Bagan is a plain that covers an area of about 16 squares miles alongside the Ayeyarwaddy’s east bank. The temples and Pagodas of Bagan that are now decaying were constructed mainly between the 11th and 13th centuries A.D., which was during the time that Bagan was the seat of the Myanmar Dynasty. Local chronicles have carried tradition that says that 55 kings ruled over the Bagan Kingdom over the span of twelve centuries.
The Bagan temples are known as “gu” and were inspired by the Buddhist rock caves. These were big multi-story buildings that people could enter and were places where people went to worship. The interiors have richly frescoed corridors and sacred images and shrines that used to be worshiped. The temples are often massively built oblong or square structures with terraces on the outside to represent Mount Meru, which was a symbolic home for the gods. The Bagan temples were also surrounded by a thick wall so that it would separate the sacred realm from the world outside.
The pagodas of Bagan are funerary monuments that have acquired a Buddhism cosmic symbolism. The Bagan pagodas also contain relics that are associated with Buddha. Some of the monuments were constructed in honor of a notable person. These structures are built in the shape of a bell that is set on an octagonal or square base. They usually travel up to a tapering peak covered with jewels and metal, with a sacred decoration shaped like a parasol called a “hti” on the top.