The Bagan dynasty, the first dynasty in the history of Myanmar, flourished from 11th to 13th century and built the cornerstone of Myanmar culture. Buddhism was introduced through the coastal region, people endeavored to build pagodas in order to gain merit. Even under succeeded dynasties, Bagan prospered as a key point of water traffic, the successive kings maintained many pagodas. Even today, Bagan is loved by many people both at home and abroad as the hometown of Myanmar culture, and efforts for conservation are continuing.
It is said that the Bagan dynasty was founded under King Anawrahta in the middle of the 11th century. The core of the kingdom was now in the castle called “Old Bagan”. Located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, part of castle was lost due to erosion, but in the past the castle walls surrounded four laps. The royal palace was placed in the center, and inside and outside the castle was a large pagodas built by the king himself.
Through the Ayeyarwady River, which is the main course of water transport, the power of the kingdom has spread to various parts, and powerful breadbaskets have supported national strength. The influence of the Bagan dynasty extended to the coastal area, and various cultures were brought through the country of the Mon people, which then accepted advanced cultures from India through maritime intercourse. Introduction of Buddhism and scriptures by the famous monk Shin Arahan are representative.
Monuments of the early Bagan era such as inscriptions by Mon language, Manuha temple founded by Mon king, pagodas characterized by the style of Pyu culture that flourished before Bagan, are best example of cultural exchanges of the time.
In the 12th century the kingdom achieved further development. Buddhism is accepted by a wide range of society, not only the king but also ministers and officials actively participate in the construction of pagodas. As a result, the land where pagodas are built gradually expanded to inland areas far from the castle.
The use of Myanmar characters has also spread, and the pagoda builder wrote the results in the inscription in order to convey his meritorious merit to future generations. The name and title of the builder, the details of the land and items donated accompanying the pagoda are written, and these inscriptions are valuable clues to know the society at Bagan period.
However, in the 13th century the dynastic dynamics of the dynasty started to disappear. It is said that the fever of construction of the pagoda which is excessive enough to tilt national strength wreaks havoc in one opinion. Pagodas tend to be more compact than previous ones.
The decisive blow was the war with the Yuan dynasty of China. In the Yunnan area, the battle forces of both countries intensify, leading to a massive collision. Marco Polo mentioned it in his book. After the fierce battle, the Bagan dynasty was defeated. Shortly, kingdom was disappeared only left the countless pagodas.
Such as Angkor monuments in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia, in Southeast Asia there are many remains that have long been forgotten since then it was built around the same period as Bagan. The big difference between Bagan and them is that Bagan did not lose their importance in faith in the subsequent era. In the Taunggu dynasty of 14th - 18th century, the Konbaung dynasty of the 18th - 19th century, the major pagodas of Bagan were undergoing great protection from the successive kings.
Some monuments remaining in Bagan were built under the Konbaun dynasty, restoration and mural paintings were made. In addition, Bagan became known as the center for lacquerware production during this time. In the 19th century, people come from European countries and their unique landscapes begin to be recorded.
Conservation of Bagan was also an important issue in the colonial period and also independent Myanmar. However, since a huge number of monuments are scattered over a large area, conservation work with limited personnel and budget was always difficult.
In 1975, a big earthquake occurred around Bagan as the epicenter. Many buildings were damaged. This triggers recognition of the need to further strengthen the conservation system internationally.
In 2016, again Bagan was hit by a strong earthquake. Each monument is the best clue to tell the history of the social situation, cultural exchanges, and building technology at the time. Efforts are underway for long-term conservation in cooperation with international organizations such as UNESCO and the Myanmar government.