Bagan was born when King Anawrahta took the throne by force in 1044. He unified the country, introduced Theravada Buddhism and began building Bagan’s first temple, the grand Shwezigon. The hubristic Anawrahta coveted the sacred Buddhist scriptures (the Tripitaka) held by the very Mons who enlightened him. When they refused to hand them over, he took them by force. Anawrahta was eventually killed by a wild buffalo, but his dynasty ruled for 200 years. This was Bagan’s golden age, a period of manic temple building. Things began to go bad under the decadent King Narathihapati, who built the gorgeous Mingalazedi pagoda but bankrupted the city, leaving it vulnerable to attack by Kublai Khan in 1287.
The city was crushed again in 1975, when an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale damaged many of Bagan’s principal structures.
Bagan’s most recent upheaval happened in 1990, when the government forcibly relocated the residents of Old Bagan, planting them in undeveloped land 4km to the south (now known as New Bagan).