Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Plains of Pagodas

Greetings All,
The next stop on our cultural tour was the ancient city of Bagan in central Myanmar.  From the 9th to the 13th centuries the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan.  During the height of the Kingdom, over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries were built on the plains surrounding Bagan,  Only a mere 2200 remain today of which we visited around 20 to give us a feel for what the city was like in it's heyday.  Inside the Manuha Temple were colossal statues of Bhuddha confined in tiny shrines.  The expression on the Buddha's face was one of sorrow.  This temple was built by the captive Mon King Manuha in 1067.   He was trying to convey what it felt like to be under house arrest.

Buddha in Manuha Temple

Abeyadana Temple was built in 1102-1103 by King Kyansitta for his beloved wife Abeyadana.  Legend has it that this temple was built at the place where Abeyadana  waitied for her husband while he was hiding from the wrath of King Suwlu.  Inside are some of the finest frescos in Bagan.

Mural inside Abeyadana Temple
Said to be the most beautiful temple in Bagan, Ananda was also built by King Kyansittha in 1105. 

Ananda Temple

Inside the temple are 4 standing Buddha statues one each at the N, S, E and W end of the temple.

Buddha Statue in Ananda Temples

All are 31 feet high and the further you stand from the Buddha the more he appears to be smiling.  We climbed the Shwe San Daw to get a view of the temples at sunset.

Temples of Bagan at Sunset

This temple has become very popular with tourists for watching the sunset.  You have to arrive early to secure a space on the narrow terrace.  The climb down was quite steep.  Fortunately there were handrails to grab onto.

Climbing down Shwe San Daw Temple

The next morning we took a break from "temple-hopping" and visited Mt. Popa.  On the drive we stopped at a village to learn about some of the local industries.  A man was extracting oil from peanuts using an ox-powered grinding wheel.  Marc asked about making peanut butter from remnants but it has not caught on yet and is fed to livestock instead.

Extracting Oil from Peanuts

Another man was climbing a Toddy Palm on a bamboo ladder to collect juice from the cut fruit stem.

Collecting Toddy Juice
The juice is boiled until only a paste remains.  The paste is rolled into balls to make a candy called Jaggery.  It tastes amazing like maple sugar candy!

Packaging Jaggery

As we approached Mt. Popa we could see the volcanic plug of Taung Kalat with a Buddhist Monastery perched on top.

Monastery on Kaung Kalat

At the base of Kaung Kalat is a Nat Shrine.  Nats aren't insects but spirits which the local people pay respect to by making offerings of food, flowers or money.  If you don't respect the Nats bad luck will come your way.  There are 37 great Nats and each was represented at the shrine.

Some of the 37 Great Nats

The "Queen Nat" is Popa Medaw.  She was born an ogress, the kind that eats flowers not human flesh.  She fell in love with Byatta whose duty was to gather flowers for the King.  The King disapproved of the liason and killed Byatta and took their two sons to the palace.  Popa Medaw died of a broken heart and became a Nat.  You can see her worshipping the Buddha (lower left) in this shrine on the summit of Mt. Popa.

Nats Worshipping Buddha
We returned to Bagan to visit it's most massive temple, Dhammayangyi, built in 1167-1170 by the evil King Narathu who killed his father to gain the throne.  Feeling some remorse he had a grand temple built to honor his father.

Dhammayangyi Temple

It's the only temple of it's kind in Bagan owing to the fact that the evil King had the hands of it's builders chopped off which I effectively demonstrate.  Without hands, they could not build another temple.

Getting my Hand Chopped Off

We visited the Sulamani Temple next.  Built in 1183, the interior contains some beautiful murals painted in the 18th century.

Mural in Sulamani Temple

 We watched another glorious sunset over the temples of Bagan.

Sunset over Bagan's Temples 

We like to thank our guide Myo Win Tun for sharing the wonders of Bagan and beyond with us. 

We hope all is well back home,
Peggy and Marc


Anonymous said...

Peggy and Marc, Thank-you for sharing your journey's. Your comments and photos are educational and thoughtful. Jeannette

MaRIAN said...

Sounds like a great trip. I love the sunset picture.