Asia, Myanmar

In Photos: Exploring Bagan’s Temple Interiors – Gallop Around The Globe

March 6, 2017

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.

Buddha statues, Bagan

You can see where this post is going, can’t you? 😉

Inside the temples of Bagan

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.

Inside Ananda Pahto temple

Inside Ananda Pahto

In contrast the interiors of the smaller temples were largely abandoned and forgotten, save for a well attended and repaired statue of the Buddha.

Buddha statue, Bagan

Inside one of Bagan's smaller temples, resting in front of a Buddha

I especially loved the Buddha in the photo below, the only one I found cradling a smaller Buddha head in its hand.

Buddha statue cradling Buddha head

Flowers inside one of Bagan's temples

At a few of the temples you’ll also find the internal walls decorated with images of Buddha.

Buddha images on the interior walls of Bagan's temples

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.

Sand paintings, Iza Awna

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.

Family of adorable cats at Kyat Kan Kyaung

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.

Inside the bat temple

Making offerings to Buddha

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.

Tall standing Buddha

Buddha statue, Bagan

Others were immaculately kept and lavishly decorated.

Buddha statue, Bagan

Lavish Buddhas

You’ll even find Buddhas hiding inside the walls of Tharabar Gate, so don’t forget to peak inside as you ride through.

Buddhas at Tharabar Gate

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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Temple interiors of Bagan

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  • Reply Kristine Li March 11, 2017 at 4:19 PM

    Great post! I’m glad to see someone doing this post because the interiors of Bagan’s temples are definitely worth admiring! Before going to Bagan, I only knew I wanted to see the temples from the outside (an effect of Instagram), only when I arrived, did I realize how each was so amazing to discover, and the locals praying too.

    Am pretty sure I went to one of the temples you mentioned above (Ananda Pahto), where i discovered a random monk sitting inside one of those hollow arches, meditating. There were cash and coins on the part of the robe he laid out in front of him though. It was a rather strange sight to see as from what I know, monks don’t accept monetary donations.

    Anyway, great post here!
    Kristine Li recently posted…Hiking the gorgeous Campuhan Ridge Walk in BaliMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 12, 2017 at 11:49 AM

      Thanks Kristine 🙂 Really glad you enjoyed the interiors of Bagan’s temples too! It’s so interesting to hear other traveller’s experiences of places I’ve visited. No, I didn’t think monks accepted monetary donations either so I wonder what that was all about! It’s lovely to see the monks in the grounds of the temples though, adds a certain sense of authenticity and tranquility to the experience 🙂

  • Reply Brooke March 12, 2017 at 10:46 AM

    That is seriously a LOT of Buddha statues. The interiors of the temples, both big and small, are fascinating too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 12, 2017 at 11:50 AM

      There were so many more I didn’t photograph! 😉

  • Reply Laia March 12, 2017 at 3:04 PM

    That was a very interesting post! It’s the first time I see the interior of the Bagan temples… so many different Buddhas! I also like to visit the interior of temples, I like their atmosphere and quietness. And I must say that I’ve seen many Buddhas but never one cradling a Buddha head in the hand.
    And it’s so nice that you found someone willing to show you the details with his torch. I’ve heard that people in Myanmar are very friendly 🙂
    Laia recently posted…Georgetown: temples, street art and coconuts with sunglassesMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 13, 2017 at 6:10 PM

      People in Myanmar are so friendly! I couldn’t believe how everyone we met went out of their way to help us. Unfortunately I suspect that once tourism becomes a little more established, that won’t always be the case. However it’s definitely a selling point for visiting the country at the moment 🙂

  • Reply Abbi @ Spin the Windrose March 12, 2017 at 3:13 PM

    ‘m so guilty of accidentally skipping the interiors of temples if there are large queues or if I’m starting to feel a bit “templed-out”, but you are so right – the insides are often so beautifully decorated and have so many ornate statues that they are worth the wait! I can’t wait to see Bagan myself!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 13, 2017 at 6:15 PM

      I’m definitely with you on that one Abbi, it’s very easy to get “templed out” in Asia! However even the larger, more popular temples in Bagan were relatively empty inside, which definitely made exploring them a much more pleasurable experience 🙂

  • Reply Katie @ The Budget Backpack March 12, 2017 at 5:30 PM

    My head was not in the game when I was in Bagan and I totally forgot to photograph inside the temples! The impressive numbers of variations of the Buddha was something I noticed, too. I’m not sure if the regulations have changed, but there were signs in the temples and pagodas (basically everywhere) listing out souvenirs that would not be permitted to leave the country, cautioning visitors from purchasing things like the beautiful (and fascinating!) sand paintings. I may or may not know someone who had already purchased one and decided to chance it and now has it framed and hanging in their living room.
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    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 12, 2017 at 5:48 PM

      Oops, I didn’t see those signs! I may have purchased a sand painting and brought it home with me 😉

  • Reply Becky Angell March 13, 2017 at 5:16 PM

    Oh my goodness, so many buddhas!!! Great photos too 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 13, 2017 at 6:16 PM

      Thanks Becky 🙂 Yes, there definitely were a lot of Buddhas!

  • Reply Leslie March 14, 2017 at 3:41 AM

    I’ve got to say I’m a little bit envious. I would lobe to explores those temples!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 14, 2017 at 7:45 PM

      I can thoroughly recommend that you do! Myanmar’s a really affordable destination and now is a great time to go. There is a sufficient enough tourist infrastructure in the major towns and cities, yet it still has all the appeal of a lesser-developed tourist destination 🙂

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