Popular Bagan Pagoda Closes After Terrace Collapse
YANGON — One of the most popular sunset-viewing pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan is temporarily closed to the public after the lower parts of the first terraces in the southeastern part of the pagoda collapsed on Wednesday because of rains, according to the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library (Bagan Branch).
Shwesandaw Pagoda, with its white pyramid-style pagoda cut with five terraces and stairs leading to the circular stupa, is one of only two pagodas from which visitors are allowed to view the sunset.
“We have to do repairs and also test the strength of the pagoda in its other parts. So we will close the pagoda for a while,” director of the department U Aung Aung Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.
Previously, five temples were open to visitors to view the sunset in Bagan, but after hundreds of pagodas were damaged by a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake in August last year, authorities now only allow sunset viewing at Shwesandaw and Taung Guni pagodas which are physically safer for visitors to climb.
It was built in 1057 by King Anawrahta, the founder of the Pagan Empire and widely considered the father of the Burmese nation.
Though the collapse is mainly due to rains, the fact that about 1,000 visitors climb on the pagoda daily to see sunset also played a part, said U Aung Aung Kyaw.
The collapse, however, will not have an impact on Myanmar’s bid for nomination of Bagan as a Unesco World Heritage Site, he said.
“It has been raining steadily these days in Bagan. As the bricks [of the pagoda] date back to the 11th Century, there are already cracks, and when water got into those cracks, it collapsed,” said U Khin Maung Nu, chairman of community-based Bagan Development Association.
Bagan has stupas, temples and other Buddhist religious buildings constructed from the 9th to 11th centuries—a period in which some 50 Buddhist kings ruled the Pagan Dynasty. There are more than 3,000 stupas and temples in the area.
Source: Irrawaddy News
History of Shwesandaw Pagoda
Shwesandaw Pagoda is one of the highest pagodas in Bagan Plain. With the height of 328 feet and an imposing structure, the pagoda can be seen from far away and is an ideal spot for sightseeing in Bagan, especially at the moment of sunrise or sunset.
The Origin of Shwesandaw Pagoda
In accordance with the ancient tradition of Pyu, the Pagoda was located outside the walls of the ancient city of Bagan together with four other pagodas, including Shwezigon Pagoda, in order to create divine protection for Bagan City.
The construction of Shwesandaw Pagoda started in 1057 A.D by the order of King Anawrahta, the founding father of Bagan Kingdom. King Anawrahta wanted to enhance Buddhism in his kingdom, so he asked King Manuha, who ruled the Mon Kingdom of Thaton, to give him a copy of Tripitaka, the teaching of Gautama Buddha. Upon the refusal of King Manuha, King Anawrahta invaded Thaton. When returning from the Mon Kingdom, he brought with him hair relics of the Buddha and ordered the construction of Shwesandaw Pagoda to enshrine them. In Burmese language, Shwesandaw means “golden holy hair”. In the past, the pagoda used to be named “Ganesh” or “Mahapeine” after the elephant-headed Hindu God guarding at the corners of the receding terraces who used to be worshiped in Bagan before the arrival of Buddhism. The Architectural Design of Shwesandaw Pagoda
Shwesandaw Pagoda has a symmetrical design with a bell-shaped stupa rises from two octagonal pedestals placed on five square receding terraces. Until the early 50s of the twentieth century, Shwesandaw Pagoda still maintained its original design with just some minor repairs and maintenance. In 1957, however, the Pagoda Management Board decided to modernize the temple by using limewash and plaster adornment on the upper half of the pagoda.
The stupa is crowned with a gilded multi-tiered hti which is an ornamental spire in the shape of a ceremonial umbrella commonly encountered on temples and pagodas in Myanmar. The hti that we see today is just a replacement. The original hti was toppled by an earthquake in 1975 and is now displayed on the south side of the pagoda.
The five receding terraces used to be covered with hundreds of terracotta plaques depicting the scenes in several Jataka tales about the previous lives of Gautama Buddha. Unfortunately, today tourists don’t have the opportunity to see them. During the restoration work in the 1990s, many bronze and stone Buddha images were found and they were moved to the Bagan Archeological Museum. Sightseeing on the Top of Shwesandaw Pagoda
One outstanding feature of this pagoda is that there are stairs on all four sides leading to the pedestal of the stupa unlike most of the pagodas and temples in Bagan plain which just have only one stairway. Though the reason of constructing four stairways is still unknown, it is clear that this feature makes it much easier to climb up and down the terraces when the pagoda is crowded with tourists.
You should bear in mind that the stairways leading to the top are very narrow and steep, so climbing is not an easy task for a well-fit tourist, let alone young children and elder travelers. However, once you have made it to the top, you will be rewarded with the breath-taking panorama view from there. Thousands of tourists have chosen Shwesadaw Pagoda as the spot for capturing spectacular moments on Bagan plain, especially at sunrise or sunset. Most of the pictures of Bagan are taken from the top of Shwesandaw Pagoda.