Bagan’s Essential Temples

The ancient Burmese city of Bagan has literally thousands of ancient temples scattered across a vast plain – here are five of my favourites

Schwezigon Paya Temple, Bagan, Burma
Schwezigon Paya Temple, Bagan, Burma

Schwezigon Paya
One of the most sacred temples at Bagan, Schwezigon Paya is reputed to contain relics of the Buddha within its immense bell-shaped golden stupa. Schwezigon is built on similar principles to Shwedagon Paya in Yangon, Burma’s holiest site.

Ananda Temple, Bagan, Burma
Ananda Temple, Bagan, Burma

Ananda
Bagan’s finest temple, Ananda is impressive from every angle of its cruciform layout both inside and outside. The intricacy of the carvings on the temple’s roof exterior which lead the eye inexorably towards the golden spire is contrasted by the gloom of Ananda’s corridors which suddenly open out to huge standing Buddha shrines

Thatbyinnyu Temple, Bagan, Burma
Thatbyinnyu Temple, Bagan, Burma

Thatbyinnyu
The tallest of Bagan’s temples, Thatbyinnyu is some 63 metres high, with soaring vertical walls that rise to three terraces and peak in graceful spires and the golden sikhara. The terraces are unfortunately not open to visitors for safety reasons, but the murals of the ground floor can be explored

Schwesandaw Paya Temple, Bagan, Burma
Schwesandaw Paya Temple, Bagan, Burma

View of Ananda And Other Temples From Schwesandaw Paya
View of Ananda And Other Temples From Schwesandaw Paya

Schwesandaw Paya
Famous to tourists as an ideal viewing platform from which to see all of Bagan at sunset or sunrise, Schwesandaw Paya is an immense whitewashed stupa that is visible from almost everywhere on the plain. Besides the stupa itself is a large reclining Buddha within its own enclosure, along with the stupa’s tower which fell to earth during the 1975 earthquake and has been subsequently replaced.

Nanpaya Temple, Bagan
Nanpaya Temple, Bagan

Nanpaya Temple Interior, Bagan
Nanpaya Temple Interior, Bagan

Nanpaya
A small temple in the village of New Bagan, unimposing from the outside. Arrive early and shafts of light can be seen penetrating the morning gloom to illuminate the mesmerizing intact carved murals of Brahma that are carved on each face of the temple’s four large pillars.


This story was originally published in issue 48 of Asian Geographic magazine under the title "The Legacy: Angkor, Bagan, Sukhothai"

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