Ananda Temple – The Symbol of Old Bagan

13 Jun 2019 by Admin

Among the 3000 plus ancient temples in Bagan that still exist until the present day, Ananda Temple (also called Ananda Pahto and Ananda Phaya) is regarded as one of the greatest works of Mon architecture. This temple is the largest, most beautiful and best conserved of all temples in Bagan.

ananda temple bagan myanmar
The Majestic Look Of Ananda Temple at Dawn

The History and Legend of Ananda Temple

Ananda temple was constructed under the order of King Kyansittha (reigned from 1084 to 1113) around 1090 – 1105 as a site for religious practice. In an earthquake in 1975, the temple was ravaged severely and later on it was revamped extensively. On its 900th anniversary of construction in 1990, the spire of Ananda temple was gilded. The remaining parts of the temple were whitewashed under the effect of time.

Legend had it that one day there were 8 monks who came to the royal palace to beg for alms. The monk said to the King that they once lived in the Himalayas in the Nandamula Cave temple. The King was captivated by the story and invited the monks to stay in his palace. The eight monks used their pensive power to show the king the vision of the legendary temple where they used to live.

The King was inspired by the vision and decided to replicate the mythical temple in Bagan. After Ananda temple was finished, the King ordered the architects to be executed so that there would be no other copy of this temple.

The Architecture of Ananda Temple

Ananda Temple represents the spirit of Mon architecture in combination with influence Indian structural design. The temple has a graceful symmetrical single - storey structure with a gilded tower - like spire, so - called “sikhara”, on top of the temple. The sikhara, whose original design is from India, is placed in the center of the building.

The sikhara holds five niches laid over each other, each niche contains a Buddha image. On top of the sikhara is a spire embellishment (called hti) in an umbrella shape. The total height of the building including the hti is about 51 meters.

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Ananda temple has the design of a well - proportioned Greek cross plan with four entrances, each crowned with a stupa finial, creating the structure of a simple corridor. Six pyramid - like terraces rise to the central tower. Each corner of the second terrace lay a miniature of the golden sikhara. The terraces are decorated with many Chinthes, the mythical lion of Myanmar guarding temples throughout the country.

The lower terraces are comprised of 537 Jataka plates depicting the life of the Buddha in Pali and the upper terrace includes 375 plates written in Mon language representing the last ten Jataka. This is the greatest collection of earthen tiles in Bagan.

The Four Buddha Images of Ananda Temple

In the heart of Ananda Temple is a grand square room where four superb standing Buddha images are laid in arch - shaped niches. The gilded images, which were made of teak wood with the height of 9.5, embody the four Buddhas who have attained enlightenment of the nirvana, namely Konagamana Buddha (East), Gautama Buddha (West), Kassapa Buddha (South) and Kakusandha Buddha (North).

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Kassapa Buddha and Kakusandha Buddha

The images of Kakusandha Buddha and Kassapa Buddha were crafted at the time of Ananda Temple’s construction in the early 12th century. Meanwhile, the images of Konagamana Buddha and Gautama Buddha are supposed to be made in the 17th century after the original versions were burnt in a fire.

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Gautama Buddha and Konagamana Buddha

The images of the four Buddhas convey different meanings. The image of Gautama Buddha, whose life dated back more than 25 centuries ago, is in Abhaygesture, expressing bravery. Meanwhile, the image of Konagamana Buddha holds a small pill-like object in his right hand, which might demonstrate the Buddhist philosophy as a remedy for human suffering.

The facial expression of Kassapa image seems to change when observing from different distances. The face of the Buddha looks sad when observed at a close quarter, but there seems to be a smile on the face when observed from a distance.

Ananda Temple festival is often held between December and January of Lunar Calendar on a full moon. The festival draws thousands of people from near and far come to the temple. In the three days of the festival, there are approximately a thousand monks gather to chant day and night.

What are you waiting for? Book a cabin on our Burma River Cruises today to grasp the chance to visit this majestic temple.

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