrated every year in January. It is also the best time to see the ritual of Buddha. The Full-moon day of the lunar month is the busiest day within the festival. This temple houses four standing Buddha images and each of which face the direction of East, North, West and South. The names of these images are Kassapa (the third of five Buddhas), Kakusandha (the second of five Buddhas), Konagamana (the second Buddha) and the fourth Buddha, Gautama. Furthermore, the images which face in north and south are the original of Bagan Style. The two of which are new replacements because the originals were deteriorated into fire. These images are fully furnished with golden leaves. The most noteworthy is that all of the images were made of teak wood. If you look carefully and closely to the original south facing Buddha image, you will notice that it has a sad look. However, this image also has merriment face when view it from a certain distance. The Buddha images of east and west were in the later Konbaung of Mandalay style. In addition, the east image holds a herb, which is a remedy for torture. At the feet of the west image, there are two statues which represent the King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan,made with lacquer. It seems like the monk who admonished the King Kyanzittha to convert into Theravada Buddhism. The legend said that there were 8 monks who adduced their powers and skills to the King. So he pleased with this show and offer them to construct a temple. After completing the construction, the king killed the monks so as to be ensure that another similar structure would not appear.
A few years ago, Shwesandaw temple was one of the best temple from where you could watch the sunset, sunrise and all around the plain of Bagan. But nowadays, because of the effects of earthquake, people decided to keep the ancient monuments. In 1057, King Anawrahta, founder of Bagan Kingdom, built this temple. The height of the temple is about 328 feet. So it is one of the tallest temples in Bagan. It is in white color with symmetrical structure and consists a bell shape stupa which settle on a base of five square terraces. In the corner of the terraces, there are the statues of Hindu God with the elephant head.
Dhammayangyi temple is supposed to be the largest one on the plain of Bagan. Inside the temple, you can find many tunnels. The ventilation and lighting system is from about 13th centuries. This will show the impressiveness of ancient Myanmar Architecture. Furthermore, it seem as the early step pyramids of Egypt when view it from a distance. First of all, the King Narathu built this temple in 1170. After murdering his brother and father, he became the king and so he certainly worried about bad karma. So he built this massive temple in order to achieve the merit. However the construction did not complete full and it stopped after the death of the king. According to the story. the king used to check the construction with the needle by piercing into the brick work. If there were any hole appeared, he cut the fingers of the laborers because of the imperfection. Some consider that the king is still here as a ghost so as to protect his temple.
Thatbyinnyu temple is above 60 meters in height. Therefore, it is also one of the highest monuments in Bagan, being the first two storey structures. All four sides have an arched entrance halls. The main entrance on the east side which is longer than other and that breaks the symmetrical form of the temple. After Thatbyinnyu, the Sulamuni, the Gawdawpalin and the Htilominlo temples are all multistorey buildings and involve Bagan Architectural Style. Unfortunately, in 1975, the earthquake seriously destroyed this temple.
Shwezigon pagoda is one of the most ancient and impressive pagodas in Bagan. In 1044, King Anawrahta built this pagoda. Every October or November, there is the Shwezigon Pagoda Festival. It takes place in the small town of Nyaung Oo, on the north side of Bagan. The giant statues of guardians of the temples are at the entrance of the pagoda.There is a stone pillar within the pagoda compound which contains Mon language inscriptions. According to the legend of Anawrahta, the first great founder of Bagan, determined the site to build this pagoda by conveying a white elephant. This elephant carried the bone relic of the Buddha to wander freely with the statement and wherever the elephant ceased would be the site for pagoda. Finally the elephant stopped over a dune and so selected this area for the pagoda. In addition, the name Shwezigon means “pagoda on a dune”. Furthermore, the pagoda houses footprints of Buddha and there are also four bronze standing Buddha images. The postures of right hands in all of these images are in Abhayamudra which means the fearless and the left hands hold the monk’s robe.
You can enjoy this gigantic and impressive brick temple in the South East of Old Bagan. In 13th century, king Kyaswa built this temple. Pyathatgyi temple is also one of the last and largest temples in Bagan. This structure is one of the few enduring double cave monasteries. Moreover, this pagoda shows the advancement in architectural skills of Bagan era with the use of huge vaulted rooms and wide corridors. This temple embodies several sitting and standing Buddha images in miscellaneous postures. In 1998, the program of reestablishment completed. In addition, it is a symmetrical structure but the western entrance porch projects out from the pagoda. The inner passageways guide around the entire of temple structure. The apertures in the walls enshrine the Buddha images. At the center, there is a small structure which form like a temple. A staircase steers to the large terrace which is on top of the pagoda. Furthermore. this terrace will provide elegant views of Bagan environment including its uncountable temples. This temple is one of the most famous sunset temples in Bagan.
Sulamuni temple is large and elegant multi storey structure in the late Bagan era. The founder of this temple, King Narapatisithu found a ruby at the spot of this temple. After that, he erected the Sulamuni Temple. Therefore, the origin of this temple means a small ruby. During his empire, he built the awe-inspiring monuments such as Dhammayazika and Gawdawpalin temples. Its architectural character is quite similar with Htilominlo temple. The terraces of Sulamuni comprises with the charms of reddish-brown color plaques, which tell the stories of the Buddha.
Bupaya Pagoda is one of the most attractive pagodas because of its age and location. Although this is not an impressive one, you can enjoy sunset from this pagoda.This pagoda is one of the earliest monuments in Bagan. King Pyusawhti built this pagoda during 11th centuries. After 1975 earthquake, the original pagoda fell down into the Ayeyarwaddy River. So they rebuilt it with concrete, although the original one was with brick.You can rent a boat at the jetty of this pagoda to enjoy sunset along Ayeyarwaddy River.
Pahtothamya temple is one of the eldest temples in Bagan even though the commencing date of the temple is uncertain. Many consider that the Bagan King Nyaung-U Sawrahan built this temple in 10th century when the area did not define as Bagan. On the interior walls, you can see one of the most mature residues of the mural arts in Bagan. Therefore, this temple frequently close in order to protect these murals. It is a small and single storey temple, whcih face towards the East. Although the light comes in through the small cavities of stone windows. In the center there is a single square room with three Buddha images which encircles with a corridor. Even though the stucco on the outer walls disappear, some stucco remains in the interior. However some of them are fragments of murals in bygone era. In addition, there is also a spiral stairway in one of the barriers and which heads to the terrace on the head of the temple.
Myazedi pagoda is a gilded stupa which is in the south of old Bagan, Myinkaba village. The prince Yazakuma, the son of the King Kyanzitha built this pagoda for his mother in the first half of the 12th century. There are other temple buildings within a platform of Myazedi pagoda’s compound. There are two more structures which are right behind the pagoda and a small temple which cap with several htis. Moreover, there is a small building where keeps Myazedi inscription, the eldest stone engraving in Myanmar. The donor of this pagoda, the prince Yazakuma devoted this wording to his father. This four side stone has four languages of ancient Pali, Mon, old Myanmar and Pyu. But the aim of the word is the same and it tells the tale of the Prince and his father.
Manuha temple is one of the oldest temples in Bagan and name the king of Mon kingdom, Manuha. This temple contains four large Buddha images with a separate chamber. There are three rooms in front of the temple and each contains sitting Buddha images. Furthermore there is a single room at the back of the temple which enshrines a 90 feet long reclining Buddha image. A number of tiny steps and small door head towards the reclining Buddha image. Next to this image is a stairway which conducts to the top of the temple and this will have a view of sitting Buddha image. Firstly, the king of Bagan, Anawrahta wanted to disappear Buddhism in his empire. So he ordered the king Manuha to subjugate the Buddhisms but the king refused to do it. Therefore the king Anawrahta invaded the Mon kingdom, seized the king and imprisoned in Bagan. After 10 years, the king Manuha desired to build the temple in order to gain merit. In addition, he wanted to tell the future generation that he was in prison and also felt incommodious by constructing this temple. As a result, you will feel like him when you see these Giant Buddha images within a small cavity. At first I suggest that the worst architectural temple in Bagan but for now it’s the best for me as I feel like I am in prison like him because of the proportion of the temple.
The Gubyaukgyi temple is in the north east of old Bagan and near with Wetkyi-In village. In the early 12th century, the king Kyanzittha built this temple. During his empire, he wish he was able to built the grand temple like the Ananda and the Myazedi temples. Indian architectural style influence this temple and which resembles the Mahabodhi temples in Buddha Gaya, the place of where the Buddha achieve unsurpassed and supreme enlightment. The interior walls and ceilings are furnished with the piece of early mural paintings. Unlike other temples in Bagan, the design is not in bell shape or cylindrical. The light comes in the interior of the temple through the large stone windows.
Lawkananda pagoda is an impressive golden pagoda and it’s a bit similar with the golden Bupaya. In Pali language it means the joy of the world. The king Anawrahta built this temple in 1059 by enshrining a replica of tooth relic from Buddha, from Sri Lanka. From the platform of this pagoda, you will have a great view of Ayeyarwaddy river with the background of mountain range. In addition, in the months of July and August, there is the festival of this pagoda. Once the gilded pagoda is in white color. According to the legend, there was a white elephant which carried the tooth relic of Buddha to choose the site for this pagoda. Wherever the elephant stopped and knelt down would be the site but unfortunately the tooth relic disappeared oddly. Miraculously, the tooth reappeared when the elephant stopped. So this spot became the Lawkananda pagoda with the tooth relic of Buddha.
Htilominlo temple is a 46-meter high majestic building and its design is close with Sulamuni temple. According to the legend, the son of the king Narapatisithu built this temple. The king had five sons and in order to choose the next king, they had to stand in a circle and the white umbrella in the center. The one that the umbrella pointed might be the next king. The name of this pagoda “Htilominlo” means that the one who is wanted by the umbrella and the king. The top of this temple consists of an ornamental tower which origin is from Northern India. The top is similar with Ananda temple, however, Htilominlo is not gilded. Although there are two floors in this temple, the upper floor cannot have an access in order to prevent the decay.
Gawdawpalin temple is 55 meters in height and second tallest temple in Bagan. It is a two storey building and built in the form of the late Bagan era. It is similar with the Thatbyinnyu temple which is half a century earlier. The construction of this temple began during the era of the king Narapatisithu. On each side of the pagoda has an entrance which protrudes from the structure. There are Buddha images inside the temple which seated on the pedestals.
The MIngalazedi is a late period Bagan style temple and 40 meters in height. It is the last of the great temple in Bagan before the Mongolian armies invaded the Bagan Kingdom and which cause the ending of Bagan empire. On the top of three rectangular terraces, there is a large bell shape stupa. Furthermore, there is a small stupa in every corner of the terrace. All four sides have stairways which guide to the top of the third terrace. Moreover, all of these terraces have reddish-brown plaques which depict about the lives of the Buddha. Unfortunately, some of the plaques destroyed seriously due to the weather. The most noteworthy is that the 13th century lacquerware which can be found in this pagoda are the oldest among other lacquerware in Bagan.
Mahabodi pagoda is also within the compound of old Bagan city walls. It is a unique monument and differs from other temples in Bagan because it resembles the Mahabodi pagoda in Buddha Gaya in north India.The temple in Bagan is two storey building and the height of 43 meters. The square block is at the base of the pagoda and each corner contain the smaller model of the stupa. The base and tower of this pagoda contain several niches with 465 Buddha images and which are in different postures. Both the ground and upper floors of this pagoda have the large sitting Buddha image. The inner wall has an inscription which writes the information about the land where the temple was built. There is also another building within the pagoda complex, the gem house which names Ratana Gara. It accommodates beautifully furnished alter pieces which were seriously destroyed during the earthquake of 1975.
Tu Yin Taung Pagoda
Tu Yin Taung pagoda is on the east of Ayeyarwaddy river bank. During AD 1059, the king Anawrahta built this Bagan Tu Yin Taung temple with the donation of Buddha tooth relic from Sri Lanka. There are 32 elephants statues at the base of the pagoda which are in different directions. There are quarries at this hill and which represent the chains of human during this construction. The workers hand to line up the distance of 7 miles and relayed the stone bricks to other up to the site.
Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda
Tant Kyi Taung pagoda is on the other side of Bagan region, across the Ayeyarwaddy river in Pakokku district within the Magway Division. It is believed to embody the fourth tooth relics of Buddha. This hilltop pagoda will offer the views of Bagan across the Ayeyarwaddy river. To get there, you have to go to a jetty at the base of Golden Bupaya. In the rainy season, the jetty is at the footage of this pagoda. However the river is shallow during summer and you need to walk on the sand to reach the jetty. By the way, be careful, there may be some animals such as cows and buffaloes run along the sand sometimes. Then take a boat to the Pakokku and after that hire a truck to reach the hilltop pagoda. The road was dusty and a bit rough when I was there in 2012.
Swe Daw Lay Su
There is a legend about Swe Daw Lay Su among the Myanmar people. The meaning of Swe Daw Lay Su is the four pagodas in Bagan and which are famous among the pilgrims. These four pagodas are Shwezigon pagoda, Tu Yin Taung pagoda, Tant Kyi Taung pagoda and Lawkananda pagoda. If you visit these four temples not beyond the afternoon, all of your wishes will be granted. Most of the Myanmar people trust this belief. However the three pagodas are in Bagan region and the last one, Tann Kyi Taung pagoda is on the other side of Ayewarddy river.
Tharabar gate is one of the well preserved and remains of the palace wall during the 9th century. On the arch gateway, there will be vestige of ancient stucco. Furthermore, there are two cavities which are for two spirits. The Myanmar people believe that these spirits are the guardians of this gate. The left hand side is the lady golden face and the right hand side is her brother Lord Handsome.Once, the king married the lady golden face in order to cajole her brother Lord Handsome. When the king killed her brother at the stake, the sister jumped in as well. Only her face left without burning.
Accommodations in Bagan
Nyaung-U village, Old Bagan and New Bagan are disparate in terms of characters and cost. If you are very fond of colonial architecture, the centre of Nyaung-U village will be the best one for you. In addition, you can find a local market around this village. Nyaung-U airport and some monasteries are located not far from the north-south road of the market. I suppose that the place will be a little bit noisy but you can find a wide range of cheap guest houses and hotels there. New Bagan will provide mid-price range of accommodation for you. In 1990, the government relocated villagers from old Bagan and built this new one. It is pleasant, pretty quiet and has some nice restaurants. If you are in New Bagan and you are looking to eat some european food, I would like to recommend you La Pizza restaurant. Enjoy there the great taste of Myanmar Tea Leaf Pizza. You can also find this restaurant in Nyaung-U village. You can find luxury and posh hotels and resorts in Old Bagan. But there are only a few restaurants. It is where the collection of the famous temple group.
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