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Temples in Myanmar Formerly Burma


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Pagodas and a Buddhist temple are more or less a synonym of Myanmar, “The golden Land” or “The Land of Pagodas“. Pagodas are present everywhere; in cities and towns, villages and hamlets, on the banks and sometimes right in rivers and seas. Perched atop hills and mountains, in forests and glades, beside highways and byways, gleaming golden or glinting white in the sunlight and symbolizing the firm faith in Theravada Buddhism of 80% of its inhabitants. A Buddhist pagoda is almost always a golden or yellow pagoda or a white pagoda.

If you don't know the difference between a Chedi, Ubosoth, Vihara, Prang, Mondop and Prasat, check out our Glossary of Temple Terms.

Bagan

Bagan

The ruins of Bagan cover an area of 41 km2. The majority of its buildings were built in the 11th century to 13th century, during the time Bagan was the capital of the First Burmese Empire. With the help of a monk from Lower Burma, Anawrahta made Theravada Buddhism a kind of state religion, and the king also established contacts with Sri Lanka. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Bagan became a truly cosmopolitan centre of Buddhist studies, attracting monks and students from as far as India, Sri Lanka as well as the Thai and Khmer kingdoms. In 1287, the kingdom fell to the Mongols, after refusing to pay tribute to Kublai Khan. Abandoned by the Burmese king and perhaps sacked by the Mongols, the city declined as a political centre, but continued to flourish as a place of Buddhist scholarship.

More trips: Myanmar 2011

   
Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda; officially titled Shwedagon Zedi Daw, also known as the Golden Pagoda, is a 98 metres gilded pagoda and stupa located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within, namely the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama, the historical Buddha. There are four entrances to the Paya that lead up a flight of steps to the platform. A pair of giant mythical lions called chinthe guard the entrances and the image in the shrine at the top of the steps from the south is that of the second Buddha, Konagamana.

   
Snake Pagoda
Snake Pagoda

Snake Pagoda

Officially called Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya, this Myanmar pagoda is generally known by another name: Hmwe Paya, or the "Snake Pagoda." This out-of-the-way pagoda near Mandalay is distinguished by the large pythons who live happily coiled around the Buddha statue within. The temple was founded in 1974 when a Buddhist monk was tending the old pagoda. Inside, the monk found two large pythons wrapped around a statue of Buddha. The monk dutifully carried the snakes out to the jungle and returned to clean the pagoda. Within a day the snakes were back, and a third had joined. Each time, the monks would carry the snakes out to the jungle, and each time they would return. Eventually the monks came to see the snakes as holy, possibly the reincarnated souls of monks who used to tend to the pagoda.

   
Mahamuni Temple
Mahamuni Temple

Mahamuni Temple

The Mahamuni Temple is a complex of structures located along a road from Mandalay leading to the southwest. It was originally located on A brick paved road which was constructed from the Royal Palace of King Bodawpaya to the eastern gate of the temple, although only remnants of this road can still be seen. A major teaching monastery, known as 'Thudhamma', is one among the many monasteries which are adjacent to the Pagoda. The temple has a central shrine and is framed by an extensive grass lawn. The sanctum sanctorum, where the large Mahamuni image is deified, is a small chamber and has a roof covering made up of seven pyatthat meaning tiered roofs. The ceiling has an ornate mosaic covering. The arcades are supported by 252 gilded, carved columns adorned with fine frescoes.

   
Sagaing
Sagaing

Sagaing

Sagaing is the capital of Sagaing Region in Myanmar. Located on the Ayeyarwady River, 20 km to the southwest of Mandalay on the opposite bank of the river, Sagaing with numerous Buddhist monasteries is an important religious and monastic center. The pagodas and monasteries crowd the numerous hills along the ridge running parallel to the river. The central pagoda, Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, is connected by a set of covered staircases that run up the 240 m hill. Sagaing was the capital of Sagaing Kingdom (1315–1364), one of the minor kingdoms that rose up after the fall of Pagan dynasty. During the Ava period (1364–1555), the city was the common fief of the crown prince or senior princes.

   
Mingun Pahtodawgyi
Mingun Pahtodawgyi

Mingun Pahtodawgyi

The Mingun temple is a monumental uncompleted stupa began by King Bodawpaya in 1790. It was not completed, due to an astrologer claiming that, once the temple was finished, the king would die. The completed stupa would have been the largest in the world at 150 meters. Huge cracks are visible on the structure from the earthquake of 23 March 1839. Like many large pagodas in Myanmar, a Pondaw paya or working model of the stupa can be seen nearby. King Bodawpaya also had a gigantic bell cast to go with his huge stupa, the Mingun Bell weighing 90 tons, and is today the largest ringing bell in the world.

   
Hsinphyumae Pagoda
Hsinphyumae Pagoda

Hsinphyumae Pagoda

The Hsinbyeme pagoda, also known as Myatheindan Pagoda, is a large pagoda on the northern side of Mingun in Sagaing Region, on the western bank of the Irrawaddy River. It is approximately 10km northwest of Mandalay and is located in the proximity of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi. The pagoda is painted white and is modeled on the physical description of the Buddhist mythological mountain, Mount Meru. The pagoda was built in 1816 by Bagyidaw. It is dedicated to the memory of his first consort and cousin, Princess Hsinbyume, Princess White Elephant, who had died in childbirth in a site nearby.

   
Popa Taungkalat Monastery
Popa Taungkalat Monastery

Popa Taungkalat Monastery

Built atop an extinct volcano plug, the Buddhist monastery of Taung Kalat is one of the most breathtaking sites in Burma and the world. Many people call the hill on which the monastery was built, Mount Popa, but they’re mistaking it with the much higher volcano, close by. The hill is called Taung Kalat and though it looks like a mere bump when compared to Mount Popa, climbing it is quite a task. There are seven hundred seventy seven steps to from the bottom, all the way to the Buddhist monastery. The locals believe Nats (37 demigod-like beings) live inside Taung Kalat hill and judging by the heavenly views from up there, they just might be right.

   
Ananda Temple
Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple

The Ananda Temple, located in Bagan, Myanmar is a Buddhist temple built in 1105 AD during the reign of King Kyanzittha of the Pagan Dynasty. It is one of four surviving temples in Bagan. The Buddhist temple houses four standing Buddhas, each one facing the cardinal direction of East, North, West and South. The temple is said to be an architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon and adopted Indian style of architecture. The impressive temple has also been titled the "Westminster Abbey of Burma". The temple was damaged in the earthquake of 1975. It has been fully restored and is well maintained by frequent painting and whitewashing of the walls. It is a highly revered temple of Bagan.

   
Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo)
Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo)

Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo)

The Golden Rock (Kyaik-htiyo or Kyaiktiyo), perched atop a cliff near Yangon, is one of the most sacred sites in Burma. The great boulder precariously balances on the edge of a cliff and is topped by a small stupa. An endless stream of pilgrims come to admire the sight and add squares of gold leaf to its surface. With its great weight balanced so precariously on the cliff edge, the Golden Rock is a truly extraordinary natural feature. It is little wonder it is regarded with such sacred awe. According to legend, it is kept in place by a single hair of the Buddha. The Kyaiktiyo shrine complex consists of several viewing platforms, pagodas, Buddha shrines and nat spirit shrines. Worshipers gather in the area behind the rock to pray and make offerings, and nearly all apply a square of gold leaf to the rock as an offering and act of merit.

   
Dhammayangyi Pahto
Dhammayangyi Pahto

Dhammayangyi Pahto

Extending 225 feet on a side, Dhammayangyi Pahto is the largest temple at Bagan. The pyramidical temple has an intriguing history: said to be built by a wicked king, the inner ambulatories may have been filled with rubble by spiteful workers. The date and builder of the Dhammayangyi Pahto are matters of some scholarly controversy, but it is generally thought to have been built by King Narathu. Oriented towards the east, the huge Dhammayangyi Pahto is surrounded by an enclosure wall and built on a similar Greek-cross ground plan as the earlier Ananda Pahto. It has just a single story but is topped with six pyramidical terraces that rise to its blunt rounded top (the stupa finial has collapsed). Dhammayangyi is notable for its incredibly fine brickwork, probably the best in Bagan. There are two inner ambulatories around a solid square core. The four entrances at the cardinal directions each contain a seated Buddha figure.

   
Sulamani Temple
Sulamani Temple

Sulamani Temple

Sulamani was built in 1181 by Narapatisithu. This temple was known as "crowing jewel" and it stands beyond Dhammayangyi Pagoda. Combining the horizontal planes of the early period with the vertical lines of the middle, the temple features two storeys standing on broad terraces assembled to create a pyramid effect. The brickwork throughout is considered some of the best in Bagan. Some part of the temple was damaged during 1975 by the earthquake. Pagodas stand at the corners of each terrace, and a high wall, fitted with elaborate gateways at each cardinal point, encloses the entire complex. The interior face of the wall was once lined with a hundred monastic cells, a feature unique among Bagan's ancient monasteries. Buddha images face the four directions from the ground floor; the image at the main eastern entrance sits in a recess built into the wall. The interior passage around the base is painted with fine frescoes from the Konbaung period.

   
Land of Pagodas
Land of Pagodas

Land of Pagodas

Myanmar attracts fewer tourists than the more 'trendy' spots such as Thailand, Malaysia and recently Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. But a country that is known as the Land of Pagodas evokes its own cloud of mystery and is sure to pique the interest of adventure seekers and the more intrepid traveler. The "Land of Pagodas" is aptly named. Aside from the many well known temples and pagodas, no matter where you travel in Myanmar you are sure to see a pagoda in every village or settlement. Some have been restored but most are remnants of once sacred and significant places of worship. Although in ruins locals worship, honor, revere and pass on myths and legends as they have throughout Myanmar's ancient history. Myanmar Adventure

   
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