The Many Faces of Pagan Buddha
The Burmese Buddha Pagan style statues and iconography, as well as wall murals in many of the Bagan (Pagan) temples were influenced by Buddhists from India with a Hindu flavor depicting semi clad ladies dressed in the clothing of the period, images depicting Visnu and his consort Lakshmi and scenes from the famous Indian epic love story “The Ramayana”. Other murals are of the Buddha and his devotees and scenes related to the court life of the times.
Possibly the wall murals in the temples of Bagan depicting Vishnu are due to the influence of the Mon kingdom from lower Burma (Thaton), where they adhered to a Vaishnavite cult as well as Buddhism introduced through their contact with traders and Buddhist missionaries from the early part of the first millennium AD., when trade was vibrant with their Indian neighbors plying the waters of the Bay of Bengal.
The Mon believed to be of Chinese origin were the first immigrants to settle in Thaton in lower Burma, whilst the Pyu of Tibeto-Burman origin were occupants of upper Burma. The remaining ruins of the great Pyu Kindgdom can be found on the outskirts of Pyay (formerly Prome), south of Pagan and well worth a visit.
Although Pagan was founded around 156 A.D., the building of Pagan or commonly referred to today as Bagan, was according to the glass Palace Chronicle built between 849-850 A.D., and fell in 1284 A.D., although these dates are inconsistent.
The Kingdom of Pagan reached its zenith during the reign of King Anawrahta from 1044 – 1077 A.D., during this time he formalized the Theravada school of Buddhism and proclaimed it to be the main form of worship among his people.
These are examples of faces of the Buddha seen in the alcoves and recesses of the Ananda Temple in Bagan – built in 1105 A.D., during the reign of King Kyanzittha 1084-1113 A.D., the son of King Anawrahta and believed to be one of the greatest Burmese Kings. He continued in his fathers footsteps by further development of economic, social and cultural reforms that his father put in place during his reign.