Bagan • Bagan Temples - Sacred Plains of a Thousand Temples

Bagan, a land that resonates with a thousand and one legends, is a true epic of stone and spirituality nestled in the heart of Myanmar. From the 9th century, this horizon became a partition where the silhouettes of more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were drawn, one by one. 

These sacred buildings, witnesses of the ages, are the perennial imprints of the Bagan dynasty which reigned with an iron fist and a devout heart. Each temple is a poem in stone, a melody of carvings and stuccoes shaped by the passion of artisans, an ode to the quest for enlightenment. 

Over the centuries, the elements and invasions have certainly altered these sacred shrines, but the splendor of the Temples of Bagan remains, unshakable, offering visitors an eternal resonance of their former glory. Bagan is the breath of history, the rhythm of the soul of Myanmar, a timeless sanctuary where the eloquent silence of its temples evokes a vibrant and spiritual past.

Bagan • Bagan Temples ( Myanmar,  )

Bagan • Bagan Temples

Bagan • Bagan Temples ( Myanmar,  )

Bagan • Bagan Temples

Bagan • Bagan Temples ( Myanmar,  )

Bagan • Bagan Temples

Located in the heart of Myanmar, Bagan is an archaeological site of inestimable importance, renowned for its landscape dotted with Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries. This plain, extending for about 26 square kilometers, is home to an impressive concentration of these religious structures, the construction of which began in the 9th century, during the time of the prosperous Bagan dynasty. 


The birth of a sacred site 


The history of the temples of Bagan begins with the conversion to Buddhism of King Anawrahta in the 11th century, which initiates an era of intense religious construction. His successor, Kyanzittha, continues this tradition, erecting some of Bagan's most iconic buildings, such as the Ananda Temple. Over the next two centuries, more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were erected in the region. 


The architecture of the temples of Bagan 


Each structure in Bagan has its own uniqueness. The temples, varied in their design, reflect the evolution of Burmese architecture over several centuries. There are stupa pagodas, like the Shwezigon, temples with a square plan, like the Thatbyinnyu, or temples with a cruciform plan, like the Ananda. The facades are often adorned with frescoes, inscriptions and carvings, offering a fascinating insight into Burmese culture and history. 


The test of time and the elements 


Despite the challenges of time, wars, looting and natural disasters, such as earthquakes, many of these sacred structures have survived. Today, around 2,000 temples and pagodas remain standing, a testament to the resilience and importance of this site. 


Bagan today 


Currently, Bagan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world. It is also a major tourist attraction, attracting visitors fascinated by its rich past, religious significance and spectacular beauty. Hot air balloons provide an unparalleled panoramic vantage point of this amazing landscape at sunrise, while the bike ride between the temples offers a more personal, land-based exploration. 


In conclusion, the temples of Bagan represent more than a collection of ancient structures. They are a window into a bygone era, a testament to spiritual devotion and a crucial part of Myanmar's cultural and historical identity.

Architectural features

The temples of Bagan in Myanmar, with their diversity and concentration on an arid plain, offer a unique insight into the evolution of Buddhist religious architecture over several centuries. There are many architectural features common to these structures, but each temple also has its own particularities. 


Stupas and Pagodas 


Bagan's landscape is dominated by the rounded and slender shapes of stupas and pagodas. These monuments are characteristic of Buddhist architecture and often serve as reliquaries. The Shwezigon Pagoda is an outstanding example of this style, with its golden stupa that glistens in the sun. 


Square and cruciform temples 


Many temples in Bagan are designed in a square or cruciform plan. The Thatbyinnyu temple, for example, has a square shape, while the Ananda temple is built on a cruciform plan. These temples often have several floors and are surmounted by a tower, called sikhara, inspired by Indian architecture. 


Frescoes and ornaments 


The interior of many temples in Bagan is decorated with painted frescoes, often very detailed and colorful. These frescoes depict scenes from the life of Buddha, jataka tales (stories of Buddha's past lives), and other religious and mythological themes. The use of gold and other bright colors contributes to the majesty and sacredness of these spaces. 




Some structures in Bagan bear inscriptions in Old Burmese, revealing valuable details about the history, religion, culture and language of the time. These inscriptions often have a dual function: they are both historical documents and works of art. 


The Bagan plains, celebrated for their thousands of temples and stupas, stand as one of Southeast Asia's archaeological gems. After years of hesitation due to conservation concerns, Bagan was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. Earthquakes in 1975 and 2016 damaged many temples, but subsequent restoration efforts were applauded for their authenticity. Today, Bagan is recognized for its outstanding universal value.




In sum, the temples of Bagan, despite their diversity, share architectural characteristics that testify to the importance of Buddhism in Burmese culture, and the influence of Indian and Mon architecture. The use of stupas, the square or cruciform plan of the temples, the detailed frescoes and the precise inscriptions, all contribute to the richness and uniqueness of this exceptional site.

Monument profile
Bagan Temples
Monument categories: Monastery, Stupa, Buddhist temple
Monument families: Temple • Monastry • Pagoda or stupa
Monument genres: Religious
Cultural heritage: Buddhist
Geographic location: Bagan • Myanmar
Construction period: 11th century AD
This monument in Bagan is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2019.

• Links to •

• List of videos about Bagan on this site •

Bagan, the gods • Myanmar
Bagan, the people • Myanmar
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• References •

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