Saturday, January 5, 2013


View from the top of...

I don't know what it is about us and early morning flights. This time we had a wondrous wake-up call at 3:30 for a 6 am flight. Aren't there any flights later in the day? What do pilots do all day long?

Bagan is now two cities, Old Bagan and New Bagan. At one time people lived throughout the Bagan Archaeological Zone but now the area has been designated as a historical site and so the residences have been moved...possible to do in certain kinds of governments.

The area is like Ankor Wat on hormones-the sheer number of stupas and temples and major or lesser buildings is absolutely astounding, mind-boggling, and unbelievable.  It covers an area of about 26 sq miles where kings built over 4000 Buddhist temples during roughly 230 years. While some damage has been done due to the same issues of earthquakes, wars and looting, there are many impressive temples. It was apparently one of the pilgrimage points for Buddhists throughout Southeast Asia. From what we gather from our guide and the few English signs, (VERY few) temples are still being built in honor of various deceased members of families. Some of the smaller temples are also being fixed up by various individual families (could be a group of families, hard to tell). Does guarantee that the number of temples will be ever increasing due to the continual desire to do good deeds...and impress young ladies. 

Temples here are built with one room and one Buddha or else with four rooms and four Buddhas within. Four and seven both seem to be auspicious numbers and are found frequently in things. Some of the temples have fabulous frescoes still remaining on the walls, though those are the ones that we couldn't photograph...flash seems to damage them. Due to the sheer quantity of temples, stupas, Buddhas, and other various structures, I am hereby publishing a disclaimer; I have no idea which picture goes to which name for which building. Therefore, they're nameless here. Hope you just enjoy the pictures.

Stupas at Shwezigon
Shwezigon Paya
The Shwezigon paya (the only one I can identify) is one of the main Buddhist sites in the northern portion of the Bagan area. It is home of the largest surviving bronze Buddhas, standing 13 feet high and made in 1102. It has frescoes of the scenes from the Jataka, or stories of Buddha's previous lives. Apparently they use the pictures as they tell the tales to children. The pictures in turn help the children learn or remember the stories. While most children learn to read now, in the past they didn't so the pictures were used frequently to keep the stories in mind.

Here they also have a compound called the 37 Nats. The original people were animists, with various spirits or "nats" inhabiting various places inside and outside of homes. There happen to be hundreds of nats, some of them quite specific to a give area, but to simplify life, the king decided to identify 36 fairly common nats. Since this king wanted to introduce Buddhism to the people, he set up a temple to the nats, adding one more nat that was the king or leader of all the nats. He then made that nat follow the Buddha so therefore all of the nats became followers of the Buddha.  It provided blending point between the two belief systems. You can see some people still have various colored flags representing different nats so while they are Buddhists, old beliefs die hard. 

Had to include this one. The young monk was heading up the road we were traveling on. Instead of staying on the side of the road, he moved into the middle, holding his hand up for us to stop. You should have seen the grin on his face when the driver did, right in front of him. 

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