Visit To Pagan

by Sheila Desmond

Unesco has just recently put Pagan in Myanmar on the World Heritage Sites List.

Imagine a whole city as big as New York City
but over a thousand years old stretching as far as the eyes can see on
the banks of a river older than the Missisippi

Imagine that among the thousands and thousands of ruins
there still stand with impressive earth-quaked cracks here and there
elaborate hand hewn stone temples that touch the skies

Imagine climbing up ever narrowing stairs till breathless and awed
your eyes accommodate the view and your mind those thousand years and more

Imagine a city filled with artisans, artists, astrologers, craftsmen, weavers, potters, dancers, musicians, puppeteers, writers, poets, business ladies, female lawyers Kings, Princes, Princesses, warriors, monks, teachers, medicinal practitioners, a flourishing city centered around one theme, one vision, ruled by an architect, King Kyansitthar, whose existence was dedicated to bearing material witness to The Word, The Way of Life as propounded by the Buddha, and then

Imagine the descent of Mongolians from the NorthEast, Marco Polo with mighty
armies of the Kublai Khan, and how they sacked this city at that moment in time

Imagine what was left, you can see what remains, and what remains is more than rubble, more than bricks, more than entire temples, more than frescoes with vibrant colors, more than statues and monuments, what remains behind are stories and ghosts, and in one temple stories of ghosts and kings and sorcerers, of love and torture, blood oozing out the cracks in the walls, footsteps disappear around corners, doors open and shut of their own accord, and in this one temple behind Buddha’s serene face, behind his lotus-petal throne you discern a cruel eye, all that remains of a blue and red fresco; the hair on your arms and the nape of your neck stand on end, voices incomprehensible but surely voices of the dead, enter your consciousness; all is not what it seems and you look for your companions, you shout and they seem to shout at the same time “Hey, let’s get out of here,” racing into the sunlight.

Once, another king, not the architect, but a cruel king in his hurry to gain immortal merit, impatiently and systematically murdered the temple workers and interred them on the spot ordering their maimed, bleeding, hurting bodies placed wherever they fell, buried alive in bricks and plastered over…………….


The rest of Pagan stands as a testament to all that is good and true, except for that one temple which reminds us and warns us of delusion and that the end doesn’t always justify the means.

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