Monday, March 28, 2016

Bagan: The Golden Landscape of Buddha

Bagan is one of a series of travel blogs, entitled, Monumental 
Splendours, which records my personal journeys into Hindu-Buddhist temple art in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma. The other blogs in this series are about Angkor, Champa, and Borobudur. 

The primary purpose of these journeys is to enjoy and revel in the magnificent Hindu-Buddhist temples and their ruins in Southeast Asia. The selection of the sites is a highly personal choice; it’s not meant to convey any ordering of the temple art in terms of their relative historical or cultural importance.

Monumental Splendours examines three main effects of Indian religious-political ideas and art forms (broadly defined) transmitted to Southeast Asia which helped to define the classical geopolitics of the region. The “diffusion” effect has to be understood in terms of "localisation", a concept proposed by Wolters, and "local genius", proposed by Quaritch Wales. The "legitimation" effect builds on van Leur's "idea of the local initiative" which stresses the functions of Indian religious ideas in legitimizing Southeast Asian kingship and statehood. Champa provides good examples of the legitimation effect involving royal lingas. A more uncertain effect of Indian ideas and art forms is “domination”. That Indian art forms and ideas were brought to Southeast Asia by peaceful means is not doubted, and there is considerable evidence to support the thesis that the internal legitimation of rulers might have been their major effect. But did they also fuel the expansionist ambition of Southeast Asian rulers, as represented in the "chakravartin" concept, through warfare? What role did the transmitted Indian ideas and art forms play in creating the “moral order of the mandalas”, in which the ritualistic, symbolic and transient forms of warfare were supposed to have been more important that “conquest” and colonisation?

Almost all of these blogs are written on-site, based on first-hand observations and impressions of the monuments. These impressions are supplemented by background readings from specialists, but also by drawing on the publications of the temple sites and museums around the world housing their artefacts.

Monumental Splendours is meant for the traveller with a passion for Southeast Asia’s past. The author counts himself as one, having lived in the region for nearly 12 years and having been a frequent traveller in the region for the past 20. But these blogs are not a conventional travel guide. They explore a specific angle: the relationship between art and living with a heavy emphasis on politics, including domestic rule and foreign relations of classical Southeast Asian states. As such, they provide a new window on Southeast Asian magnificent temple heritage. Above all, they are meant to inspire fellow travellers to do their own travel blogs and thereby promote further awareness and understanding of Southeast Asia’s monumental splendours.

Bagan 2013READ MORE

Bagan: The Golden Land of the Buddha


Ananda Pahto Temple (built c. 1090-1105)

The Ananda Pahto, or Phaya, was the first of Bagan's great temples, and remains one of the finest, most beautiful and perhaps most photographed, of all of Bagan's architectural complexes. It is a symmetrical masterpiece of Mon architectural style and, with some North Indian influence, reflects the transition from the Early to the Middle period of Bagan architecture. Located just to the east of the old city walls, its square-based beehive-like 'sikhara' crown and 'hti' umbrella, gilded to mark the temple's 900th anniversary in 1990, and expansive whitewashed temple structure dominate the surrounding countryside. Paul Strachan, one of the foremost experts on the architecture of Bagan, has suggested that "none can rival the Ananda as an experience that enriches." Heavily damaged in the devastating earthquake of 1975, it has been carefully restored. Read More at: 



Thambula Wall Painting
Ananda Temple-one of the four main Buddha images

Thambula Wall Painting
Wall Painting inside an unnamed small temple near Payathonzu

Wall Painting inside an unnamed small temple near Payathonzu

Birth of Buddha, Ananda Temple
The landscape of temple-dotted Bagan

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