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Notes on the Geography of Burma / Myanmar: Pagan: Photo 3

world pictures Burma / Myanmar: Pagan

Although the rulers of Pagan traced their origin to a first-century king, the first ruler of whom historical records survive was the 10th-century Anawrahta, a huge figure in Pagan's history. It was he who elevated Pagan to imperial status, chiefly by conquering the Mon, whose capital lay at Thaton, on the coast southeast of present-day Yangon. From Thaton, and ultimately from the Sri Lankan sources with whom the Mon were in contact, Anawrahta imported the Buddhist texts that would form the ideological core of Pagan's culture for centuries to come. The texts were known as the tipitaka, or "three baskets," and they were written in Pali on thousands of palm-leaves. Where to keep these fragile treasures? The answer: this building, the Royal Library, or Pitaka-taik. It dates from Anawrahta's time, though it was rebuilt in the 18th century. Appropriately, it is dark, dry, and fireproof; paradoxically, the roof is designed as though made of wood. The building is empty today--and inaccessible, as, alas, are most of Pagan's larger monuments. The archaeological authorities have gated them, leaving visitors to gawk from the outside or the ground floor.

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