South-east of Tharabar Gate in Old Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)Prices
Included in the Bagan Archeaological Zone ticket (25 000 kyats ~ $20)Opening hours
08:00 am - 05:00 pm. Should visit at 09:30 am. Should leave before 11:00 am
Ananda Temple is like a museum. You can study all kinds of Myanmar arts here — architecture, stone sculpture, stucco, glazed plaques, terra cotta, wood carving, artwork of blacksmith etc.
There are three different versions regarding the name of this temple.
1. When King Kyansittha asked eight Arahats (Saints) to provide him with a design for the religious monument he was about to build, they created the image of Nanda Mula Cave Hall held to be in the Himalayas. So the temple was constructed on the model of that image and it came to be known as "Nandamu" which in course of time corrupted to sound "Ananda.
2. The Sanscrit word "Anand” means "very beautiful." The name "Ananda" must have been derived from this Sanscrit word. The Temple is extremely beautiful.
3. There is a Pali word " Ananta Panna" which means " the endless wisdom of the Buddha." The temple sym¬bolizes this attribute of the Buddha. Hence it is called "Ananta Temple."
Ananda Temple is one of the finest and most venerated temple in Bagan. It was built by King Kyansittha in 1091 A.D. Of the four standing Buddha images, the ones on the south and north are original, comtemporary with the building. Both of the two original standing images seem to be smiling when viewed from the vestibules, and solemn by a closer look. Life-size statues of Kyansittha and Shin Arahan is also enshrined in the western sanctum.
In 1968, original mural paintings in the north and east vertibules were discovered after the lime-wash was removed by the chemists from the Archaeology Department. Those lime-wash were most likely to have been obliterated by some over-zealous devotees in the later times. The four huge door-leaves still remain at the entrances of the outer corridor. Those days the stone-socket the bottom and iron rings at the top of the door socket were commmonly used. The wood carvings and figures on the door frame and at the top of the door leaves are later additionally sculptured by King Bayinnaung.
It is said to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha. this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the stylistic end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period. In 1990. on the 900th anniversary of the temple's construction. the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time.
There is a legend saying that there were 8 monks who arrived one day to the palace begging for alms. They told the king that once. they had lived in the Nandamula Cave temple in the Himalayas. The King was fascinated by the tales and invited the monks to return to his palace. The monks with their meditative powers they showed the king the mythical landscape of the place they have been. King Kyanzittha was overwhelmed by the sight and had a desire for building a temple which would be cool inside in the middle of the Bagan plains. After the construction of the temple. the king executed the architects just to make the style of the temple so unique.
The stucco and other features of the temple were restored in the late 18th century in the Middle Konbaung Era style and on the temple's 900th anniversary in 1990, the temple spires were gilded. The exterior is whitewashed from time to time.
The structure of Ananda temple is that of a simple corridor temple. The central square measures 53 metres along each side while the superstructure rises in terraces to a decorative cliff 51 metres above the ground. The entrance ways make the structure into a perfect cross. each entrance is crowned with a stupa finial. The base and the terraces are decorated with 554 glazed tiles showing jataka scenes (life stories of the Buddha) thought to be derived from Mon texts. Huge carved teak doors separate interior halls from cross passages on all four sides.
Facing outward from the centre of the cube. four 9.5-metre standing Buddhas represent the four Buddhas who have attained nibbana (nirvana). Only the Bagan-style images facing north and south are original; both display the dhammachakka mudra. a hand position symbolising the Buddha's first sermon. The other two images are replacements for figures destroyed by fires. All four have bodies of solid teak. though guides may claim the southern image is made of a bronze alloy. If one stand by the donation box in front of the original southern Buddha his face looks sad; while from a distance he tends to look mirthful. The architecture of the images were so artistic that they happen to make such appearance.
Buddha images inside Ananda
The Buddha Images at four sides are Kassapa at the South. Kakusanda at the North. Konagamana at the east and Gotama at the West.
The eastern and western standing Buddha images are done in the later Konbaung or Mandalay style. A small nutlike sphere held between thumb and middle finger of the east-facing image is said to resemble a herbal pill and may represent the Buddha offering dhamma (Buddhist philosophy) as a cure for suffering. Both arms hang at the image's sides with hands outstretched. a mudra unknown to traditional Buddhist sculpture outside this temple. The west-facing Buddha features the abhaya mudra with the hands outstretched in the gesture of 'no fear'.
At the feet of the standing Buddha. in the western sanctum. sit two life-size lacquer statues said to represent King Kyanzittha and Shin Arahan. the Mon monk who initiated the king into Theravada Buddhism. Inside the western portico are two Buddha footprint symbols on pedestals.
Ananda has the best glazed works in Bagan. Originally there was no stairway going up to the top. So artworks were secured from vandalism. But those at the base of the structure are effected by human hands. Glazed layers have been pealed off due to years of touching. All kinds of glazed works are found at Ananda Temple. In the glazed plaques which adorned the base of the structure from the southern to the western entrances are depicted the hordes of Mara's warriors marching out to attack the Lord Buddha. and in those glazed plaques that adorned the base from the western to the northern entrances. are seen the warriors being defeated by the great miracle of the Lord Buddha. They were fleeing in fright. There are captions below the plaques describing the events presented. Rows of plain coloured glazed tiles above and below are meant to produce reflection of the sunlight on the structure. At the terraces above are also glazed plaques depicting the Jatakas (Buddha's birth stories). Beginning from the southwest comer of the first terrace to the northern side of the third terrace are depicted in glazed plaques 537 Jatakas. each plaque presenting one story. The green colour plaques are still in perfect condition. Beginning from the northern side of the second terrace where the glazed plaques depicted Tey Mi Jataka to the fifth terrace where the glazed plaques depicted Vessantara Jataka. the last ten lives of the Buddha' are fully told in green coloured glazed plaques. Below each glazed plaques are inscribed the name and number of the Jataka depicted. It will take about two days to study in detail all the glazed plaques on five terraces above and those on either side of four devotional halls.
The stone sculpture works inside the outer vaulted corridors are considered the best of its kind in Bagan. Especially those stone works depicting 80 episodes from Buddha's biography are very excellent works of art. Each piece measures on average 3 feet 6 inches high. 2 feet 5 inches broad and one foot thick. Each work is a piece carved out of a single block of stone. Forty episodes from the last life of the Lord Buddha. starting from Setaketu deva to Prince Sidattha lifting the curtain to take a last look at his wife Yasodaya and newly born son Yahula before he left the palace for a recluse's life in the forest. are depicted in the stone sculptures found In the niches at the lower base of the structure. near the northern and western wooden doors.
Originally all the walls of devotional halls were adorned with paintings. As a result of the restoration of Bagan frescos by the Department of Archeology, paintings on the south-west column of the northern devotional hall were recovered. Also on the walls and ceiling of the eastern devotional hall, north of the statue of standing deva re-appeared the pictures of Buddha, Arahats and lotus flowers. At other places on the wall of this hall original paintings are faintly visible under the veneer of lime wash.
On the walls of the western entrance appeared floral designs. The Department of Archeology has plans to remove all lime wash to recover ancient mural paintings.
Plaster mouldings are found at Ananda Temple. Orna-mental backdrops above the arched windows in the walls of outer and inner vaulted corridors are original stuccos of ex-cellent skill. Besides two statues of deva on either side of each of the four entrances totalling 8 in all, the statues of Duara pala the guardian devas at the entrances, statues of lion and Chakaravan gods inside the niches of the big statues of standing Buddha are plaster works of Bagan time. In the ornamental backdrops above the arched entrances are found statues of Makara (sea monster) and flying devas made of fine cement.
The original eight carved wooden door leaves, two at each of the four entrances, are over 900 years old. But King Bayint Naung (A. D. 1551—81) re-embellished them by adding floral and toenaga motifs to them.
Big iron rings atop are original. They keep the massive door leaves upright and stable. Below, two big stone slabs with grooves cut in, in the shape of a cross press the iron rings tight. The idea of a cross shaped grooves cut in the stone slabs was to keep the big door leaves from inclining during opening and shutting. The big iron rings atop on four sides also keep the door leaves in vertical position.
The main door posts rest on the sockets of sandstones in which they evolve flexibly. To prevent the door leaves from going off during shutting a big long oblong sandstone was placed as a block.
The four imposing statues of standing Buddhas facing four cardinal directions are wood works executed by skillful carvers. They are well proportioned. Those facing south and north are the original statues. The one facing south is in perfect condition whereas the one facing north has the hand in a preaching gesture, which is a later renovation. The glass-mosaic frontlet on its forehead was installed in 1903.
It is said that the four statues of Standing Buddha represent the four Buddhas who had appeared and reached Nivirna. They are Kakusanda Buddha facing north, which was carved out of a Saga wood (Michetia Champaca), Konagamana Buddha facing east, which originally was carved out of a sandal wood presented by the Raja of Malayu. As it was destroyed by fire, U Hpo, the governor of Bagan in the time of King Mindon (A. D. 1852—78) made a replacement made of teak wood, which still stands today. Kassapa Buddha facing south, carved out of a pine wood and Gautama Buddha facing west, which originally made of alloy of five metals was vandalized by alchemists. About 200 years ago, U San Nyein, a great merchant of Bagan set up the present statue of teak wood. Thus we have the original statues on the north and south which were carved out of a single log of wood. The unique characteristics of these two originals are their facial expressions, which change with the change in the eye level of the looker. Close-up view gives you stern expression but from a little distance you see smiles on them.
A field museum has been established near the Ananda temple in Bagan. The purpose is to study the artefacts in the ambience of their original settings.
Ananda temple festival falls on the full moon of Pyatho (usually between December and January. according to the Lunar Calendar). The festival attracts thousands of locals from near and far. Up to a thousand monks chant day and night during the three days of the festival.
The temple is also home to an annual week-long festival that is held during the month of Pyahto (December to January). During the festival, 1000 monks perform continuous chanting of scriptures for 72 hours. Thousands of villagers from miles around set up encampments around the temple. On the morning of the full moon day, they offer gift bowls to the monks in attendance.