WHS: Pyu Ancient Cities, Myanmar

Today we’re visiting Sri Ksetra, one of the three properties that together make up the one and only currently inscribed World Heritage Site in Myanmar:

Pyu Ancient Cities

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

 

The Pyu Ancient Cities provide the earliest testimony of the introduction of Buddhism into Southeast Asia almost two thousand years ago and the attendant economic, socio-political and cultural transformations which resulted in the rise of the first, largest, and longest-lived urbanized settlements of the region up until the 9th century. The Pyu showed a striking capacity to assimilate Indic influences and swiftly move into a significant degree of re-invention. They created a special form of urbanization, the city of extended urban format, which subsequently influenced urbanization in most of mainland Southeast Asia. These earliest Buddhist city-states played a seminal role in the process of transmitting the literary, architectural and ritual traditions of Pali-based Buddhism to other societies in the sub-region where they continue to be practiced up to the present.

Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra together as a Serial Property jointly testify to the several aspects of the development of this new model of urban settlement for the Southeast Asian region. Together the three cities provide evidence for the entire sequence and range of Pyu urban transformation from ca. 2nd century BCE to the 9th century CE, Buddhist monastic communities, distinctive mortuary practice, skilful water management, and long distant trade.  At all three Pyu Ancient City sites, the irrigated landscape of the Pyu era is still impacting on the rural livelihoods of the modern population, while the religious monuments continue to be venerated by Buddhist pilgrims from throughout the region…

This one is a site that’s well off the beaten tourist track … and since of the three serial sites reputedly Sri Ksetra is the most impressive, you’ll need to be a real history geek to enjoy this, since that brick wall behind the sign there? Yeah …. that’s as impressive as it gets, mostly.

Apparently it did use to be quite the impressive city in its day, enclosing some 1850 hectares which along with the surroundings made it the biggest city in Southeast Asia until Khmer times:

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

 

but this stretch of wall with a modern temple for the locals that farm inside is about the most there is left to see now.

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

Here’s a panorama of standing on top of one of the great gates of the city; as a tour of traditional farming practices it’s very interesting, but as historical spectacle, well, it’s … subtle.

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

One nifty thing about visiting these out of the way sites though, you get a much closer look at the relics in situ. Here’s a shot of one of the excavation areas where they’re digging up funureal urns and such:

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

Just sitting there out in the open with a fence around it and that’s it. No walls, no guards, just you and the artifacts they get around to excavating some more whenever some money shows up. Kinda a weird experience that; in any more touristy country, all that stuff would be looted and sold the next day no doubt!

There is one monument still standing and impressive, though; this is the Baw Baw Gyi Paya

Sri Ksetra, Myanmar

which at 46 metres tall is a pretty impressive construction for the time.

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p dir=”ltr”>You definitely need a guide with a car to get out here though, and we have a particular reference for you if you want to visit this site, or anywhere in the Yangon area; Si Thu Aung who is part of Green Golden Land — not only did a great job of guiding us around this site but came up with all sorts of other things to visit in the area we didn’t know about. Unconditionally recommended!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

Comments

  1. […] you’re in Pyay to visit Sri Ksetra, here is a nearbyish place to visit that’s well worth the couple hours drive down […]

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