One of the richest archaeological sites in South-east Asia, and seen by many as equal in attraction to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan, an ancient city located in the Mandalay Region of central Myanmar, was once capital of the first Myanmar Empire from the 9th to 13th centuries. The dense concentration of over 2200 Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and monasteries seem to overwhelm the landscape signifying how King Anawratha had unified Myanmar (Burma) under Theravada Buddhism. The Magic of Bagan’s archaeological ruins has become a main tourist attraction in Myanmar.
According to a legend King Anawrahta, the first of the great builders of Bagan, selected the site for building this pagoda by sending a white elephant mounted with a frontal bone relic of the Buddha to roam freely with the declaration that wherever the elephant stopped would be the site for building the pagoda. The elephant finally stopped over a dune which was chosen as the site for erecting the pagoda, and hence the name Shewzigon pagoda meaning "pagoda on a dune".
Ananda Temple, known as the finest, largest, best preserved and holiest of the Bagan temples was built by the third king, Kyan-zit-tha in 1091. Ananda comes from the Pali word "anantapannya", which means "boundless wisdom". The temple houses four Buddhas facing the cardinal directions, which represent the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The fifth, Maitreya, is yet to appear. Ananda temple is perfectly proportioned and considered to be one of the most surviving masterpiece of the Mon architecture.
"Thatbyinnyu" means "Omniscience" which the Lord Buddha attained on becoming enlightened. It is the tallest pagoda in Bagan measuring 66 meters built in A. D. 1144 by King Alaung Sithu and shaped like a cross, but is not symmetrical.
Dhammayan Gyi Temple, the largest and widest of all the temples in Bagan, was built and completed in 3 years by King Narathu in A.D.1170 to atone for his sins of assassinating his father, brother, and wife. Viewed from a distance its shape is like an Egyption pyramid.