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ruined city, Myanmar: see BaganBagan
or Pagan
, ruined city, Mandalay region, central Myanmar, on the Ayeyarwady River. Covering an area c.40 sq mi (100 sq km), it is one of the great archaeological treasures of SE Asia and a holy place of pilgrimage. Founded c.849, it became in the 11th cent.
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Pagan; Paganism

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The word pagan is from the Latin pagani, meaning dwellers in the country. Similarly, the word heathens originally meant dwellers of the heath. When the new religion of Christianity began to spread across Europe, it was adopted in the cities and towns long before the country people accepted it. Most pagans, therefore, were practitioners of the Old Religion. Christianity subsequently put a negative bias on the word that was entirely misplaced.

The term paganism has come to be applied to the follower of any religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. In fact, a great many widely varying beliefs and practices would come under that heading. Modern Wicca is one of them. To escape some of the negative imagery associated with the word, many modern Pagans prefer the term Neo-Pagan, inferring a newer form of paganism.

Contemporary Pagans worship Nature and frequently draw from ancient religions, including those of Europe, the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, and Native America. They tend to be polytheistic rather than monotheistic. Like Wiccans, Pagans work either as solitaries or in groups, which are autonomous. Paganism may be a religion or simply a way of life.



the first Burmese kingdom, an early feudal state that existed from the 11th to the 13th century. The kingdom was founded by Anawrahta, who united under his rule almost all the territory of modern Burma. After the Mon states in southern Burma were annexed in 1057, Pagan became one of the largest states in Southeast Asia. The region of Kyaukse, a rice granary, was its economic center. Pagan conducted a lively trade with China, Ceylon, and India. Its rulers had unlimited power. The dominant class consisted of Burmese tribal notables and the ruling elite of the Mon city-states, which was transformed into a bureaucracy. Buddhism was the state religion. Temple construction flourished (nearly 5,000 temples and pagodas were built), especially during the reign of Kyanzittha (1084–1112).

In the 13th century internal contradictions within Pagan society led to the state’s decline. As a result of the Burmese-Mon struggle for hegemony in Burma, the Mon-dominated south seceded from Pagan at the end of the 13th century. The consolidation of large private landholdings, chiefly by the church, reduced the amount of state land and weakened the central government. The attempts of rulers to secularize church lands in the 13th century ended in failure. The raids of Mongol cavalry completed the destruction of Pagan; after the defeat of Burmese troops at Kaungzin in 1283, the kingdom ceased to exist.


Mozheiko, I. 5000 khramov na beregu Iravadi. Moscow, 1967.
Luce, G. H. Old Burma-Early Pagan, vols. 1–3. New York, 1969–70.




a town in Burma, on the left bank of the Irrawaddy River (middle course), near Mandalay. Founded in the ninth century, Pagan was the capital of the kingdom of Pagan, the first Burmese state, which lasted from the 11th to the 13th century. It is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists.

The nucleus of ancient Pagan was a walled town with a square layout (1 km × 1 km). Among the remains of ancient Pagan are sections of the town’s brick walls and gates, built between the ninth and 13th centuries, and some 2,000 religious buildings within and outside the town. The most famous stupas are the Bupaya (9th-10th century), Shwe Sandaw (11th century), Shwe Zigon (11th century), and Mangalacetiya (1284). Outstanding temples include the Nagayon (1090), Ananda (1091), Dhammayangyi (12th century), Lokatheipan (c. 1125; frescoes from the same period), Thatbyinnyu (c. 1150), Gawdawpalin (1173–1210), Culamani (1183), Nandaminya (1248, 13th-century frescoes), and Upali Thein (mid-13th century; reconstructed and painted in the early 18th century). Today Pagan is a center for the production of lacquered objects.


Pictorial Guide to Pagan. Rangoon, 1963.
Luce, G. H. Old Burma—Early Pagan, vols. 1–3. New York, 1969–70.


a member of a group professing a polytheistic religion or any religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam
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