Aug 10, 2009
On the banks of the Irrawaddy in Burma, is a vast open area dotted with a multitude of temples and stupas. Built mostly between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, in a Burma that was united under Theravada Buddhism this was once a grand and shining city, reputedly awing Marco Polo in its heyday. Of the thirteen thousand temples that once stood, only about two thousand survive now. They stand dotted about the plain in their peeling, pockmarked and crumbled state. Yet, it is their ruined grandeur that gives these faded glories a patina of grace that is markedly missing in the blindingly ornate newer temples.
But these aren’t the only temples in this town filled with them. Some have spires that rear up through the canopy of trees, rewarding the pilgrim that climbs top the top with a superb view. Some are besieged by troops of rapacious monkeys. Some are little more than hidden grottos, forgotten by all but few and made the more charming for that.