Mural Paintings in Bagan (1000-1300 A D)

Paper read at the 3rd Research Conference of Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science, held at the Yangon University on 23 Oct. 2003.

Journal of the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science, Vol. II, Part II, No.4 (Arts), June 2004, Page- 1

Mural Paintings in Bagan (Pagan) Show

80th Anniversary Exhibition, Diamond Jubilee Hall

Department of History

University of Yangon, December 2000


This paper explores mural paintings that adorned the inner walls of temples during the Bagan Period, spanning from the 11th to the 13th centuries. The majority of temples in Bagan are embellished with mural paintings featuring various designs. During the Bagan Period, artists created innovative masterpieces that embodied Myanmar’s spirit and perspective. The oldest wall paintings can be found in Pathothamya, which is arguably one of the most beautiful among the early temples in Bagan. Jātakas and the life of the Buddha are also depicted on the walls of Bagan’s temples. In many of the Bagan temples, either in painting or terracotta, are whole series of the 550 Jātakas (actually 547 Jātakas). The temple walls are ornamented not only with Jātaka scenes but also with the eight principal scenes depicting the life of Buddha Gautama. Some 10th century frescoes on Bagan’s temples suggest the popularity of Tantric Buddhism during that period. Painters during the Bagan period excelled in creating intricate line drawings. Their designs were highly symbolic and stylized. Additionally, they crafted exquisite floral patterns using either lotus or Myatlay creeper. Painters in the 11th century limited their palette to red, brown, and black colours, while those in the late 13th century onwards embraced a wider range of polychrome hues. The period from the 11th to the 13th century is often referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Myanmar art.


Key words:  Mural paintings, Jātakas, Terracotta, Eight principal scenes, Tantric Buddhism, Line drawings, Floral designs

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