If you’ve read my latest post you’ll know that exploring the temples of Bagan was my absolute highlight of the two weeks I spent in Myanmar.
Aside from the incredible temple-dotted landscapes and the snapshots of local life that surrounded us in every direction, what I loved most about my three days in Bagan was the serendipitous discoveries we made. With over 2000 temples spread across a 67 square kilometre area in Myanmar’s fertile central plains region, it’s entirely possible to find temples at which you won’t see another soul.
Inside each of Bagan’s temples you’ll find a Buddha statue, or set of Buddha statues. The fun thing is that each and every one is different (apart from when they’re side by side like the pair in the photo below) – different styles, different sizes, different poses, different colours – so it becomes a cool little game to see how many Buddha photos you can collect during your time in Bagan.
You can see where this post is going, can’t you? 😉
Whilst I absolutely adored viewing these ornate red-brick temples from the outside, I’m so pleased I took the time to explore the interiors of Bagan’s temples as well.
The condition of the temple interiors varied wildly, depending on the size of the temple and how revered it was considered to be. Ananda Pahto is one of the area’s most famous, most highly regarded, and consequently best preserved temples. It was constructed towards the end of the 11th century in the shape of a cross, with a square chamber at its centre.
The corridors inside have Buddha statues built into their walls and a 9.5-metre teak standing Buddha stands at the arm of each side of the cross, facing outwards.
In contrast the interiors of the smaller temples were largely abandoned and forgotten, save for a well attended and repaired statue of the Buddha.
I especially loved the Buddha in the photo below, the only one I found cradling a smaller Buddha head in its hand.
At a few of the temples you’ll also find the internal walls decorated with images of Buddha.
One of the most famous frescoes can be found inside Nandamannya, depicting the “Temptation of Mara,” in which attractive young women attempt to distract Buddha from his meditation during his journey to enlightenment.
A lone gentleman was sitting on the floor of the temple interior when we entered, a selection of sand paintings laid out in front of him. He offered us his torch in order to better inspect the well-preseved murals on the walls, and pointed out the most significant details using his extremely limited English vocabulary.
Just behind this temple is the Kyat Kan Kyaung, which is a working underground monastery dating from the 11th century.
The Buddha statues are pretty humble inside here and not particularly worth photographing, but there is a family of adorable cats, and the smiley elderly gentleman who lives there is more than happy to show you around, interjecting his entirely Burmese commentary with a few English words that you can tell he’s very proud to have learnt.
Smaller temples like the ones below generally just contained one Buddha, sometimes framed by guardians in the vaulted entrance hall, whereas larger temples contained at least four.
Some Buddhas were simply made of stone whereas others (like this one found in Pyathadar Hpaya and the one below in South Guni) were painted in shades of deep red and rich golds.
Others were immaculately kept and lavishly decorated.
You’ll even find Buddhas hiding inside the walls of Tharabar Gate, so don’t forget to peak inside as you ride through.
Although Bagan’s temples are undeniably beautiful from the outside, and its sunrises and sunsets will completely blow you away, don’t leave without checking out Bagan’s wonderful temple interiors too.
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