Bagan - the city of golden and snowy pagodas

Pagan Pagodas can tell anyone a beautiful story about how the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan, striking with its grandeur and beauty not only Asians, but also foreigners. Only buildings need to be able to listen, and this, alas, is not given to everyone ...

Each pagoda hides some secret in itself, only some of them "got sick with death" and collapsed, so that in the whispering from the rubble, nothing can be made out, others firmly decided to stand their ground and not give out the secrets of their masters, but still others, as if in revenge for desecration, we are ready to lay out everything honestly. So, the Shweguji pagoda, which was the favorite of the ruler of Alaungsithu, is now forever flooded with the invisible blood of parricide: it was here that his own son killed Pagan during another prayer of the fourth emperor.

The Dhammayanji Temple was built in just three years - this is how long the reign of the most cruel lord Pagan, the fifth emperor Narathu, lasted. From different parts of Pagan, frantic whispers of rumors about him are still heard. Here he kills his sick father, here he orders the execution of his wife, the daughter of the Indian emperor, because she dared to resist the upcoming human sacrifices in honor of the opening of the Dhammayanji temple. Narathu watched the growth and upbringing of his beloved brainchild with the same intent as he suffered fiercely from persecution mania. Almost every day he came to the construction site and, if only the needle seeped between the bricks, with pleasure and hatred he ordered to mutilate the hands of the workers, often replacing his assistants. Despite a fair amount of suspicion, Narathu was overtaken by a chuckle of fate: from whom from whom, but from the Indian emperor, he did not expect eight murderers ...

Now Pagan is 40 km2 of more than one thousand pagodas - islets among three seas: desert, dense thickets and palm trees on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It is worth noting that the pagodas of Myanmar (until 1989 - Burma) and the pagodas of Japan or China are far from the same thing. In Pagan, they (otherwise also called stupas) are, rather, either ritual vessels built with the full swing of the Asian soul, or memorial complexes. There are two types of pagodas: paya, which have no interior spaces, and buttermilk.

For the Pagan pagodas, somewhat reminiscent of the Mesoamerican pyramids (a slight hint of the possible kinship of two civilizations separated by the Pacific Ocean), the following features are characteristic.

In the stepped structures themselves with a square base, sacred rooms are hidden, where religious relics are kept. On the last tier of the pagodas there is a tower tapering upward in parallel waves. At the top of the pagodas, a tongue of flame (thi) turned to stone: as if it really burned once, but after the sack of the Burmese capital, time froze. It really seems to be one of the most popular tourist pagodas, beautifully restored. But the farther you are from the famous places, the less frequent are asphalt paths, the temples take on a dull look and it seems that with each passing meter towards a little-known territory, you are moving away centuries ago.

When Pagan was founded is unknown; the first written mention of it dates back to 850 AD. e. - it was then that the old city was surrounded by a stone wall, the traces of which especially observant and meticulous travelers can see even now. Of course, the settlement on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy appeared much earlier, possibly as far back as the 1st century BC. n. e. All the main buildings begin to be erected simultaneously with the flourishing of the state of Pagan, that is, from the 11th century, at the same time the city becomes the capital of the country of the same name. The earliest surviving building - a pagoda near Mount Turan - was built by a ruler named Sorahan in the second half of the 10th century. However, local residents do not agree with this, claiming that the mysterious Bu pagoda, as if brought in by a blizzard, appeared in the 3rd century BC. n. e.

The tallest pagoda of Pagan is the Temple of the Omniscient One, or That Bin Yu, dedicated to Buddha, like other religious buildings in the city. At the entrance, the guards stand motionless, valiantly carrying out their service for almost 800 years. They look to the east, at the rising sun, and if you look closely, you can see how sadness runs over their faces as an evening shadow, when the star is hiding from them. And on a clear day, That Bin Yu is pierced with small needles by the sun's rays, which makes the interior of the temple look like a magic chessboard.

The Tully Paya is very beautiful and unusual, built, according to legend, from every 10-thousandth brick spent on the temple of the Omniscient.

Almost from any pagoda one can see the panorama of Pagan: the sky ripped open by the sharp, as if specially for this purpose, sharpened spiers of temples. The most successful for sightseeing is the Shwe San Da pagoda with staircases located strictly according to the cardinal points.

Paya Shwezigon is one of the two golden pagodas of Pagan. The upper part of the stately structure, like most of the buildings of a truly priceless city, was lined with gold sheets. According to legend, Anoratha put on the back of the elephant a copy of the Buddha's tooth brought from Sri Lanka (in exchange for the enlightenment monks) and promised that the relics storage would be erected where the animal would deign to kneel. So the reverent bow of the elephant marked the place for the construction of the future great 5-step pagoda, completed after the death of the legendary ruler.

The Pitaka Taik Pagoda is famous for serving as the imperial library during the Burmese rule: the most valuable pages of Buddhist texts were kept here. According to legend, this pagoda was erected by Anoratha specifically for the sacred manuscripts taken from the Mon capital on 32 elephants.

Buddha left traces of his sacred feet on the portal of the Ananda temple. This building, named after the beloved disciple of the Buddha, has a square base with a side of 53 m and a height of 51 m. In a virtual perspective, the Ananda temple resembles a cube.

On the walls, there are still paintings depicting scenes from Buddhist traditions. It may seem that a certain wizard attached the sacred sheets of legends to the walls, and on those, instead of letters, drawings appeared. All four 10-meter statues of Buddha (two originals and two copies) are facing the East, converted to the religion of the East, as their unsurpassed and great "original" converted the East into a religion of itself.

The Manukha pagoda, built by the captive Mon ruler, is well known. The ruler expressed the difficulties of his position in the statues of Buddha: they are all squeezed at the sides, pressed against each other, and some are overturned on their backs. The monk ruler exhausted his liberation from bondage with bitter humor: in this pagoda there are figures of a dead Buddha with a frozen smile on his face.

Almost every pagoda in Pagan is unusual. A small paya Nana, which is outwardly attractive only because it is built from adobe, is nevertheless extremely popular in the scientific world. The fact is that researchers still cannot determine to whom this shrine is dedicated: the pedestal where the statue should be located is empty. If this is a Hindu temple, then the Natlaung Kyang pagoda, given over to the Vishnu-worshiping workers who built the capital, no longer seems such a rarity. However, according to another version, Natlaung Kyang is translated as “the place where the nats are locked” - the spirits - the guardians of Pagan, who were the masters of these lands before the advent of Buddhism. Perhaps this is how the Pagan authorities decided to show their tolerance for indigenous beliefs, but at the same time sharply limit their influence, "locking up" traditional cults in a single temple, and leaving the rest of the capital at the mercy of Theravada.

Pagan is not alive by pagodas alone. A puppet theater and a workshop for the production of varnished products are awaiting their guests. Once the Burmese possessed the secret of making these magnificent items, loved and revered throughout Asia, and now the workshop, completely devoid of greed, is ready to tell everyone its secrets. The Puppet Theater still shows amazing performances in terms of puppeteers' skill, practically no different from those that admired the inhabitants of Pagan almost 1000 years ago.

The blooming mountain, located a little further, 60 km from the ancient city, should be left for later, otherwise the strength to inspect Pagan may not remain. To the top of this 1.5-kilometer inactive volcano, there is a staircase that was personally laid by one monk.

The apogee of the mountain is a Buddhist monastery, which, together with the surrounding territories, is considered a mystical place where spirits live - nats. About 40 Nata statues are kept in a special room of the monastery: they are waiting for all visitors to disperse and they can walk along the slopes of the Blooming Mountain. This place is especially popular on full moon days: Nado, at the intersection of November and December, and Nyon, when May meets June. Nats do everything possible to be less disturbed, for example, they do not let people in red and black clothes on the mountain. In addition, they do not eat meat and drive away those who carry it with them.


Tours to Pagan are very popular, this is facilitated not only by cheap air tickets, but also by the rich history of the region. You can and should stay in Pagan for more than one day: after wandering around the dead city, along its quiet streets forever frozen in a ghostly stupor, you certainly need to find that place, that pagoda, in response to the silent call of which your soul will emit a joyful cry, wanting to stay exactly here, on this patch of scorched earth or next to this sparse bush, on the top of a wall that has lost its former brick power, or in the warm and cozy gloom of a small pagoda.

Staying in Pagan for the night, you can not only get acquainted with the life of local residents and see the sunset, but also hear how the voices of the city, long abandoned by the inhabitants, wake up. Perhaps the ancient capital of Burma will reveal to you a hitherto unknown secret in exchange for your open heart.