Bagan is the quintessential image of Myanmar – its own Eiffel Tower. The beauty of Bagan is most often represented in its plurality. An air balloon-view. 3000 temples and stupas rising out of the plains, a rising sun casting its orange spotlight on them all. But strangely, the multitudes didn’t catch my eye. What drew me was the simple beauty and individuality of each temple – at ground level, a human-eye view.
A pyramid here, a stupa there.
A pagoda here, a library there.
Big, small, domed, flat-roofed,
blue-veiled, brick crusted, white-washed.
Deconstructed by tremors and shakes
Reconstructed by rulers of the state.
Keepers of myths,
Prison to kings, a home now to bats
Symbols of power,
Objects of censure
Sadness, darkness, peace
– each carries its own smell.
Old Buddhas with Gupta faces,
With fingers, human and imperfect.
New Buddhas with Burmese faces,
And God-fingers, equal in length.
Some idols painted, some bare
All prayed to with equal fanfare.
Orwell’s supine giantess has fissioned
In this giant field of merit-givers and collectors.