The Mysterious Crumbling Temples Reclaimed by the Myanmar Jungle

Hidden from plain view, amidst the tangled overgrowth of the Myanmar jungle is a mysterious complex of crumbling temples.

These forgotten meditation shelters or stupas have no record in Myanmar history so no one really knows why they were built and what they’re for.

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Photo: James Charlick

The most noticeable thing about them from afar is their pointy roofs, said to represent the trunk of an elephant.
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Photo: PPana

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Photo: J Charlick

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Photo: Artano

The ancient ruins are scattered around in various states of decay, some with trees growing out of them, engraved and decorated with sculptings of ancient celestial beings and mythological animals.
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Photo: A Thompson

Some enshrine images of the Buddha.
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Photo: A Thompson

The main temple, Shwe Indein Paya, at the top of the hill.
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Photo: Abella

While the stupas surrounding the temple have been restored in a bright gold and white stucco finish, there are hundred other pagodas that remain undiscovered deep in the thick of the jungle.
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Photo: A Thompson

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Photo: Shaun Dunphy

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One of the many theories that surround the Shwe Indein Pagoda complex was that it was built by the Indian emperor Ashoka, who sent out monks in the 3rd century BC across Asia to spread Buddhism. However, no archaeological evidence can support this claim.
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Photo: Shaun Dunphy

Other accounts say a king in central Myanmar built the pagodas in the 17th century after returning from war in Ayutthaya.
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Photo: Shaun Daunpy

Not a single one of the pagodas / stupas are protected heritage sites. Some are still standing tall, others falling apart waiting for nature take over.
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Photo: J Navarro

Only a few still have the an ornamental umbrella at the tip of the elephant trunk.
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Photo: Artano

 

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