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Myanmar Stupas and Temples

Myanmar, land of pagodas, possesses many historic Buddhist monuments in the country. The term “pagoda”, in general, can be used for any kind of Buddhist edifice without specific difference between architectural appearances.
However, bell-shaped dome structure providing a place for the faithful to pray or make an offering is “stupa” original term from India. The centre of the stupa, in the foundation, usually enshrines a holy relic.

Next distinctive Buddhist structure is “temple” in which devotees can enter to pray and can observe educational and moral knowledge from paintings and Buddha images placed inside.

Yangon is probably most memorable as the site of the Shwedagon stupa, the biggest and the most impressive Buddhist monument in the world. Rising from the top of a hillock, golden spire soars to a height of nearly 100 meter to dominate everything around it.

But, ancient style of Myanmar stupas can be observed at Bagan, the most important archeological site. Early form of Bupaya and Ngakywenadaung has a bulbous dome, then continue to next step with a series of receding terraces, surmounted by a cylindrical or bell-shaped dome which continues into a finial of concentric rings. In the developed form of this type, there are three receding square

terraces and an octagonal base providing the transition to a bell-shaped dome with a band of molding in the middle. The Lawkananda and Shwesandaw provide early examples of this type, while the Shwezigon and Mingalarzedi are prominent representatives of the developed form.

Temples were mostly constructed during Bagan dynasty, especially in 12th century. The most remarkable works are such as Ananda, masterpiece of Mon architecture with perfect square foundation, Dhamayangyi, a massive-looking temple, famous for its interlocking mortar less brickwork, Htilominlo, the Bamar style temple with old murals and friezes. Interior passages with niches and staircases in the temples show qualified brick work of construction, and characteristic of Bagan temples is mural paintings depicting legendary stories of lord Buddha’s ancient lives. Severe earthquakes, in the past, destroyed most historic monuments, especially in Bagan.

However, successive restoration contributed by Buddhists results in fine condition of golden stupas gilded with gold-leaves, and solidified status of massive temples in Myanmar forever.


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