The Irrawaddy

Popular Bagan Pagoda Closes After Terrace Collapse

Shwesandaw Pagoda in Bagan.

YANGON — One of the most popular sunset-viewing pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan is temporarily closed to the public after the lower parts of the first terraces in the southeastern part of the pagoda collapsed on Wednesday because of rains, according to the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library (Bagan Branch).

Shwesandaw Pagoda, with its white pyramid-style pagoda cut with five terraces and stairs leading to the circular stupa, is one of only two pagodas from which visitors are allowed to view the sunset.

“We have to do repairs and also test the strength of the pagoda in its other parts. So we will close the pagoda for a while,” director of the department U Aung Aung Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

Previously, five temples were open to visitors to view the sunset in Bagan, but after hundreds of pagodas were damaged by a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake in August last year, authorities now only allow sunset viewing at Shwesandaw and Taung Guni pagodas which are physically safer for visitors to climb.

It was built in 1057 by King Anawrahta, the founder of the Pagan Empire and widely considered the father of the Burmese nation.

Though the collapse is mainly due to rains, the fact that about 1,000 visitors climb on the pagoda daily to see sunset also played a part, said U Aung Aung Kyaw.

The collapse, however, will not have an impact on Myanmar’s bid for nomination of Bagan as a Unesco World Heritage Site, he said.

“It has been raining steadily these days in Bagan. As the bricks [of the pagoda] date back to the 11th Century, there are already cracks, and when water got into those cracks, it collapsed,” said U Khin Maung Nu, chairman of community-based Bagan Development Association.

Bagan has stupas, temples and other Buddhist religious buildings constructed from the 9th to 11th centuries—a period in which some 50 Buddhist kings ruled the Pagan Dynasty. There are more than 3,000 stupas and temples in the area.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.