The Ananda Temple
The Ananda Temple
The Ananda Temple located in Bagan, Myanmar is a Buddhist temple built in 1105 AD during the reign (1084–1113) of King Kyanzittha of the Pagan Dynasty. It is one of four surviving temples in Bagan. The temple layout is in a cruciform with several terraces leading to a small pagoda at the top covered by an umbrella known as hti, which is the name of the umbrella or top ornament found in almost all pagodas in Myanmar. The Buddhist temple houses four standing Buddhas, each one facing the cardinal direction of East, North, West and South. The temple is said to be an architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon and adopted Indian style of architecture. The impressive temple has also been titled the "Westminster Abbey of Burma". The temple has close similarity to the Pathothamya temple of the 10th–11th century, and is also known as “veritable museum of stones”.
The temple was damaged in the earthquake of 1975. However, it has been fully restored and is well maintained by frequent painting and whitewashing of the walls. On the occasion of 900th anniversary of its construction celebrated in 1990 the temple spires were gilded. It is a highly revered temple of Bagan.
Legend of the Ananda temple
The legend associated with building of this temple ended in tragedy for the builders. Eight monks who approached the King Kyanzittha seeking alms gave a graphic description of the Nandamula Cave temple in the Himalayas where they had meditated. When the king invited them to the palace to hear more details, the monks invoked their meditative psychic skills and vividly explained to the King, the landscape of the place they had lived. The King, pleased with this show of their skills, requested the monks to build a temple in the middle of the Bagan plains creating cool conditions in the temple. After the monks completed the temple construction, the King, in order to retain the uniqueness of the temple, got the architects (monks) killed to ensure that another similar structure was not built by them anywhere else. You could see it only in Bagan
Architecture of the Ananda
The Ananda is an elegant, symmetrical structure with the layout of a Greek cross. One of the most noticeable and beautiful features is the gilded top called sikhara, that is placed on the center of the building. This tower like structure originates from North India and shows Indian influence in the architectural style of the Ananda.
The sikhara contains five niches on all sides placed over each other, each niche containing a Buddha image. On top of that is a hti, a spire ornament in the shape of an umbrella. The sikhara and hti were gilded in 1990 to mark the start of Ananda’s construction 9 centuries earlier. Total height of the structure including the hti is about 51 meters.
On top of the square central block are six receding terraces. Each corner of the second terrace contains a smaller golden sikhara. The terraces contain numerous Chinthes, the mythological Burmese lions that guard Buddhist temples all across Burma.
In the center of the whitewashed structure is a square room containing four large standing Buddha images. A corridor runs around the central room, the walls of which contain 3 rows of niches that enshrine Buddha images in different poses. About 80 large sandstone reliefs show scenes from the life of the Gautama Buddha some 2,500 years ago.
On the grounds of the Ananda temple is a monastery building named Ananda Oak Kyaung or Ananda brick monastery. The small monastery was built in 1137, its walls contain 18th century murals depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The temple grounds are surrounded by a high wall, in which four large gates topped with a stupa provide access to the grounds.