Sunrise over a Thousand Temples

Friendly Friday’s Challenge is SUNRISE. 

Is it fair to re-blog an old post even when it fits the challenge well? I don’t have any recent pictures of a sunrise.  After all, I live on the sunset side of the peninsula. But really, it’s just that I’ve gotten lazier.  

The last time I viewed a notable sunrise was in 2017 when hubby and I visited Bagan, land of a thousand temples.  Early one morning, just before dawn, we clambered up a pagoda and waited for the sun.  Here’s the result and my original post. 

sunrise-collage

Scrolling through my Facebook page I realized that I had posted not one but five sunrise photos of Myanmar.

True, the images were fantastic – that’s not a vanity, a  good camera and tripod is all that’s needed – but it made me pause. What could I say about these photos that was more than the picture? What could I say about the place? Myanmar, the land of a thousand temples.

Over a thousand years ago Bagan was the center of the Pagan empire.  It was a kingdom that united the regions of what is now Myanmar.  Between the 11th and 13th centuries more than  10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built.  The empire fell with the Mongol invasion and in the millennium that followed earthquakes, war and destruction reduced the number of temples to 2200.  Even so, present day Bagan is the  most dense location of temples in the world.  Sheer numbers exceed the wats of Angkor in nearby Cambodia.

Traveling through Bagan it is impossible to not see a temple.  It is part of the landscape.  They stand by the road ways, in villages, in single homesteads, in fields of cultivated crops and wilderness brambles.  Cow herds shuffle by isolated pagodas on the way to watering holes.  Goats tread on the platforms surrounding  restored temples. Farmers use the courtyards to dry shafts of sesame seed bushes. The temples are venerated but common place. Ancient, old and restored.

Evidence of restoration is everywhere.  In August 2016 a powerful 6.8 earthquake hit central Myanmar and damaged hundreds of Bagan temples.  Today many of the pagodas are under construction and restored buildings show a disconcerting mix of ancient and new facades.

bagan-1717

I asked our guide how the restorations were supervised.

He replied that all of the temples are centrally managed by the Ministry of Archaeology and that anyone could fund a restoration.  The tribute stones at the temple indicate donor names and dedication.

It was a fine answer but  it didn’t address my question.

resto-collage

Perhaps the truth lay in that restorations are somewhat supervised.

Certainly more so than in the 1990’s when the military junta initially applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.  They were refused, partly for political reasons but also because of corrupt management practices and shoddy, makeshift restorations   The 2016 earthquake destroyed many of these faulty renovations.

In 2017, Myanmar had UNESCO support for repairs honoring archaeological integrity. The new government was committed to steady and measured restoration and was hoping for designation as a heritage site.

On July 5, 2019  Bagan was awarded recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nearly 25 years  after the complex of Buddhist temples was first nominated for listing.

Bagan, Myanmar.  Originally posted in January 2017

5 Comments

  1. Interesting commentary on the temples of Bagan, Sandy, and what incredible photo of the silhouetted sunrise! Thanks EVER so much for sharing. I so enjoyed the history lesson about the proliferation of the temples and their demise and attempted reconstruction. They are really beautiful so I hope they are protected now they have the UNESCO status.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We visited Myanmar before the Rohingya crisis. If it was now, we’d probably think twice about going. The UNESCO status is as much about tourism as cultural heritage and I’m conflicted on the trade offs between current day politics and historical interests.
      On the other hand, the people we met were unequivocally gracious and the vistas stunning. Like everything else in this part of the world, the up close beauty of the people & country is often marred by our media influenced view of the region. I’m glad we went and I’m glad that you enjoyed my writeup & pics! – Sandy

      Like

      1. Indeed Sandy! One has to make a trip to see first hand the reality of the situation. Media can often embellish many issues these days and objective impartiality is something of a dinosaur in today’s media industry. You were lucky to visit in more settled times. It is sad for the folks in those beautiful places too who rely on tourist income which drops off when there is unrest. Finally I would say that I also feel there is a delicate balancing act between the commercial interests and environmental-heritage needs of significant sites. It is hard for authorities not to fall one way or the other.

        Liked by 1 person

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