It is said that every Myanmar should visit Bagan and without visiting Ananda you cannot be said to have visited Bagan.
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.
- 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”.
- The Sanscrit word “Anand” means “very beautiful.” The name ” Ananda” must have been derived from this Sanscrit word. The Temple is extremely beautiful.
- There is a Pali word “Ananta Panna” which means ” the endless wisdom of the Buddha.” The temple symbolizes this attribute of the Buddha. Hence it is called “Ananta Temple.”
It cannot be said for certain which version is correct because the original stone inscription was silent about its name. But ” Ananda” is the traditional name known to the Myanmar people for generations,
Ananda Temple was constructed in Koza Sakarit 452 M. E (A. D. 1091) by King Kyansittha. He was also known as Hti Hlaing Shin. His regal title was “Sri Tribuvanaditya Dhamma Yaza” meaning” the King of Justice who shines like the sun over three auspicious worlds.”
According to modern archeologists, the ground plan of Ananda Temple is similar to Paha Pu Zedi in Bangladesh and Nakhonpahton Zedi near the ancient city of Dwaravati in the west of Bangkok, Thailand.
The ground plan is in the form of a cross with four devotional halls, each on one side, facing four cardinal directions, and the main structure in the center. In Bagan there are only two Temples with such ground plan. The other Temple of this type is Dhammayan Gyi which was built by King Kyansittha’s grandson, King Narathu. It seemed that the grandson copied the ground plan of his grandfather’s Temple. But it was found that for some unknown reasons the inner circumambulatory corridor of Dhammayan Gyi was blocked.
The size of Ananda Temple is 289 feet from one end to the other and 168 feet in height from the base to that joor- tion atop, which was decorated with plaster mouldings of down- turned and up-turned lotus petal motifs. The fencing wall measures 596 feet from East to West and 592 feet from North to South.
It is said that there are 10000 surrounding Zedis, 1000 niches, and three vaulted corridors. 10000 surrounding Zedis include zedis on the fencing walls, those on the walls of the vaulted corridors and those around the main stupa. 1000 niches include niches on four sides of the Sikhara (pyramidal spire) those niches on the walls of the vaulted corridors and those niches on the inner walls of the four devotional halls, totaling over one thousand. These niches were installed probably to reduce the echo. Regarding the three vaulted corridors, the inner most one was meant for the monks to walk around and worship the shrine, the middle vaulted corridor for the princes, royal sons and nephews and the outer vaulted corridor that passes through the devotional halls was meant for the commoners.
One architectural wonder of Ananda Temple is the natural ventilation system by means of windows built inside the thickness of the walls. There are light wells in the very high ceiling through which beams of light fall directly on the faces of the four gigantic statues of Buddha in standing posture facing four cardinal points.
|Type of monument||Temple based – Indian Style Structure|
|Location||Southeast of Tharabar Gate|
|Built by||King Kyanzittha|
|Date||A D 1105|
The unique architecture of Bagan period can be seen at the original images of Kakusanda Buddha facing north and Kassapa Buddha facing south.
A close up view gives a stern expression of
the face but a distant view from the
devotional hall provides a smiling face.
On four sides of the Sikhara are niches, five on each side. The roof of the structure is not flat but dome-like and sloping, thus indicating the architectural style of the early period of Bagan.
Ananda Temple is the best architectural accomplishment in Bagan. The earthquake of 1975 damaged only the finial and top zedi above the Sikhara, and surrounding slim and small zedis. No crack was caused to the main structure.
As a result of that earthquake one architectural secret was brought to light. Due to the quake, some cements were peeled off revealing the system of brick laying, with stone bricks wedged in between them. The arch span was formed by laying the baked bricks in a radiating pattern and placing stone bricks as wedges between them. These places where cement fell off were left unplastered so that the visitors can see and appreciate the architectural technique of Bagan time. Similarly key stones cut with precision were used in the corners of the wall. They were wedged in at an interval of 4 or 5 feet. This technique was a kind of strengthening the whole structure for longer durability.
To strengthen the comers of the ceilings above the vaulted corridors, there are two vaulted arches at each comer joining the inner and outer walls and also buttressing the upper vaulted arches.
Among the monuments in Bagan which have glazed works, Ananda Temple has the best. Thanks to the special care taken by successive Pagoda Trustees and public co-operation in maintenance, almost all glazed works at this Temple are in good condition. 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 peeled 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 feeling in fright. There are captions below the plaques describing the events presented.
Ananda Temple (Google Map)
Glimpse of Glorious Bagan, Universities Historical Research Centre, Yangon, Myanmar, The University Press, 1996
Pictorial Guide to Pagan, Ministry of Culture, Yangon, Myanmar, The Printing and Publish Corporation, Reprint 1975
The Pagodas and Monuments of Bagan, Vol. 1, Translated by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, Ministry of Information, Yangon, Myanmar, Graphic Training Centre (G.T.C), 1995
The Pagodas and Monuments of Bagan, Vol. 2, English Text by Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, Ministry of Information, Yangon, Myanmar, Graphic Training Centre (G.T.C), 1998Return to Top