Bagan HistoryHistory of Bagan
History of the Bagan Imperium
Bagan Archeological Area is one of the biggest and most important historic places in Southeast Asia. The occupation of the Bagan area probably began in the middle of the ninth cen. In the following two hundred years the territory of the settlements expanded until King Anawrahta established the Kingdom of Bagan in 1044.
The kingdom then covered a relatively small area where the main activity was agriculture. Bagan is in Burma's arid region, so the area has little rains and relies on watering for agriculture. Bagan tribe has developed and improved a system of managing the country's waters.
A system of embankments, inlets and locks was constructed that made it possible for them to grow and convert arid soils. It was this capacity that permitted them to extend into the arid, desert-like region that drew more humans and thus expanded the kingdom. Buddhism did not yet have an important place in the nation at that point.
His Majesty King Anawrahta was convert to Theravada Buddhism by a friar called Shin Arahan from the Thaton Kingdom, one of the then Mon kingdoms in Burma. King Benedict XVI chose to disseminate Buddhism and launched a huge effort to construct thousand Buddha Schools, tombs and other memorials.
King Anawrahta conquered the kingdom of Thaton in 1057. When the Tripitaka were invading, the holy Buddha writings with the Buddha's teaching were returned to Bagan. Many of the Thaton based architecture, building owners and craftsmen were also taken to Bagan to plan and build a thousand buddhistic shrines and caves.
That was the period in which the church was massively constructed. A large part of the empire's riches was used for the edification of Buddhist memorials. Anawrahta, who reigned Bagan from 1044 to 1077, had a number of imposing churches constructed, among them the Shwezigon and Shwezigon Pagodas. In the following century thousand of royal and wealthy villagers constructed churches and pagodas to earn worship.
It became an important centre of Theravada Buddhism and drew friars from faraway lands. Over 10,000 monasteries and churches were erected at the peak of the kingdom's might between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The descendants of King Anawrahta continued to expand the kingdom; according to several springs, the kingdom extended to parts of present-day Thailand.
From the end of the twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth centuries, during the most mighty era of the kingdom, Bagan had up to 2 million people. Back then Bagan and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia were the most mighty kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Since so much fruitful soil was used for the building of shrines and palagodas, arable farming began in the thirteenth cent.
At the end of the thirteenth centuary, Bagan was attacked several time by the Mongolian army under the leadership of Kublai Khan, the great Khan of the Mongolian kingdom, who ruled from 1260 to 1294. A further intrusion in 1297 eventually brought the Baganmpire to an end. Bagan was mostly abandoned after the fifteenth and most of the temple decayed.
It was still a place of worship, but the number of well-preserved churches was restricted to some of the most renowned ones, such as the Ananda and the Shwezigon. Out of the more than 10,000 memorials that have been constructed, around 2,200 are still preserved today. Remaining edifices are made of bricks, while timber constructions such as the palace and the homes are not preserved.
All the other pagoda and temple are in various states of restoration, some are very well preserved and renovated, while others are abandoned and green. The Bagan Archeological Site has been placed on UNESCO's provisional register as a World Heritage Site.