Bagan Earthquake

On 24 August 2016, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Myanmar, causing damage to numerous temples in Bagan. Loss of life was limited (no one in Bagan died; several people were killed elsewhere), but nearly 400 pagodas were affected, including Sulamani, Ananda, Htilominlo, Shwesandaw, Lawkananda and Dhammayazika, along with Ananda Ok Kyaung, whose murals suffered some damage. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, Bagan looked shredded, with collapsed walls, piles of rubble and brick debris littering the archaeological zone.

In the weeks that followed, however, it became clear that much of the damage was not to the original centuries-old structures but to renovations added on over the years (from the 1990s until 2005 more than 600 sites were altered, and some experts estimate that 90% of Bagan’s pagodas have had significant alterations or have been rebuilt entirely). The foundations and lower (older) parts of temples were undamaged – which is perhaps not surprising given the many other earthquakes these temples have survived over the centuries.

Myanmar isn't rushing the reconstruction. Unesco experts have advised on the restoration and it's an ongoing process, with certain temples taking priority. For visitors, some 33 temples – including Htilominlo, Pyathada and Sulamani pagodas – are either off limits or only partially open, until 2018 at the earliest.

Naming Bagan

According to Pali inscriptions found here, Bagan kings flirted with a couple of names in the city's heyday, including Arimaddanapura (City of the Enemy Crusher) and the less dramatic Tambadipa (Copper Land). The name Bagan may in fact derive from Pyugan, a name first written down by the Annamese of present-day Vietnam in the mid-11th century as Pukam. The British in the 19th century called the site Pagan, and the military junta switched it back to Bagan in 1989.