Bagan Authorities Ban Heavy Vehicles Through Tharapa Gate

By Yan Pai 13 March 2015

Authorities in charge of the Bagan temple complex said they have banned coaches and other heavy vehicles from passing through the Tharapa Gate in order to protect the ancient, vulnerable structure.

Thein Lwin, deputy director-general of Department of Archaeology, National Museums and Libraries, said daily passage of vehicles has resulted in cracks in the gate walls.

“Tharapa Gate is very old; it is of the same age as Bagan. Again, it was also hit by earthquake. These years, daily passage of vehicles has increased a lot and the cracks have grown bigger. That’s why our department has decided to ban passage of vehicles to preserve the bridge,” he said.

The road that passes through the gate links new and old Bagan towns and the village of Nyaung U. Heavy vehicles will now be required to use Anawrahta Road instead.

The decision to ban the passage of vehicles was made at a workshop on Feb. 27 on developing the nomination of Bagan to become a Unesco World Heritage site.

The ban, which came into effect on March 1, only affects trucks and coaches but will be expanded to include any motorized vehicles, said Thein Lwin, adding that concrete beams are being put up to protect the gate.

One of the monarchs of Bagan dynasty King Pyinpya (AD 846-878) established Bagan in 9th century and the town had 12 gates, including Tharapa Gate, according to historical records. Now, Tharapa Gate is the only gate of the Bagan Period that has survived.

Thein Lwin said, “It is our living monument. [There is a custom that] those who buy new cars show their cars to town and guardians at the gate’s spirit shrine. Those who buy new houses also make offerings to guardians at the gate. People traditionally also come to the gate for ordination and wedding ceremonies. Therefore, we can’t let the gate go into ruins.”

The department also plans to adorn the historic gate with a spotlight at night so that local and foreign travelers can take photos.

The Culture Ministry has sought help from Unesco and JICA to repair the gate and it is also surveying the state of the gate.

Ko Naing, a local tour guide, welcomed the decision but called for strict application of the new rules as heavy vehicles could still be seen passing through the gate.

“People will drive through the gate since they do not understand [that driving through the gate can damage to it]. Though the passage is banned, no barrier is placed so far to prevent heavy vehicles from passing through the gate. There is still no education [about the measure],” he said.