Bagan, on the banks of the Ayerwaddy River, is home to the largest area of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world – many dating to the 11th and 12th centuries.
The shape and construction of each building is highly significant in Buddhism with each component part taking on spiritual meaning.
Bagan became a central powerbase of the mid 9th century King Anawratha who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. At one time, it's estimated that more than 13,000 temples and stupas once stood on this 42 sq km plain in central Myanmar. Today, approximately 2,200 remain today.
Once called Pagan, the city became a central powerbase under King Anawratha. Marco Polo once described Bagan as a "gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks' robes".
Ananda, Bagan's holiest temple, was built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word ‘anantapannya’, which means ‘boundless wisdom’. The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The fifth, Maitreya, is yet to appear.
For an unparalleled view of the Bagan plain, you can take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise through a company called Balloons Over Bagan.