Temples and Pagodas

The temples and pagodas in Myanmar are some of the oldest and most impressive in the entire world. From the ancient ruins of Bagan, where more than 10,000 temples once stood, to the stunning examples of Buddhist influenced Burmese architecture and Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar’s famed Buddhist structures present a comprehensive look into the country’s history and culture.

Bagan Temples & Pagodas

Bagan Temples & Pagodas
Bagan Temples & Pagodas

The temples and pagodas of Bagan are perhaps the most esteemed Buddhist temples in existence. Set on the Irrawady River’s eastern banks in the former capital of Mandalay, the cultural heritage site comprises countless striking structures. Most are in various levels of disrepair and decay but many are still standing strong. Comparable only to Angkor Wat in architecture and sheer size, Bagan is not to be missed when visiting Myanmar. The Temple of Ananda is one of the most significant surviving temples from Mon architecture. This masterpiece is the biggest, most detailed, and best maintained of all temples within Old Bagan. Built by King Kyanzittha in 1105, the temple is styled in the way of the final years of the Early Bagan era. Mahabodhi is another of Bagan’s temples and pagodas deserving much attention; it was built between 1211 and 1234 by King Nantaungmya as a replica of India’s Mahabodhi temple in Bihar State. It commemorates the place of Buddha’s enlightenment. The pyramid-shaped spire is laden with seated Buddhas enclosed in niches which rise from the square-shaped block.

Yangon Temples

Yangon Temples
Yangon Temples

Visitors seeking an enriching spiritual journey through Yangon are able to enjoy many ancient pagodas important to Myanmar culture. Botataung Pagoda is one of three main sites of worship. Set on the Yangon River bank, the pagoda is an example of traditional gilded domes tapering upward gradually, capped off by a spire in shape of a fan. Golden Rock, or Kyaitiyo pagoda, encompasses a gilded rock with a small spire on top, hanging precariously more than 1,000 meters over a cliff side. Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda is home to a stunning reclining Buddha figure measuring more than 64 meters long and 15 meters high. Buddha’s face is made of porcelain with features painted on; extremely expressive eyes, blue-hued eye shadow, vermillion colored lips, and red nails. More than 100 important Buddhist symbols adorn his feet. Last but most grand and dramatic of all is Shwedagon Pagoda atop Singuttara Hill, dominating the skyline, creating a lasting impression. It is most sacred to the people.

Mahamuni Buddha Temple

Mahamuni Buddha Temple
Mahamuni Buddha Temple

Southwest of Mandalay is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of Southeast Asia; Mahamuni Buddha Temple. “Mahamuni” refers to The Great Sage, which is the Buddha reflected in the temple. There are so many details to look at throughout Mahamuni, it’s hard to know where to begin. The shrine is central to everything within and edged by a large, lush lawn. On route to the shrine there is no lack of paraphernalia for sale, from incense and candles to robes, flowers, rosaries, and more. The Mahamuni image is massive, and venerated in the sanctum sanctorum where there is a diminutive chamber covered by a roof featuring seven separately tiered roofs, or pya. The fine detailed mosaic ceiling is a sight along with the 252 carved and gilded columns bedazzled in intricate frescoes.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

Ancient, highly celebrated, and amazing to the eye, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is one of the most interesting temples and pagodas in Myanmar history. Hiking up to this golden rock seemingly tipping right off the cliff is one of the best things to do near Yangon. Tourists travel a little more than 70 miles and hike about 6 miles up from Kyaikhto Base Camp. Those not so intrepid are able to head up by bus or car to final point less than a mile away. At the top, looking down lends an incredible scene; more than 3000 feet up, pagoda visitors can see across the land and contemplate the 15-foot high pagoda, believed to have been built more than 2,300 years ago during Buddha’s life. It sits atop a massive granite boulder sitting on the edge of a summit on a tabular rock projecting from the cliff in shape of a shelf. More than half the golden gilded boulder leans right over the cliff, defying the laws of gravity.

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