What Bagan taught me


One of the World’s most amazing sites is Bagan, in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Over 4.000 red brick temples, small and less small, pointy bell shaped stupas or more zigurat-like, scattered in a plain of red soil and trees, create a breathtaking view, particularly when beheld at dusk on top of one of the tallest buildings.


Most of these temples were built in a time of prosperity between the 11th and the 13th Century mixing Hindu and Buddhist imagery and nats (spirits of the native animist traditions). And if there is a way to describe how they have aged, I’d say gracefully. Like a beautiful, elegant, vivid, old lady.


The current military government restored the area in the ’90s in some cases disrespecting the original styles and materials; and while the population actually living in the area was forced to move to a new nearby village (New Bagan), the Military Junta also built a golf field and a luxury hotel for the son-in-law of the Chief of the Government (a dictatorship, let’s be clear).


I think what makes Bagan such an awe-inspiring place is the fact that everyone, every family was expected to raise their own temple. What happens when you aren’t told to expect grandeur coming from others but that you have to create it yourself? That all the people must contribute to make a place extraordinary?

A bit like the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca: save for illness or extreme financial problems if you are a Muslim you are expected to travel there at least once in their life. You must broaden your horizons, go and experiment the most important things by yourself.


Bagan made me firmly believe again that we must not allow anyone to convince us that we are not destined to or that we are not able to create our own kind of greatness, that we must resign ourselves and let the significant things in the hands of others.

Poorer or richer, bigger or smaller, quirky or more conformist; we all must contribute with our own, unique, temple and make beauty grow.


Leave a Reply