Bagan is an ancient city, filled with archeological sites, located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay, Myanmar. During 9AD and 13BC it served as the capital of Pagan Kingdom. During this time, astonishingly, over 10,000 temples pagodas and monasteries were constructed. Today, an estimated 2,200 of these still remain. This Ancient city was home to various forms of schools such as Theravada/Mahayana/Tantric Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism.
In 2017, Kannan and I attended a lecture at Asian Civilization Museum by Associate Prof Koh Geok Yian about the daily life of Pagan between 1000-1300. During this talk she discussed the excavation project being carried out at Pagan and showed us artifacts, of course in slides, that had been discovered.
The rise of Pagan
Every Archeological site has a rising or flourishing period. Later they move to saturation before a gradual or sudden decline. Bagan is not an exception too. Buddhism and ancient trade tied these regions closely to India.
I was searching based on Prof Goh’s talk that night. I came to know something very interesting.
- Monks from India, Sri Lanka and the Khmer Empire went to Pagan.
- It may have the style inherited from Buddhist stupas of Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda in current day Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Sri Lanka.
- The ancient name of Pagan was Ari-madana-pura.
It seems there were some similarities between the temples of Pagan with temples of Pala empire of Bengal. There was trade and cultural exchanges between India and Bagan.
The canopy paintings at Pagan were interesting. Before that let’s see the list of places we may need to visit.
Bagan’s Flourishing period.
Kyansittha Palace – Excavation
Kyansittha was the king of Bagan Empire in the tenth century. Following his father Anawrahta, he continued social, economic and cultural exchanges. Excavation pictures from today’s tourist attraction from Bagan Palace were interesting.
Excavations show Pagal’s influence from China. A lot of Chinese vases, Southeast Asian artifacts, pottery, and fragmentary Buddha head sculptures have been found.
A lot of circular structures have been found. It can be seen in the pictures.
Who doesn’t marvel at Buddhist canopy paintings? I have already written about Ajanta briefly in this post. Similar beautiful canopy paintings exist in Bagan temples too. Tap on Google Images.
Being a riverside city, water journeys are depicted in their paintings.
Sites to visit in Bagan
What will be the daily life of a Bagan? I guess it could be like a peaceful life with blooming worship in monasteries, recitation of mantras and agriculture.
Fall of Pagan
Bagan has reached its peak in 11th and 12th century, starting from 10th century. Culture and economy flourished during Anawrahta’s reign. Bagan used to be known as a city of money. The influx of money brought its own problems. Lured by wealth, the sevak-s and the military destroyed the Bagan constitution.
Like the Ghazni Mahmud’s repeated invasion of India, the Mongolians invaded Pagan multiple times and plundered. The city has also been corrupted by Burmese ethnic groups such as the Rakhine-s, the Mon-s, and the Shan-s (seems they are the descendants of Assamese), a Southeast Asian ethnic group.
Pagan looks like a hamlet today, reminds me of Kodumbalur.
Thanks to the following sites for their images and text –
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